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Buying Trends For Gen Z: Shopping Habits in the Digital Age

Buying Trends For Gen Z: Shopping Habits in the Digital Age

With the next wave of American consumers on the horizon, retail brands hoping to attract willing buyers from Gen Z can set themselves up for success by taking an approach that focuses on the experience and technology these digital natives have come to appreciate.

It’s no wonder that big retailers are gearing up to attract this incoming generation of American shoppers. Generation Z will represent 40 percent of American Consumers by 2020 and their buying power is estimated at $44 billion. If companies factor in their potential influence on their parents’ shopping habits, this number grows to $600 billion.

While retailers face a large group of potential customers, they’ll need to catch onto the unique shopping preferences that Gen Z values and adjust both their traditional and digital marketing strategies if they hope to reel in these informed and individualistic buyers. 

Social Causes and Cost

Gen Z shoppers present some complicated challenges when it comes to their decisive buying process. They’re hungry for brands that stand for something and products created with social and environmental causes in mind, but they are fairly conservative with their spending with close to 20 percent of them reporting health care costs as their primary financial concern, which is why brands must strive to strike a delicate balance between cost and cause.

According to a recent Forbes interview, 67 percent of Gen Z wants the brands they buy from to support social causes, so retail companies should be sure to clarify their voice and speak to the ideals that these young consumers hold dear. This also means retailers need to ensure the in-store experience they provide reflects the voice they’ve emitted in the market place.

Combining User and Customer Experience

While members of Gen Z are ready to make trips to brick and mortar locations, the essential role that technology plays in the decision-making process and customer lifecycle must be considered if retailers hope to deliver a buyer journey that’s appropriate for this generation. The ease of an online shopping experience is more important than ever with 61 percent of shoppers stating that finding products through online search and navigation was the single most important aspect of their shopping experience. 

Similar to the Millennial generation that came before them, these digital natives that have grown up with the internet and an array of tools, making them quick to adopt technology that simplifies their lives and educates their buying decisions

Mobile-Minded Researchers

One of the most powerful tools these young shoppers lean on to find new brands and products are their mobile phones and retailers can use this to their advantage by creating mobile programs that relate to their unique tastes and behaviors.

Members of Generation Z use their phones to research before they buy and they seem just as ready to make the purchase when they arrive in-store as they are to walk away if they don’t find the product and experience they expect, so it’s imperative that brands take steps to manage their online reputation for relevancy.

Retailers should be aware that these young patrons are willing to quit before the purchase is completed if they’ve had a negative experience in the store and it’s likely that their experience won’t stop at the storefront and word will spread. Members of Gen Z are likely to echo both their good and bad customer experiences through their social networks using online platforms. This final part of the buyer journey is important for retailers to consider if they hope to retain and attract customers.

Digital Natives Use Online Reviews

Online reviews can make a real impact on Gen Z’s buyer journey, particularly if these reviews are coming from a familiar network or respected influencer. Shoppers from this generation depend on influencers and celebrities they follow on digital platforms like Instagram and Snapchat to help inform which products and retail stores they choose to support.

Wal-Mart recently sponsored Ryan’s Toy Reviews, a YouTube channel that receives billions of views with millions of subscribers, and their gearing up for a new line of toys with Ryan’s name on them in their stores. Review management is one way retail brands can help positively influence the conversation Gen Z has about them. 

Not only are Gen Z buyers more likely to lean on their network to help them make purchase decisions, but they are more likely to share their feelings about the products they buy and their in-store experiences using the same technology. Businesses should be on the lookout for ways to grow their digital presence and encourage conversation that promotes the technologically enhanced, yet authentic shopping experiences this demographic craves.

Buyer Journey With a Human Touch

While members of Gen Z are used to making the most of social technology to connect with influencers and educate themselves before they buy, retailers need to consider the flip side of the buyer journey that Gen Z expects, which involves an authentic and human touch.

One of the key motivators behind Gen Z’s desire to get out into the real world and shop in-store seems to be the escape that it provides from constant news and social media cycle. A survey by A.T. Kearny explains that 23 percent of Generation Z stated they were stressed by the news and 22 percent grow weary of social media. While these consumers are going to take advantage of current social platforms to find the products they need, they’re also seeking that genuine element that contributes to an authentic buying experience. Social media management is an approach brands can take to successfully navigate both of these requirements.

Because the quality and uniqueness of the shopping experience are important to these consumers, many retail brands are finding new ways to interact with these shoppers as part of the environment they already enjoy. Some retailers are choosing to arrange pop-ups at festivals, while others have come up with concepts that combine small set-ups in larger retail stores such as CVS Pharmacy’s new BeautyIRL store-within-a-store campaign.

Communication is Key

Another important aspect of Gen Z’s unique buyer journey that retailers should keep in mind is that these individualistic shoppers want to stay informed and feel involved from the time they discover a brand to their final purchase. Personalization and customization are growing themes and retailers can help shape their marketing tactics by maintaining communication with their young customers. Some brands are aiming to provide more personalized content such as this survey data that targets millennials and explains how millennials view some home renovation processes.

Consistently involving members of Gen Z is part of what will help retailers maintain a beneficial relationship with these shoppers and keep them coming back to their stores. 

For retail brands to engage the economic force that Gen Z will eventually become, they’ll have to work with these consumers from ideation to delivery, use technology that this generation has grown up with and focus on individual tastes. If retail brands take the time to interact with these young consumers on their terms and listen to their concerns, then they’ll be in a great position to drive traffic online as well as foot traffic to their stores.

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