What do Gen Z shoppers really want? 4 ways retailers can capture the younger generation

Born between the late 1990s and mid-2010s, Gen Z are an important and influential consumer force to be reckoned with.

This generation of shoppers are digital natives, with their own habits, preferences and attitudes – but with an average attention span of just 8 seconds (compared to 12 seconds for millennials) it is harder than ever to grab and hold their attention.

Gen Z wields around $150bn (£113bn) of spending power and account for 40% of global consumers, according to research by McKinsey & Co.

For retailers looking to engage and attract this dynamic, burgeoning generation, it is important to understand what they are really looking for.

READ MORE: Gen Z shoppers driving the BNPL trend

There are four key ways that brands can win Gen Z over:

Sustainability and ethical values

Values such as sustainability and equity are paramount to Gen Z and heavily influence their purchasing choices. For many, there is an expectation for retailers to create content and espouse values which reflect their take on the environment and social justice.

According to a study conducted by Depop and consultancy firm Bain and Company, 90% of Gen Z consumers said they have made changes to be more sustainable in their daily lives, with environmentally-friendly fashion practices playing a key role.

A further 60% are attracted to brands who speak about reducing their carbon footprint, while 45% are influenced by eco-friendly materials. Additionally, 70% are concerned by commitments to fair wages, while 60% want to know a brand’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Ethical labour practices continue to be topical, with recent scandals including Shein breaking local labour laws by enforcing 75-hour weeks and Boohoo being accused of modern slavery with its Leicester factory works earning just £3.50 an hour.

81% of Gen Z shoppers say these topics are important when choosing where to shop.

“There is a heightened awareness around sustainability and conscious consumption in the wake of the events of the first half of 2020,” Farfetch senior womenswear editor Celenie Seidel told Drapers.

“The pandemic has brought about many unexpected changes to the industry and gave pause for thought when the world slammed its brakes on.”

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Gen Z desires personalisation more than any other demographic, with 80% of consumers more likely to make a purchase when brands offer a more personalised experience, a report by Euclid Analytics reveals.

75% of Gen Z shoppers say they are more likely to buy a product if they can customise it, according to research by Deep Dive.

Some 70% of Gen Z’s also said they believe a website will know what they’re looking for before they tell it, while 66% believe that all websites will “talk” to each other to create a personalized experience among apps and websites.

Growing up in an immersive, digital world has undoubtedly shaped Gen Z’s attitudes about personalisation. Sharing personal information is habitual and they expect a seamless shopping experience, tailored to their individual requirements.

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Prioritising Instagram and Tik Tok

Retailers should carefully consider their social media platforms when targeting Gen Z consumers.

Instagram continues to be an influential and lucrative channel, with 33% of Gen Z’s preferring it to Twitter at 20%, Snapchat at 19% and Facebook at 15% according to a survey by Piper Jaffray.

“Up-and-coming brands are poised to see the most success through Instagram,” Traackr’s vice-president of marketing Evy Lyons told Glossy.

“While brands’ existing consumers might not immediately switch to shopping through the app, they are more likely to shop there for a newly discovered brand. The goal for new brands setting up shop on Instagram is to add ease to the shopping process.”

TikTok is also emerging as a valuable ecommerce space, with the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt trend gaining 5.4 billion views on the platform.

Earlier this year, the video platform began piloting TikTok Shopping in the US, UK, and Canada, in partnership with Shopify. Considering that 60% of TikTok’s audience is Gen Z, it is the ideal platform to reach the demographic.

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Ditching Gender norms and language

Compared to older generations, Gen Z’s views on gender are much more fluid.

In fact, half of Gen Z believe traditional gender roles and labels related to the gender binary are outdated and these values are reflected in their shopping habits.

79% of Gen Z have no qualms or hesitations about buying clothes marketed to the opposite gender, while 23% think that traditional gender-focused language used by retailers is not only old-fashioned, but outdated and offensive, according to a study from UNiDAYS.

In addition, 56% do not actively follow fashion trends, but the majority favour clothes that simply make them feel confident, with 87% saying they feel their best in the “right” clothes.

This generation isn’t afraid to go against the grain, embracing individualism with the expectation that brands will reflect their values.

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