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How to Market to Generation Z Shoppers

With Generation Z expected to comprise 40% of the North American Population by 2020, retailers must address the needs of this generation and understand its purchasing power in households. According to a survey conducted by HRC Retail Advisory, recognizing the differences between generational segments and understanding the implications of Generation Z’s influence will be critical in successfully targeting and serving this age group (10-17).

“Retailers must be nimble in order to effectively appeal to Generation Z consumers,” said Farla Efros, President of HRC Retail Advisory. “Resonating with this group at a young age can have a huge impact on retailers’ long term consumer retention and brand loyalty. Social media and digital advertising will be dominant in marketing strategies targeted to Generation Z, but retailers must adopt these mediums in interactive ways to inspire and engage this emerging generation of consumers.”

To better understand the growing influence of Generation Z and the implications for retailers, HRC surveyed 3,100 participants from the US and Canada on their attitudes, shopping habits and influences driving their purchasing decisions.

Significant findings of the survey include:

Generation Z Strongly Influences Parents’ Purchases 
Generation Z has a strong voice and expects to be heard, especially when it comes to what their parents are buying. A significant 82% of parents surveyed admitted that their children have some influence over purchasing decisions, while 93% of the Generation Z respondents say they have influence over certain categories such as clothing, footwear, accessories and cosmetics.

YouTube Tops Facebook As Most Visited Social Platform
YouTube is the top social platform for Generation Z with 54% of respondents stating that they visit YouTube daily in order to receive information. This is a significant deviation from Millennials who named Facebook as their most visited social platform. About 50% of Generation Z visits Facebook daily, with Instagram and Snapchat falling behind at 34% and 29% respectively.

According to Generation Z, Malls are Not Dead
Despite being raised with the internet, Generation Z is still going to the mall to shop. While approximately 60% of all survey respondents said they visit a mall or shopping center at least once a month, a whopping 72% of Generation Z respondents said they visited the mall at least once a month and stayed for at least an hour, visiting 4.4 stores on the trip. Generation Z-ers are not browsers, as 60% of these high frequency visitors go to the mall with a clear intention of making a purchase for themselves.

Generation Z Votes Friends as Most Influential
Moving forward, retailers will need to reconsider the implications of their selection of spokespeople to represent their brands. A majority of Generation Z respondents (62%) deemed friends as the most influential party on their buying decisions. Athletes came in a distant second at 14%, with Bloggers/YouTubers closely following at 13%. Celebrity and singer endorsements were ranked the lowest, at 6% and 7% respectively. 89% of Generation Z respondents also said they would be more likely to enter a store based on where their friends shop.

Digital in their DNA
Generation Z is already buying online, and often. 50% of Generation Z respondents stated that they shop online at least once a month. Of those making online purchases within the last 12 months, 77% stated they have purchased something from Amazon, and 34% have purchased something from eBay.

Tips for Retailers
HRC Retail Advisory notes that retailers need to consider the following five factors to most effectively serve Generation Z consumers:

  • Depict them as diverse (ethnically, socially, fashionably)
  • Communicate more frequently in short bursts using content
  • Allow them to personalize, give them control and preferences
  • Talk to them about values and social causes
  • Instead of creating demand using Hollywood celebrities, use real people or internet/YouTube stars to market your brand

Notes on Survey Methodology and Analysis 
HRC Retail Advisory’s survey findings are based on a targeted sample of four distinct demographics: Millennials with no children, Millennial parents of children under 18, Generation X and Baby Boomer parents of children under 18, and children ages 10-17. The sample size was 675 per group in the United States, and 100 per group in Canada. The survey was fielded in October 2016 and was completed through proprietary sample sources amongst panelists who participate in online surveys. The total sample size was 3,100 completes.

Source: HRC Retail Advisory Press Release (see the report on its website (PDF file)

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.