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Want to Win at Retail? Look to Gen Z
Millennials have been the exclusive and current focus of many brands’ targets and marketing campaigns, but what about Gen Z? There are lots of misconceptions tied to this demographic, often being mislabeled as “just teens,” but they are much more complex in their diverse interests, rich media consumption, and unique shopping behavior. They purchase based on passion, seek and absorb content like a sponge, are selective with brand loyalty and convert where you least expect.

The potential with this audience is bountiful. By 2020 these consumers will reach 65 million and carry $44 billion in buying power. It’s important to understand this cohort at its core. They encompass those born after 1997 as defined by Pew Research ages, 7-22. This group has lived exclusively in a digital world and grew up alongside major advancements in technology, the internet and social media. This has shaped them and their priorities:

The Digital Multi-Tasker.

This constant connection to all things digital has impacted how they view the world, interact with peers (and brands) and influence purchase decisions. In fact, 66% are always connected, using multiple devices to stream, communicate and share content simultaneously. A little more than half would prefer to maintain social relationships with friends online, through video games, social media vs. face-to-face interactions. These preferences are critical in identifying communication and media strategies that will captivate and resonate with this group’s elusive attention and intercept them in their path to purchase.

Content Obsessed

They have an insatiable appetite for new content. Between viewing from their friends, favorite influencers and brands, they spend 6 hours a day on social and stream 23 hours’ worth of video content per week. They have 1.5x higher likelihood than average consumers to follow vloggers on social and are 1.25x more likely to discover new brands and products via celebrity endorsements.

95% of Gen Zers are watching video on YouTube and TikTok, the short video clip platform with 660M downloads end of last year. For Gen Z, video is king. This insight is crucial in finding not only where the audience is, but what brands should invest in developing. Instagram is one of their essential platforms as well, where 45% see it as their first step within their purchase discovery.

They have high expectations from brands with 44% expecting to be served relevant content. It’s no surprise, then, the number one attribute that helps drive action is aesthetic, more than any other generation.

Add to Cart, but in-store

Almost paradoxically, 67% of Gen Z shoppers prefer purchasing in-store vs. online. They spend time online researching to validate their potential purchase. This behavior, called webrooming, is critical to understanding their path to purchase and key impact moments to serve relevant messaging. This shopping behavior is rooted in Gen Zers desire for more personalized interactions. 66% of them prefer the in-store experience in order to see and try on products before buying. They go in-store to find, not explore and value a positive brand experience at every touchpoint, especially those that are immersive.


Gen Zers are selective when purchasing, preferring to buy from those that align with their passions. They focus on quality and authenticity (PDF), hungry to purchase from brands that are ethical and contribute to the greater good. 60% of Gen Zers (PDF) said it is also important for brands to value their opinions. When they feel heard, Gen Zers become brand ambassadors, proudly sharing their experiences with their network. 6 in 10 (PDF) regularly inform friends and family about new products and 47% (PDF) have posted an online review of a product or company within the last month.

Success for retail brands requires tapping the untapped opportunities, especially in new targets, which foundationally lie in communicating to customers on the right platform with the right message at the right time. For Gen Z, they’re unexpectedly omnichannel shoppers who respond to engaging, relevant content and are more receptive to brands that stand for something and create immersive experiences both online and in-store.