How Brands Can Plan for Gen Z Shopping Habits

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Over the last decade, the challenge for brands has been shifting their approach to meet the needs of Millenials. However, a new challenge has risen thanks to Gen Z—the generation born in the late ’90s and after. 

Mostly in their pre-teens and teen years, Gen Z has a lot of buying power, even when it comes to what their parents purchase—over $44 billion to be specific, according to a study by IBM and NFR’s study “Uniquely Generation Z.” They have their own shopping preferences that are much different than Baby Boomers and Millennials and will undoubtedly be changing the consumer landscape. That’s why brands need to hone in on their needs quickly.  

Once you have a better understanding of Gen Z’s shopping habits, you can strategize how your company can capitalize on these values (and stand out from competitors). So which aspects of spending are most important to Gen Z shoppers. According to a Business Insider survey, the two biggest factors Gen Z shoppers consider when deciding to purchase from a brand include price and shared values. This post will also cover how to accommodate their preference for in-store shopping and their desire for better brand experiences.

While it might seem like adjusting your approach to these shopping habits might be complicated and time-consuming, it’s actually not as difficult as you think—it could even be as simple as making adjustments to your website, how you present your pricing, or how you set up your store. 

For example, testimonial pages are an excellent way to prove to potential customers that meeting your customer’s needs is important to you. Adding one to your site is essential, and it doesn’t take long. Anticipating and catering to Gen Z customers’ needs should be a priority when it comes to any consumer-facing aspect of your business.

Let’s dive deeper into what matters most to Gen Z shoppers and how you can plan your business strategy to accommodate these needs: 

#1: Affordability 

While Gen Z does prioritize having new clothes due to their highly social-media-driven lifestyles, they look for affordability above all else. That’s part of the reason why reselling sites and thrift stores have become so popular in recent years. With rising rent costs and concern over the cost of healthcare, this generation is proving to be more conservative with their spending, which brands should take into account when developing their offer.

Gen Z Shopping Habits

While some Gen Z shoppers are drawn to the lowest priced items, others prefer to purchase high-end brands that they know are a good financial investment because they are expected to last longer. They will even conduct further research on their phone while shopping in the store to confirm that they’ve found the best deal for what they’re looking for, whether that’s based on the lowest price or getting the most value. 

How Your Business Can Cater to This Need: 

If your business specializes in low prices, then you’re already in a great spot. But are you the most affordable amongst your competitors? If the answer is no, you might need to adjust how you’re positioning yourself. While keeping costs low, is there a way to provide greater value to your customers? Or is there a way to further cut costs that can make you more competitive—can you lower your marketing or distribution costs? 

However, if you’re on the other end of the spectrum, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you’re offering a high-quality product that’s priced in line with other similar businesses, then your prices will likely be focused on targeting Gen Z-ers who are looking to invest in high-end items they can hold onto. While you might not be able to cut prices, you might be able to change how your cost is perceived, possibly widening your market. 

There are many pricing strategies like dividing costs into monthly payments or price anchoring (when you have a decoy price that encourages them to choose the highest price offering) to help you appear more affordable without changing how much you make off your products services.

#2: Shared Values 

As you’ve likely noticed, there’s been a huge shift in conscious consumerism. Shoppers are demanding more information from brands, and they’re holding them accountable for greater social and environmental responsibility. This can be seen as more and more companies strive to use more sustainable materials, ethical manufacturing processes, and less wasteful packaging. There has also been a rise in brands that donate a portion of their proceeds or the like to charities or causes. For example, we have seen this with Toms, Pura Vida Bracelets, and Warby Parker. 

How Your Business Can Cater to This Need: 

Find a cause that you can get behind that makes sense with your brand. For example, if you’re a swimwear company, find a charity that you can collaborate with ocean-centric. Or, if you sell handmade artisan crafts from a certain region, donate a portion of the proceeds to helping that community. For this strategy to be effective, it needs to resonate with your customers—meaning it needs to feel authentic.  

While aligning your brand with a charity, cause, or more ethical practices is the first step, you also need to make sure that your values are clearly communicated to your customers. This means making it an obvious aspect of your branding, from featuring this information on your website to sharing on social media from behind-the-scenes Instagram stories to doing a cross-promotional campaign on your YouTube account. 

#3: Better Overall Experience  

Whether they’re shopping in-store or online, Gen Z shoppers expect a personalized, memorable experience. They’re expecting a seamless shopping experience from beginning to end, which means easy-to-find merchandise, a working app or site (if online), and helpful sales associates.

From design to usability, it’s more important than ever for brands to develop streamlined online features so that this young generation can find all the information they need. Dark mode has become a popular new design trend that’s partly aimed at reducing eye strain on a group that spends a lot of time shopping on screens. Small touches like this might help you set your company apart online.

The study by A.T. Kearny also found that if they do have a poor experience, 24% of Gen Z shoppers will abandon their in-store purchase, and 22% will abandon their cart when shopping online. That’s nearly a quarter of the market.  

How Your Business Can Cater to This Need:

You need to ensure that every aspect of their shopping experience is as streamlined and user-friendly as possible—Gen Z’s do not tolerate frustrating shopping experiences. This means you need well-organized and stocked storefronts, an easy-to-navigate website, plentiful opportunities to provide their feedback, and more.

So how exactly can you cater to your Gen Z customers? Investing in customer service training for your employees or working with top-of-the-line chatbot services and call center solutions can help ensure that no matter where your customers are shopping, they’re attended to as needed. 

Another way to make their interaction with your brand more pleasant is to have well-organized navigation and website content designed to serve your customers’ needs—not just selling your product. If you have not invested in an optimized website, now is the time to do it. 

#4: In-Store Shopping

Unlike millennials, Gen Z shoppers prefer to make their purchases in-store. This might seem surprising since they’re the generation raised on technology; it’s actually a nice change of pace for them that they actively seek out. According to a study by A.T. Kearney, 58% of respondents said browsing in-stores is a sort of “retail therapy” because it allows them to step away from social media and their phones. 

How Your Business Can Cater to This Need: 

Many brands that started online are now making the shift to provide an in-store experience for their customers. For example, Fabletics, an online sportswear company based on subscription services, has recently opened several retail stores so that their customers can have the in-person shopping experience they’ve been asking for. If you’re an online-only brand, consider expanding to a few physical storefronts if you can, but don’t go overboard as a large portion of your consumers (outside of Gen Z shoppers) still prefer to shop online. 

Or, if that’s too big of a financial undertaking, consider creating a partnership with an established store that can carry your products. For example, big brand retailers carry many smaller brands, allowing customers to get that in-store shopping experience without investing in brick and mortar stores. 

If you already have brick-and-mortar stores, focus on how you can make your store better; this goes hand in hand with creating a better overall experience. Can it be laid out differently? Do you need more sales associates? Can you integrate technology to create a connection between your online and offline shopping experiences? 

Now Is the Time to Start Making Changes

While your business has competing interests, you should start integrating changes that will cater to this precious portion of your market as soon as possible. If your business is limited on resources, focus on making changes that are easy to work in with your budget and scale as you can. Harnessing the buying power of Gen Z shoppers can only benefit your business. 

How Brands Can Plan for Gen Z Shopping Habits

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