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The E-commerce Merchant’s Guide to Gen-Z Shoppers

Tap into the huge Gen-Z consumer market. Learn everything you need to know about Gen-Z shopping habits as they relate to e-commerce.

Ahhh … Gen-Z shoppers. An inspiring customer cohort that e-commerce brands are eager to tap into.

And we can see why. Making up a healthy chunk of the population (more on this in a bit), Gen-Z presents a group of shoppers ripe with opportunity.

But while there’s a ton of info out there on how e-commerce brands can grab a slice of the growing Gen-Z market share, many e-commerce owners still don’t know how Gen-Zers think about online shopping.

In today’s guide, we’re getting straight to the facts so you can get a closer look into the minds of Gen-Z shoppers — a.k.a. “Zoomers”.

Ready to learn more about who Gen-Z is, what their shopping habits look like, and how you can satisfy their needs? Let’s take a look at the top insights and trends e-commerce brands need to know in order to win over the hearts of Gen-Z shoppers.

The scoop on Gen-Z shoppers

  • Who is Gen-Z? And why you should care?
  • What do we know about Gen-Z’s shopping habits?
  • Practical tips to help brands get more ♥️ from Gen-Z

Who is Gen-Z? And why you should care

On track to be the most well-educated generation to date, Gen-Zers are a savvy bunch who know what they want, how, and when they want it.

Born between 1997 and 2012, Zoomers are digital natives with little to no memory of how the world operated before smartphones. If you were born in a previous generation, can you imagine what that’d be like? (Wait…no oversized brick phones to lug around? Score! 😂)

More racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations, Zoomers make up about 20.7% of the population, clocking in at roughly 68.6 million (and that’s just in the US!).

But you might be thinking, with an age group so young, where’s the money coming from? With Gen-Zers earning roughly $43 billion from their allowance and $100 billion from worked income, this generation has a total spending power of $143 billion. 😲

And yet, what do we really know about Gen-Z’s shopping habits? How can brands understand the “why” behind their purchases and create more aligned buying experiences?

In the next section, we’ll reveal an inside look into the minds of Gen-Z shoppers.

What do we know about Gen-Z’s shopping habits?

Gen-Z is an inspiring demographic that makes purchases with intention. Old tips and tricks don’t appeal to Zoomers as they’re more concerned with ethics and responsibility than traditional media tactics.

Let’s learn more about Gen-Z’s habits and preferences and how they’re shaping the world of online shopping.

Gen-Z vs. Millennial shopping habits: Online and holistic shopping experiences

While online shopping has become more convenient for Millennials, Gen-Zers prefer shopping across all formats.

In fact, Emma Spagnuolo, the associate partner at McKinsey, says:

“Gen-Zers might go online while they’re at school, look at something there, then decide they want to go to the store for fun and to enjoy the experience.

Then they get home; suddenly, they see an Instagram ad for their new favorite beauty brand. They hit “shop now” and purchase through Instagram. But that shopping journey touched on brick and mortar. It touched on e-commerce online on their laptops. And it touched on mobile. It’s a holistic experience.”

Phew. That’s a lot of touchpoints to get right. And that’s not all that matters to Gen-Z.

Gen-Z places a firm grasp on company values

Gen-Zers have high expectations and deeply rooted values. And, spoiler alert: They expect no less from the brands they buy from.

Gen-Zers are thoughtful and considerate decision-makers who prefer buying from companies that demonstrate integrity and strong values.

McKinsey partner Bo Finneman says:

“I think there’s a real authenticity to the Gen-Z generation in saying they want to breathe new life into what corporate responsibility looks like. And one of the biggest elements that have come out of the research in the last few years has been the focus on values.”

“They’re looking beyond tangible products and actually trying to understand what is it that makes the company tick. What’s its mission? What’s its purpose? And what is it actually trying to build for us as a society?”

Want to know something else? Gen-Z trends started with Millennials. In fact, Emma says, what we’re currently seeing is an acceleration — what Millennials started, Gen-Zers are here to carry out and finish.

And that brings us to…

Gen-Z says sustainability is a must

With a keen eye for sustainability, 37% of Zoomers avoid using plastic where possible, 35% buy items with less packaging, and 32% choose sustainable products to set an example to others.

What’s more, Gen-Z consumers are willing to pay higher prices for sustainable products that are ethically produced. They’re also willing to pay more if a brand donates to charity.

If you’re looking to capitalize on this specific Gen-Z attribute, don’t miss our 5 ROI-Friendly Tips to Sustainable E-commerce.

Traditional advertising is a hard pass for Zoomers

If you’re on a mission to convince Gen-Z to buy from your store, traditional advertising isn’t going to cut it.

After asking Gen-Z consumers what types of advertisements they find most influential, PwC found a strong shift from traditional to digital media.

The report also found that 29% of GenZers stated that sponsored ads on social media and traditional TV ads are the most influential forms of advertising. Interactive social media ads and ads featuring famous influencers or celebrities closely followed suit.

Consumers aged 35 or over, on the other hand — looking at you, older Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers — stated that traditional TV ads are the most influential. This was followed by traditional magazine or newspaper print ads and personalized flyers received in the mail. A wee bit old school, are we right?

Gen-Z shoppers have no patience for slow delivery times

Gen-Z sets the bar high when it comes to the delivery of their online purchases.

In fact, the same PwC report found that 44% of Gen-Z consumers expect their orders to arrive as quickly as possible and 43% value free returns. Gen-Z also expects a pristine shipping experience, including having complete visibility of the product throughout the delivery process, knowing the exact delivery date, and having the option to return items in-store.

In comparison, older Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers, value two simple things: Free returns and knowing the delivery date at the point of order.

Practical tips to help brands get more ♥️ from Gen-Z

Now that we’ve laid the groundwork, let’s discover how e-commerce brands can implement the insights we’ve shared into actionable steps.

Raise your sustainability standards

No matter where your brand falls on the sustainability meter, we bet there’s more you can do to make it greener.

From ethical sourcing to clean manufacturing to responsible packaging and delivery, trace your operations and strategize ways to make them more environmentally conscious.

One brand we admire for doing just that? Gucci.

Yep, true story. The luxury brand has been taking steps toward becoming a more sustainable company since it signed up to the Fur Free Alliance and banned the use of fur in its 2018 Spring/Summer collections and beyond.

At the very least, Gen Z expects innovative and green packaging approaches, so be sure to take action by adopting sustainable packaging concepts. Once you’ve implemented your new approach, shout it from the rooftops in your email marketing, social media marketing, and campaign ads.

Implement holistic shopping options

Zoomers also expect a consistent customer experience and a seamless connection across all touchpoints — whether online or offline.

Here are some ways you can implement holistic shopping options Gen-Zers crave:

  • Dabble in or upgrade the brick-and-mortar experience — looking at you, Nordstrom and Glossier
  • Utilize social commerce via TikTok and Instagram Shopping
  • Integrate mobile payment options across all touchpoints — including physical touchpoints (think contactless payments via smartphones)
  • Survey your Gen-Z customers to ask what specific shopping options they prefer

Share and live out your company mission and values

Our next tip? Maintain and share a clear positioning of your brand and what it stands for — a top priority for Zoomers.

Bo from Mckinsey says:

“There’s an authentic spirit to Gen-Z individuals where I think they just really want to know and understand who they’re buying from. I would describe them as tremendously discerning and disciplined.”

To really drive your mission home, highlight the core environmental and socio-political issues your brand supports. This goes without saying, but the key piece to building trust here is by living out the mission and values that you preach.

Utilize Gen-Z-friendly social media platforms and micro-influencers

When traditional advertising is out the door, what do you do?

Well, Gen-Zers would say to build an emotional connection with them by posting engaging content on Snapchat, YouTube, and Instagram — three channels that play an integral role in their daily lives.

But there’s a caveat here. Gen-Z decides within just a few seconds if your content is relevant and if they want to engage with your brand.

To encourage them to stay:

  • Lock arms with established influencers that specialize in marketing to Gen-Z audiences
  • Make sure your content is mobile-friendly
  • Motivate them to interact with your brand — hint: give them an incentive! Think contests, quizzes, and free merch
  • Present your message quickly, meaningfully, and concisely

Perfect your shipping process and experience

Yikes when it comes to Zoomers and shipping, you don’t want to mess around.

Perfect your shipping process and experience by making sure customers have visibility of the product throughout the entire delivery process. Yes, we’re talking trackers via apps, social media channels, live chats, email updates, chatbots — whatever you have to do.

Here are some other ways to streamline the shipping process and experience:

  • Ensure returns are free, quick, and simple to submit for processing
  • Let customers return items to a physical location, pop-up store, or parcel pickup station
  • Share the exact delivery date when customers are placing an order
  • Lock arms with delivery partners that are fast, reliable, and flexible
  • Provide plenty of customer support touchpoints
  • Be quick to notify customers if a package will be late — provide updated tracking information and a reward for their patience

Satisfying Gen-Z shopping habits in the e-commerce landscape

Gen-Z is a growing market that represents a broader evolution in the world of commerce. That’s why it’s absolutely crucial that online brands know, understand, and satisfy the needs of Gen-Zers.

And the time to do that is now. 

In other words, don’t wait for trends to fizzle out before you come armed and ready. Moving with agility and building brand loyalty by reacting quickly to pertinent trends is a game-changer for any e-commerce brand looking to attract Gen-Z customers.

Okay, enough with the chatter. It’s time to go forth and create systems that’ll help your store win over the hearts of Gen-Z shoppers. ❤️❤️❤️

Psst, hey friend. 👋🏽 Just popping in to say that at SellersFunding, our e-commerce clients always come first. With our all-in-one e-commerce funding solutions, we support brands worldwide to grow sustainably and at speed. Get in touch to learn how we can help your store win, today.


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