Juli Greenwood
Juli Greenwood 7 September 2023

Digital Hit or Miss? Connecting With Gen Z Shoppers

In an era dominated by digital experiences and disruptions, it’s perhaps no surprise that Generation Z is a force to be reckoned with in the retail landscape. Born between 1996 and 2009, Gen Z is the first generation to have grown up entirely in the digital age. This tech-savvy and socially conscious cohort is now coming of age and reshaping the way online shopping is done.

According to Statista, Gen Z comprises 12.6 million people in the UK (2021 figure) - making it the largest generational cohort that brands can ill afford to ignore. However, understanding the unique characteristics and preferences of Gen Z shoppers is essential for brands seeking to attract and retain young buyers.

As a mother of Gen Z kids, I can tell you first-hand how much time this generation spends on their phones! As consumers, Gen Z are known to be highly critical and discerning, placing a high emphasis on premium quality, sustainable, ethically-sourced products.

At the same time, this financially-strained group also needs to spend wisely. To help them make buying decisions, Gen Zers carefully peruse retailer apps and websites and also social media channels like TikTok and Instagram. Authentic influencer and peer recommendations really matter.

To better understand the online shopping behavior of different demographics, my company conducted an independent survey of 2,693 consumers in Australia, Germany, the UK and the US.

We found that while every age group relies on reviews to make purchasing decisions, the younger the consumer, the more likely they rely on visual and social media testimonials to 'seal the deal'. 

Hit or Miss? Factors That Matter to Gen Z When Researching a Purchase

As this demographic spends researching products online, we wanted to find out what specific information really matters to Gen Z buyers. It turns out that product reviews (82%) are the most important. 

Compared to other age groups, Gen Z values videos of real customers using products (52%) and social media conversations (42%) more than any other generation when researching potential purchases.

When asked about the factors that deter Gen Z from buying products, bad user reviews (64%) and not being sure whether clothes / shoes will fit (53%) were the most common. However, more than any other age group, a lack of images showing products in use puts Gen Z shoppers off (41%).

It’s also important to note that Gen Z (73%) primarily shop online using their smartphones, and they are the most likely group to use a brand's app to shop (26%).

My take: If you want to reach younger shoppers, allowing product reviews on your website or app is a no-brainer.  Detailed product galleries will also help them better judge whether your clothes or shoes will fit.

User-generated videos are a great help here. They allow Gen-Zers to see your products in use in the real world. Last but not least, do everything you can to facilitate social media conversations among your buyers. And, of course, take a mobile-first approach, with support for mobile payments an absolute must.

Gen Z and the Problem of Returns

According to the survey, Gen Z are returning products more often than any other age group. More than 40% of Gen Z respondents reported that they returned goods because the products did not look as expected on the website. 

My take: Returns are a major problem for retailers. In the UK, returns in 2020 cost e-commerce providers anywhere between 10-30% of total supply chain costs. And these figures don’t even take into account the considerable environmental impact of returns.

The effective use of images and videos on your website that provide a realistic view of the product can potentially reduce returns significantly. Next-generation technologies such as 3D imagery, 360-degree rotations and augmented reality can help you provide the most realistic view of your products.

If your business is looking to convert Gen Z shoppers or address the issue of returns, the survey gives you a good starting point to address the gaps and improve the traffic to your website or app.

With the oldest members of Gen Z now entering their early twenties and their spending power and influence skyrocketing, this could be a good reason to get started as soon as possible.

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