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Reaching the prudent gen Z consumer and beyond

Gen Z consumer 2022

Gen Z is growing up.

Born between 1997 and 2012, the oldest Gen Zers are 27 and the youngest are 12. If they don’t have their own purchasing power (yet), they strongly influence those who do.

As we head into the future, it’s important for an eCommerce business to understand the motivations, behaviors and trends that drive Gen Z shopping preferences and expectations.

We’ve pulled from a variety of industry sources, including the National Retail Federation, McKinsey, IBM’s Institute for Business Value, and North Carolina State University (to name a few) and compiled 7 key tips to help you reach the ideal Gen Z consumer.

Who is the Gen Z consumer?

The National Retail Federation (NRF) recently partnered with IBM to study what shopping behaviors drive Gen Z consumers. Their report titled “What do Gen Z shoppers really want?” features results from a survey of nearly 16,000 consumers aged 13 – 21 across 16 countries.

Findings revealed that Gen Zers greatly influence household spending across most categories, from food and beverages to furniture to household goods and clothing.

A study by North Carolina State University (NCSU) cites four defining characteristics of Gen Z consumers—innovation, convenience, security, and escapism. Not surprisingly, Gen Z is motivated (and driven) by a comfort with technology, mobile connectedness, and social media.

Here’s a summary of the NCSU’s four Gen Z characteristics:

01. Innovation

Gen Z consumers are comfortable with innovation, particularly when it comes to technology. They’ve grown up in a virtual and hyper-connected world. The pandemic made this even more ubiquitous.

Many Gen Zers have been attending virtual school, birthday parties, and events for over two years. They take innovation for granted, having no compunctions about trading in an “obsolete” device for a newer (and presumably better) version. They expect the products they buy and use will (and should) be constantly reinvented and improved.

02. Convenience

This is a generation that expects and insists on convenience. Compared to older generations, they’re much more comfortable with trading money, information, and privacy for convenience. They tolerate things that make older generations balk, including delivery charges, consumer monitoring, and DTC brands like Dollar Shave Club and Casper.

Gen Z views the exchange of their personal information for convenient access to goods or services as perfectly natural and normal. They like being “seen” and “known” by companies and are more likely than their parents and grandparents to view this favorably versus being suspicious.

03. Security

Gen Z has grown up during a period of extreme financial, cultural, and social upheaval. This has created a generation much more aware of the need for pragmatism, conservation, and privilege than older generations.

Gen Z is, therefore, more discriminating with where they spend money, often opting for more sustainable brands or methods of acquiring goods. This careful consideration with how and where they spend money is tied to the need for financial security. NSCU notes that Gen Zers tend to be brand sensitive, rather than brand loyal, and are much more discriminating about where they spend their money.

04. Escapism

Highly influenced by their Gen X parents, Gen Z is drawn to many of the same forms of escapism like movies, music, and video games. Escapism includes experiential purchases and interests like extreme sports, social networking, and virtual experiences online and on mobile devices.

What do Gen Zers want?

Gen Zers want, well, lots of things.

The NRF study notes that Gen Z consumers want and expect accurate inventory information, good value for their money, and lots of choice. They also want—as mentioned above—the kind of convenience that’s made possible by the latest technology.

A recent survey of Vogue and GQ readers revealed that Gen Zers want to shop across channels and like high-quality items, but 70 percent monitor their spending and are careful about what they buy (not to mention where they buy it).

They are, truly, an omnichannel retail generation. They like in-store shopping experiences, with nearly 60 percent of respondents in the Vogue/GQ survey indicating they were more likely to shop for fashion in physical stores over the past three months, versus 38 percent who were more likely to shop online.

Gen Z shops more sustainably than older generations, with 15 percent of Gen Z respondents in a recent CGS eCommerce Survey saying they used secondhand websites like eBay and ThredUp for nonessential items, versus 3 percent of Boomers.

Gen Z is a vocal and purpose-driven generation. They respond to companies that make their purpose clear in their messaging and behavior. With all the above in mind, here are some specific ways you can reach this young generation of shoppers.

7 ways to give Gen Z shoppers what they want

01. Be upfront about your brand purpose

Gen Z consumers want companies to care about the world they live in. A study by Porter Novelli/Cone found that 90 percent of Gen Zers believe companies must help improve social and environmental issues—one of the most notable eCommerce statistics to consider. It’s not enough to have a purpose. As a brand, you must articulate your purpose to your customers. This is something that really resonates with Gen Z consumers.

Businesses can connect with Gen Zers on social media, clearly communicate their mission and purpose on their website, and make sure that ad messaging and content is consistent and straightforward across all touchpoints.

ThredUp, an eCommerce retailer that sells used clothing and accessories, is an example of a brand that does this well. They constantly reinforce their company mission of sustainability using social media, their website, and through partnerships with top retailers like Walmart.

02. Anchor your marketing with authenticity

Authenticity goes hand in hand with purpose. Gen Zers value honesty, transparency, and credibility from the brands they do business with.

Authenticity can be conveyed in a few different ways, including using images of real customers in advertising (over 80 percent of Gen Zers prefer this, according to one study). Actually contributing to social causes (versus just talking about what you do or don’t support) is another way to communicate authenticity, with over 70 percent of Gen Z consumers saying they’re more likely to buy from a company that does this.

Establishing brand trust is another crucial way to communicate authenticity. This includes a variety of elements including building quality products, providing excellent customer service, and getting good ratings and reviews from customers.

03. Engage with Gen Z shoppers via micro-influencers

Gen Z shoppers are very receptive to influencers, including micro-influencers (people with between 10K and 50K followers on a social platform like TikTok).

According to Kantar, 44 percent of Gen Zers made a purchase decision because of something an influencer said on social media. 70 percent of Gen Z consumers follow at least one influencer on one or more social media accounts.

It’s clear that social media influencers can help brands connect with Gen Zers in a variety of ways—from hosting shoppable videos on platforms like TikTok to promoting products, brands, and businesses across a variety of networks like Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.

Influencer marketing is projected to reach $15 billion this year, up from $8 billion in 2019. It’s a promising tactic that resonates with Gen Z consumers (but only if it's authentic and meaningful).

04. Cater to Gen Z with individualized experiences

Gen Z is composed of the most diverse population in history. Nearly 48 percent of Gen Zers are racial or ethnic minorities, according to Pew Research. Most got their first smartphone at the age of 12. They’re as comfortable shopping from their phones as they are from their computers or in physical stores.

They’ve come to expect highly personalized and diverse messaging that resonates with the things they care about. Smart businesses can reach this tech-savvy generation by creating meaningful, personalized eCommerce experiences.

You can achieve this by creating an eCommerce store, listing products in marketplaces and on social media, and personalizing shopping experiences by adding related products or create automated abandoned cart emails which remind customers to return for an item (or items) they may have put in their cart, but didn’t purchase.

05. Provide seamless online-to-offline shopping experiences

The IBM/NRF survey revealed a very surprising statistic—98 percent of the Gen Z consumers surveyed said they choose to shop in a physical store more often than they do online.

There are a few things driving this trend including product choice, value, convenience, and availability of an item. But while you can pry digital natives away from their screens, you can’t quite separate virtual experiences from the physical ones. You need to make the online-to-offline shopping experience seamless.

Businesses can do this in several ways. First, consider offering a variety of fulfillment options that bridge online and offline purchases under one omnichannel umbrella. If you’re lucky enough to have a brick-and-mortar location, you can offer curbside pickup for online purchases as well as Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS).

Connecting your inventory so that in stock or out-of-stock items are clearly displayed on your website is another important way to create a seamless online/offline shopping experience.

You should also make it easy for customers to return items whether they purchased them on or offline and post a clear, flexible return policy on your website.

06. Practice sustainable/ethical business practices

Gen Z does their research about the brands and businesses they buy from. Fully three quarters of Gen Zers will research a company to make sure they’re being honest about a given issue. So whatever your cause or purpose is, make sure you’re being authentic (and honest) about it.

That doesn’t mean you need to be perfect. Remember, authenticity is also important to the Gen Z consumer. Prioritize honesty and clarity throughout your messaging and communication. Make sure that the influencers you work with support the same causes you support (and admit when you screw up).

Keep in mind that the oldest Gen Zers are graduating (or have recently) graduated from college. Start hiring them now, so they can help you with everything from your creative approach to your product offerings. This is an incredibly smart and technically savvy generation, and they’re eager to make a difference.

07. Offer stand-out post-purchase customer service

Gen Z loves to be part of an online community. They’re incredibly loyal to the brands and businesses they buy from, particularly when those businesses provide great experiences and build strong customer communities.

Offering exceptional post-purchase customer service is one way to build loyalty and foster community. In a 2019 global survey of Gen Xers by Spotify, 62 percent of respondents believed brands had the power to create communities based on common interests and passions.

When crafting your customer service approach for Gen Z consumers, remember that they value being part of something. Creating online communities that provide meaningful post purchase experiences is a great way to stand out and reach Gen Zers.

A compelling example of this is Sephora’s Beauty Insider Community, which features forums grouped by topic, brand Q&As, a gallery of photos from other Sephora customers, and a perpetual roster of events that showcase products and help customers get the most from the items they buy.

Meet Gen Z where they shop—online and off

Wix has you covered when it comes to creating shopping experiences. You can create a professional online store using our industry-leading website builder and extend your selling capabilities to the real world with Wix POS, our powerful point of sale solution. Learn more about starting an online store using Wix.

From built-in SEO tools to social posts to Facebook and Instagram ads, Wix offers a wide range of eCommerce solutions and integrations to meet the needs of tech-savvy Gen Z consumers.

Geraldine Feehily

Bogar Alonso

Head of Outbound Marketing, Wix eCommerce

Bogar leads thought leadership and outbound marketing for Wix eCommerce. He has an extremely soft spot for all things eCommerce, retail, tech, content, and marketing.

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