Questions about Generation Z will continue to rise as their impact is felt by marketers more and more. In this blog post, we break down Gen Z’s behaviors and shopping trends.

Who is Generation Z?

Generation Z is defined as the generation born between the mid-1990’s and the mid-2010’s. They have been called “post-Millennials,” “the Homeland Generation,” “Gen Z,” “Gen Zers,” or simply “Z” for short. They never knew a world without smartphones or technology, and are considered to be the first true “Digital Natives”. They’re also changing the way advertisers market since Gen Z shops differently than Millennials and Baby Boomers. As Digital Natives, they have access to a wide volume of apps, websites, and platforms to purchase from in a way that no other generation before them has had.

Born in the age of technology, Gen Z have social media accounts at a much younger age than Millennials.

“Thanks to social media, these kids have an opportunity to build out their own personal brand and become micro and macro influencers themselves, and are mindful of what they portray and endorse,” claims Marisa Allan, VP/Partner Innovation at UNiDAYS, a publisher that works exclusively with college shoppers.

Gen Z Shopping Trends

Most of Gen Z’s parents involve their children in making household purchases. Gen Z’s opinion is asked when making decisions on what groceries to buy, planning entertainment, shopping for clothes, and what to eat for dinner. This family-style of decision making is present when shopping in-stores too, and according to the National Retail Federation, families spend more on average when a Gen Z family member is present on a shopping trip.

While most of Generation Z is still too young to shop without adult supervision, there are some trends emerging in those who are a little older. Gen Z tends to be less trusting of brands; they prefer a socially, and eco-friendly brand when making purchasing decisions. However, it must feel authentic. Gen Z shies away from traditional celebrity endorsements of products and instead turn to their friends, online reviews, and social media influencers; their own trusted platforms to help them vet where they should spend their dollars.

Gen Z’s spending money comes from allowance from their parents, gifts, internships, and part-time or full-time jobs. Generation Z’s preference is to shop in-store versus online. While this could change as Gen Zers get older, they cite in-store specials, fun experiences, and even live events at malls or shopping centers as reasons why they enjoy shopping in brick and mortar stores. They also enjoy seeing products in real life to help with their buying decision. When Gen Z makes a purchase, they might find an item online first, then go to the store to try it on. They might make a purchase in-store, or they might think about it for a few days and then order the item online. Gen Z likes fluidity between in-store, online, and mobile when purchasing. Zers are ultimately looking for brands that provide an easy, trustworthy shopping experience that delivers a product or service in a timely manner.

What Does This Mean For Brands That Want Gen Z to Buy Their Products?

When it comes to advertising to Generation Z, short and to the point is best. They are known to have an 8-second attention span and are notorious users of ad blockers. Gen Zers also prefer advertisements that have fewer words and more graphics. Gen Z prefers to watch their content rather than read it. They view short-form clips and digital video almost 6X as much as they read traditional blogs. While longer-form formats are still preferred for things like sports games and movies, short-form videos are preferred for beauty, fashion, and general entertainment.

Gen Z spends more time on YouTube than any other social media site. They use their smartphones more than any other electronic device in the household, beating out iPads or personal computers. One study conducted by Defy Media showed that 24% of Gen Zers turn to YouTube for shopping recommendations, followed by 17% using Instagram and 16% using Facebook.

Gen Z values transparency from the brands they support. They must feel comfortable giving a business their personal information. They want to know their data is protected, how retailers are collecting their information, and what they’re doing with it. They are also more hesitant to buy into loyalty programs. Other generations have no hesitation giving out more information, for example taking a short survey or signing up for an email list, for customer rewards or loyalty programs. However, Gen Z seems to have little interest in these and the best way to win repeat business from them remains to be focusing on the quality of the product, speed of service, and efficiency of delivery. When in-store, Gen Zers are seeking a high level of customer service and a fun experience, and while shopping online, they seek perks like same day delivery or mobile self-checkout.

In addition to eschewing traditional loyalty programs, they’re also not as brand-loyal as the previous generation, choosing to spend their dollars on several different brands versus just a few.

“We have seen that our Gen Z members, due to the huge array of choices available to them, are less loyal to a single brand than previous Millennial members, ” said Allen.

This could change as they grow older and find brands they prefer over others, but the trends now show that they will shop at different or new retailers versus sticking with the same ones.

While it might be hard to track whether a purchase was ultimately triggered by their online browsing or in-store experience, we do know that Gen Z hasn’t decided on which they prefer just yet, so fluidity between online and in-store buying is important.

As Generation Z grows older and their income increases, their shopping habits could change. Being able to drive could mean more in-store purchases while getting their own laptop or tablet could mean more online buying. At 2.6 billion people and $44 billion in spending power, they’re a player in the market to watch.