Understanding Gen Z: Getting Inside Their Heads...and Their Wallets

Understanding Gen Z: Getting Inside Their Heads…and Their Wallets

Ah, Gen Z. To some, they’re a complete mystery. To many, they’re the hottest shopper audience and, in turn, crucial to brands’ future growth marketing strategies.  
It’s pretty clear why: with about $360 billion in disposable income in 2021, this demographic’s spending power is growing…and so is their impact on the world at large. Digitally native and entrepreneurial in spirit, Gen Z consumers don’t like being put in a box, which makes it incredibly tricky for marketing and brand leaders to survey them and sell to them. So, if you think you have them figured out, I encourage you to think again, because when I attended the Retail Influencer CEO Forum featuring the Z Suite, my mind was blown by all the fascinating insights into their minds, behaviors and, of course, their expectations.

Here are some of the key takeaways:  
1. They’re digitally native but crave face-to-face engagement. You could blame it on the pandemic, or maybe Gen Z is simply desensitized by all the new digital tools and apps designed to help them find “the one.” That’s right, despite the rising popularity of dating apps, a group of Gen Zers said they have stopped using them in a meaningful way. Sure, they like to scroll them mindlessly and play a “game” of swiping right or left with their friends, but if they want to date, they prefer to go to actual places. (Yes, in real life.) Given Gen Z’s reputation of being hyper digital, this was a takeaway that surprised the audience. If you want to learn more surprising facts, check out this great article by BCG’s Stacy Berns.  
2. They live and breathe creativity, but they won’t create for just any brand. Members of the Z Suite represent an incredible range of creators, professionals and entrepreneurs. That’s why a big topic of the day was creative partnerships and, specifically, influencer collaborations. As a millennial, I grew up in the influencer heyday, and now, influencers are central to the modern marketing mix, especially for brands and retailers. However, Gen Z is all about authenticity, so they are extra wary of big influencer partnerships. Creators are thinking more critically about how they want to show up in the world and that’s influencing how they consider and compare brand partners. They’re developing their collaborations more strategically and only work with brands they truly love. True values alignment is key to a successful working relationship, and Gen Z creators are building their businesses by focusing on the issues that really resonate with them.  
3. Sustainability issues are impacting the way they consume fashion. We hear a lot about how Gen Z in particular is driving awareness (and action) around sustainability issues in retail. However, it was especially enlightening to hear how these consumers are browsing and buying every day. They all indicated that brands’ sustainability initiatives influenced their decisions (shout out to brands offering resale, refurbishment or recyclable packaging), but they also shared some ways they’re trying to make more sustainable decisions, too! Many Gen Zers on the “Ask Me Anything” panel shared that they purchased their outfits on resale platforms like Poshmark, used sites like Rent the Runway and even from thrift stores. Some even shared that they were refreshing items they or their family members had in their closets for years. The fashion industry is fueled by “what’s trending” so it was super fun to hear how Gen Z gets creative with their fashions…and their budgets!  
These are just three of many incredible takeaways from the Retail CEO Forum last week in New York City. I was lucky enough to attend and moderate a panel discussion on how brands can contribute to gaming communities. Ready the coverage on the Retail TouchPoints site to learn more about these diverse consumers and how you can better connect with them! And, be on the lookout for the 2023 agenda for the Retail Innovation Conference & Expo because we’ll definitely be spotlighting Gen Z and Gen Alpha consumers in our programming.

Request to be invited to join us for the #RICE23 Masterclasses!

Which MasterClass are you interested in attending?