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Dismiss the teenage stereotype shoppers at your peril: Gen Z is smartphoned-up and have a sense of their own worth

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A new industry report examining the ‘Generation Z’ shoppers — that’s kids aged 15 to 24, daddy-o — finds that they are a shop-happy and digitally-savvy generation, who are open to influence by retailers, but also have high expectations of them.

According to the report from leading independent shopper research agency, Shoppercentric, fewer than one in five of Generation Z feel that retailers don’t think their age group is important, compared with nearly one in three of the general shopping population. And half of them believe that retailers and brands understand their age group, compared with a third of the rest of shoppers.

But they do feel empowered, with 23% strongly agreeing that they could make a difference to their future compared with 17% of shoppers in general.

Many claim that their happiness runs deeper than material possessions alone: 34% strongly agree that they want to feel they are getting good experiences – that life isn’t all about what they own, versus 28% of older shoppers.

But Generation Z are open to persuasion. They shop instore and online at least seven times a month (rising to eight times a month amongst the men in this age group and going to physical shops and malls is as much a social pursuit as it is about buying things: 52% of Generation Z said that going out shopping was a fun way to spend time with friends/family, versus 44% of adult shoppers at large.

Ecommerce provides a welcome distraction to Generation Z with 62% of them agreeing that online shopping is a great way to stop getting bored – compared with 53% of older shoppers. Indeed, 70% of Generation Z shoppers agree that they “often browse online with no intention of buying (versus 63% of older shoppers).

These shoppers are receptive to inspiration and 28% say that they spend lots of time on YouTube getting ideas and recommendations, compared to 13% of older shoppers. They’re also twice as likely as other shoppers to cite product displays as important when shopping instore, and 49% agree that they use the displays instore/online to give them ideas (versus 41% of the broader shopping population).

They’re also using their smartphones instore more often with 53% agreeing that using their smartphone means they can get better information to help them decide what to buy when instore – compared to 38% of older shoppers.

Generation Z love a bargain just as much as anyone else and 48% agree that they tended to buy the cheapest they could so that they could buy more things they really like – compared to just 29% of their older counterparts. 62% are also tempted to buy if an item is on promotion versus 55% of older shoppers.

This is the generation that is doing much of its growing up online and as such, 97% have a laptop / PC, 96% have a smartphone and 63% have a tablet.

They have no problem buying more items than they want, and returning what they don’t want. In fact 28% of Generation Z agree that they buy lots of things online knowing they’re going to send most back – compared with ten% of older shoppers.

They’re more impulsive and willing to take risks with an order than older shoppers – for example 44% of Generation Z say that they often buy things on the internet that they hadn’t planned to purchase, versus 32% of older shoppers.

Speedy delivery is more important to Generation Z than to older shoppers with one in five putting same day/next day delivery in their top three most important factors for shopping online – compared with one in ten older shoppers.

Interestingly re-sellers such as eBay are used less frequently by Generation Z than older shoppers, which might reflect their preference for immediacy.

Social Media plays a huge role for Generation Z, and they are more likely than older shoppers to be connecting beyond their social groups of family and friends or even like-minded groups, to retailers or brands.

“Generation Z are a fascinating section of the shopper population,” says Danielle Pinning, Managing Director at Shoppercentric. “They’ve grown up in a truly connected world and are starting to access the kind of money that means they can flex their spending power. A lot has already been written about who they are as consumers, but there’s been no particular focus for those interested in shoppers. We wanted to take a closer look at what their expectations and needs are since they may not be today’s big spenders, but they could give a real pointer to where the future of retail lies… if we take the time to listen to them.”

Pinnington continues: “We’re all aware that Generation Z are easily bored and have a very short attention span, but on the flip side, they have great confidence and a terrific support system provided by social media which helps them to manage risk when they’re choosing what to do and what to buy. Plus they’re aware that retailers are interested in them and that they’re worth getting to know – this is in stark contrast to how many older shoppers feel.”

She concludes: “Generation Z know that they’re being courted, so it stands to reason that they expect to be impressed before they part with their cash. This apparent self-assurance is important because it will set a high bar against which retailers and brands will be judged moving forwards. Each touchpoint with these shoppers needs to be a positive experience and reflective of the brands’ tone of voice and values whilst remembering that this is a generation that enjoys shopping, so retailers will need to deliver to that brief and make it fun both instore and online.”

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