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How to Develop a Seamless Online Shopping Experience for Gen Z, the Digital Natives

Young people have always been the heralds of consumer trends, social transformation, and innovation. And today’s youth, Generation Z, is especially loud and courageous in dictating changes.

In this article, we outline how best to approach this generation and highlight the Gen Z online shopping habits.

Article updated on: 23 August 2023

Gen Z is the world’s most diverse and second-largest generational cohort, with high buying power and unique values. Technology shaped their behaviors, needs, and habits to a great extent. That means businesses and industries can’t approach them the same way they would approach Gen X or Millennials.

Brands must align their messaging and strategies with Gen Z – digital natives coming of age in a highly disruptive world. To accomplish that, they have to understand what makes Generation Z unique and how that reflects on their shopping habits.

What we’ll cover:

What is Gen Z?

Gen Z is the generation born between 1997 and 2012, following Millennials and preceding Generation Alpha. They grew up with more internet access and modern technologies than previous generations.

As a result, they can find information on any topic faster, which helps develop their inquisitive nature. Generation Z has also been able to access global news, trends, and cultures since childhood. But that means they could see how easily fake news and misinformation can spread.

The rise of fake news played a significant role in this generation becoming skeptical and questioning the world around them. According to Insider Intelligence, only 42% trust big businesses. Moreover, many feel uncomfortable with how companies use their personal data.

Having witnessed unprecedented events at a young age, like the pandemic and the Me Too movement, gaining the trust of Gen Z is challenging. To further complicate things, members of Gen Z struggle with increased fear for personal health, security, and finances.

Gen Z Appreciates Action, Not Words

This generation is perpetually online, spending approximately four hours on social media every day. But although they like to post about menial things and create dance TikToks, they also use these platforms to drive change.

They can quickly mobilize thousands of their peers using Twitter and TikTok and are used to leveraging social media channels to fight for causes such as climate change and racism. That activism extends to their buying habits – preferring to buy from brands that take a stand on issues they care about.

Gen Zers agree that businesses must demonstrate how they take action and stand up for their employees and customers. Moreover, they want to know how brands create their products, especially in relation to sustainability or animal rights.

If you want to attract this generation, you shouldn’t only consider their tech-savviness and tech enthusiasm. You must also understand that activism is a part of their generational DNA and that they are not ready to compromise their values.

Generation Z’s Online Shopping Habits

The good news for brands and marketers is that Gen Zers are shopaholics. Despite being a demanding generation, paying special attention to where they shop, they spend more money online than other cohorts.

Statista’s survey for the first quarter of 2023 found that 96% of them shop online once a month or more. And as much as 32% do so once a day.

Although they like to buy on resale and second-hand, saving money isn’t their priority. Unlike Gen X and Millennials, Gen Z is more likely to indulge themselves and make impulsive purchases.

Generation Z Loves Alternative Brands and Payment Methods

Young people are known for setting trends and experimenting with new technologies and possibilities. And Gen Zers are no exception.

They appreciate alternative and authentic brands that prioritize sustainability.

But they also pay attention to the quality of customer service and products and services. It’s paramount to ensure the items you sell in-store match their virtual presentation, as Gen Z will do thorough research before purchasing them.

It also means customer service agents should know details about the promos potential buyers see online. Meanwhile, sellers in physical locations should have all information about the loyalty app.

Another element essential for building a seamless online shopping experience is to enable alternative payment methods.

Gen Z is the most likely to use the buy now, pay later option when purchasing. That makes sense since they’re still at a life stage when their finances are unstable.

They’re also more open to digital payment methods like peer-to-peer apps, PayPal, contactless solutions, and mobile wallets. Give your online shopping app additional features and functions – Gen Z will love it.

The Generation That Loves Bracketing

Not many generations are fans of bracketing – purchasing multiple versions of the same product and returning the ones they didn’t like. However, Gen Z for sure is.

They’re often indecisive and prone to shopping hauls due to social media’s influence. As a result, this generation often resorts to bracketing, which can cause challenging situations for retailers.

However, you can easily deter that behavior by imposing return fees, adding detailed information about each item, and including visual customer reviews.

They Won’t Give You Too Much Time to Catch Their Attention

Growing up in an interconnected world filled with technology has contributed to Gen Z’s short attention span. They’re scrolling their phones more often than not, a habit that taught them how to filter content fast.

You have less than two seconds to make them notice your brand, or they’ll deem you irrelevant. That requires a profound understanding of Generation Z’s online shopping behavior and needs.

For instance, social media, starting with Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram, have shaped their expectations of all other apps. Hence, they have no patience for ads and will click on skip whenever possible.

Moreover, Gen Z will notice when a brand reacts quickly to a pop culture moment, trend, and changing interests. They want you to keep up with the times and speak their language without sounding cliche and desperate.

Relevance and Authenticity Come First

While Millennials love personalization and don’t have as high expectations, Gen Z wants brands to go a step further. You need to dive into their interests and concerns instead of solely addressing them with their names in newsletters.

Help them make better-informed decisions with information on relevant discounts and where to find products that fit their style. Prioritize raw authenticity over polished production, as the latter doesn’t appeal to this generation.

Investing in a paid ad targeting this demographic might feel safe, but this approach will likely fail. These digital natives will prefer it if you highlight the benefits of your product or services through a relevant trend or viral video.

Where Does Gen Z Shop?

Gen Z online shopping stats show that they start product searches on TikTok. This generation wants to see how their peers use specific items and whether they’re worth their time and money.

Moreover, product discovery is the main reason they buy through social media. Forty-five percent say that they often purchase something after it popped up in their feeds and they liked it.

These young people have a preference for what they buy online. For instance, they purchase jewelry, accessories, beauty products, and merchandise related to sports, leisure, and hobbies on the Internet. According to Gen Z online shopping statistics, 74% choose mobile phones to do so.

On the flip side, Gen Z prefers the in-store option when buying groceries, clothing, shoes, and pharmaceutical products.

What Gen Z Shops the Most?

As the oldest Gen Zer turned 26 in 2023, they’re among today’s youngest people, reflecting their buying preferences. They prioritize products in the fun and aesthetic category.

No wonder clothing, shoes, electronics, and entertainment products are among the those that Gen Z buys the most. Sustainability is among their fundamental values, nudging them to put eco-friendly brands and items first.

Which Generation Shops Online the Most?

Millennials are the most likely of all generations to shop online and spend significant amounts on luxury goods. As the youngest generation with the buying power, Gen Z comes second, with Gen X following right behind.

Baby Boomers are loyal to the in-store buying experience and will spend the least money on online shopping. That means online brands selling consumer electronics and health and beauty products should focus on catering to a younger audience.

Quality and Human Touch Remain Crucial

Generation Z is highly vocal about their negative experiences and will likely share them on social media. Avoid any possible friction in the shopping experience, as today’s young customers have high expectations.

Provide friendly, prompt, and well-informed customer service, and don’t remove the human touch from the process.

Gen Zers dislike traditional, cold sales approaches and want to be in control of the purchasing experience. They must feel they’re buying something for a reason or with a purpose, not because a brand manipulated them.

Understanding Gen Z equals diving deep into their complex relationship with technology, social media, and fast-changing trends. But once you learn how those shaped their shopping habits and behaviors, you will understand how to leverage that connection effectively.