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Looking Inside the Mind of a Gen Z Shopper

Andrew J. Ferren's picture


As the 2017 holiday season nears, consumers are getting ready to open their wallets and retailers are hoping their promotions will attract those consumers. Generation Z (“Gen Z”), which includes young people born in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s, is an important but often forgotten portion of the consumer population. There are about 2.5 billion Gen Z consumers worldwide, collectively wielding $44 billion in buying power. Although one might assume that having grown up in a world of technology, Gen Z consumers prefer exercising their buying power online, Gen Z buyers surprisingly prefer shopping in brick-and-mortar stores.

In January 2017, IBM and the National Retail Federation produced an executive report titled Uniquely Generation Z, which analyzed Gen Z buying habits. Sixty-seven percent of the Gen Z consumers surveyed for that report said they prefer to shop in stores while only 35% preferred to shop using a browser or an app.

More recently, PWC conducted a survey analyzing the 2017 holiday outlook. Of the 301 Gen Z consumers surveyed, 81% preferred to shop in stores. Many of those surveyed stated that the reason for their preference was fun experiences, live events, and in-store specials. Still, the survey suggests that a Gen Z buyer’s motivation to shop in stores may be due to their inability to purchase items online. Moreover, the survey cautions that as Gen Z shoppers grow older, wealthier, and busier, their preferences may change.

Nonetheless, this holiday season, retailers may want to customize their marketing strategies to capture the attention of Gen Z shoppers who prefer in store shopping. Retail Dive suggests the following three ways to reach Gen Z buyers this holiday season: (1) tell a story; (2) promote unique, personalized gift options; and (3) use the right medium.

First, retailers should target Gen Z shoppers by using visual forms of storytelling. The PWC 2017 holiday outlook survey referenced above showed that while Gen Z consumers prefer to shop in stores, a majority also look to Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook for inspiration when picking out a gift. Second, retailers should promote personalization services in their storefronts and focus on training store associates.  Gen Z consumers value fun experiences when making purchases and are more likely to make purchases based on a retailer’s recommendation. Finally, while Gen Z shoppers favor shopping in stores, they, more than any other generation, tend to research products online before buying. This includes reading reviews, looking through photo galleries, and using online wish lists. Retailers should capitalize on this preference by targeting Gen Z shoppers on social media, and connecting that online exposure with a more tangible experience in brick-and-mortar stores.

As we have discussed in previous blog posts, most retailers strive to strike a balance between online retail and the traditional brick-and-mortar experience. With so many ways to reach consumers, it is important for retailers that serve younger consumers to tailor their marketing strategy, especially for Gen Z, a new generation of consumers with unique buying habits.

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Andrew J. Ferren's picture

Intellectual property advice, commercial agreements, and technology transfer and licensing matters are the focus of Andy Ferren’s practice. Andy handles a wide range of business matters for established and emerging companies, non-profit organizations, closely-held businesses, and individual entrepreneurs. Additionally, he helps to coordinate the firm’s trademark and copyright practices.


Tiffany Tsang is an Associate in the firm’s Corporate Group.  She focuses her practice on mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, corporate financing and compliance.

Prior to joining Goulston & Storrs, Tiffany served as a judicial intern for The Honorable Norman H. Stahl at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.  She was also a legal intern at Fresenius Medical Care North America.  While in law school, Tiffany participated in the Poverty Law and Practice Clinic which assists low income individuals with legal needs in the areas of employment, housing, and welfare.