How To Cash In On Gen Z Shopping Habits

Julie Stewart • October 4, 2019


To understand how to cash in on Gen Z shopping habits, a merchant needs to understand both the psyche of this generation’s buyer persona, as well as their actual shopping habits based on the currently available data.

Let’s tackle those one at a time.




A different kind of value shopper

The traditional notion of a “value shopper” is one who carefully compares products to get the ideal balance between quality and price. This hasn’t gone away, but Gen Z represents a new kind of shopping persona: they shop their values. As in, the things they believe in and care about.

A recent McKinsey study describes Gen Z’s fundamental understanding of consumption as being about self-expression and matters of ethical concern. They don’t want to add to the ruin of the planet, adhere to rigid gender norms (“Unisex” is a product tag that appeals to Gen Z), or support the oppression of exploited workers, to name a few examples. Greta Thunberg is their new emblematic hero.


To have your campaigns resonate with “values shoppers,” here are some suggested approaches.

  • Be careful with jargon or overly flashy campaigns. Gen Z will automatically recognize whether a campaign is authentic or entirely made up. Descriptions, stories and other text need to be interesting, and honest.
  • Promote the ways your products align with Gen Z values. Things they appreciate include sustainability, uniqueness, social causes and themes of self-expression. Fluid gender identity and overcoming prejudice are other themes that resonate.
  • For channels like Google especially, information must be highly relevant. Factual statements that accurately describe the product or your company are preferred. If you use recycled materials or environmentally-friendly processes, highlight that.
  • For advertising-centric channels like Instagram or Snapchat, values messaging is valuable in your creative and product content. You can opt to target content by community or interest, rather than basic demographics.



A look at the Gen Z shopping data

Accenture surveyed nearly 10,000 respondents in 13 countries, with respondents aged 16 to 25 who reported that they shop both online in various ways, and in physical stores. Some of their key findings are shown below.


1. For the Gen Z consumer, social media rules when it comes to discovering products to buy.

Instagram just launched Shoppable posts in early 2019. This allows users to go straight from seeing an item to purchasing it. Snapchat already has Shoppable Snap ads, Google just released Shoppable Images ads, and Pinterest offers Buyable Pins.

  • 81% percent of today’s teens visit Snapchat at least once a month, and 79% visit Instagram.
  • 66% are interested in purchasing via social media directly.
  • 44% use social media for product inspiration.
  • 37% are increasing their use of social media for purchase decision-making.



2. Alternative shopping styles are in growing demand.

  • 73% of Gen Z shoppers are interested in curated fashion offerings with subscription models.
  • 71% want programs that automatically replenish consumables.
  • 38% are interested in shopping by voice.



3. Gen Z shoppers have not yet formed strong brand loyalties.

  • Only 16% shop for clothing/fashion at a single store (U.S. Gen Z shoppers: 5%; the global average for older millennials is 26%.)
  • Only 19% shop at a single store for health and beauty items (for older millennials, it’s 34%).



4. Gen Z shoppers are more prone to give feedback after a purchase.

  • Almost 70% of Gen Z shoppers say that they have written reviews.
  • 40% say they give feedback often.



5. Gen Z shopping involves a lot of visual media.

  • YouTube is the most regularly used social media platform by Gen Z shoppers.
  • 66% of Gen Z shoppers use Instagram compared to 40% of millennials.
  • Gen Z shoppers are more than twice as likely as Millennials to use Snapchat as their preferred visual medium.



6. Digital channels are still growing in e-commerce share.

  • 24% of Gen Z shoppers prefer to purchase online and 13% via mobile.
  • Over 40% purchase more than 50% of their apparel and consumer electronic items online.



7. Gen Z Shoppers still favor physical stores over digital shopping.


It looks like “mall rats” will persist among younger generations for a while.

  • Despite being social media and digital natives, 60% of Gen Z shoppers still prefer to purchase in stores.
  • Especially Americans: 77% of Gen Z respondents in the U.S. said that shopping at brick-and-mortar stores is their preferred channel.
  • 46% will check in to a store to get more information before making an online purchase.

No matter how you spin it, brick-and-mortar is still integral to the shopping experience. This is especially true for Gen Z shoppers, who have repeatedly shown that they like to hang out in malls and see goods in person.




Make the most of your product data strategies to drive offline visits.

  • Get started with Local Inventory ads. Whether it’s on Google, Facebook, or another channel, these digital ads can drive shoppers to your physical locations.
  • Think outside the box. Supporting BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In-Store) and similar buying options is absolutely crucial to Gen Z shoppers. Walmart has completely owned the BOPIS option, and they’ve shown that it drives huge amounts of in-store traffic. For reference, one study from Zebra found that 90% of retailers will implement BOPIS by 2021.

In order to do either of these, you’ll need to stay on top of inventory feeds. Agility will also be key here, as inventory feeds are constantly changing. Products sell out. New ones arrive. To support inventory feeds, businesses will need smart backend connections and solutions. Ensure that you not only have access to this information, but that you have ongoing, easy-to-manage access and the ability to create and distribute the feeds quickly.

Get started with Google Local Inventory Ads


Julie Stewart

My mission at Shoppingfeed is explaining how to leverage e-commerce platforms and SaaS technology to e-merchants who just want to run their business and make more money.

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