Move over Millennials —there’s a new generation in town.

OK, they’ve been around since 1997, but now that their buying power is starting to come of age, it’s time to talk about how their preferences are going to affect the way we do eCommerce.

From Tide Pods to TikTok, tender Generation Z has already made quite a cultural splash — sometimes for better, sometimes…not. Anyone who reads Buzzfeed knows the younger generation has a penchant for garnering bad press. Such is life in the digital age, tbh. When the world is at your fingertips and fame may be just one viral video away, doing the most is infinitely harder (see: Tide Pods 🥴) and young and dumb just doesn’t have the anonymity it used to.  

All of that said, none of us appreciate being defined by our…ahem…dirty laundry. (Sorry.) The fact is, Gen Z is the most diverse generation to date (and they like it that way). They’re on track to be more educated than either Millennials or members of Gen X. (Our advance condolences for the student debt, guys. We know how you feel.) They may be literally reshaping the GOP

Honestly…on behalf of all your immediate predecessors (surprise! Tako’s run by Millennials), go on with your bad selves.

“OK, yes, yay Gen Z. Wtf does this have to do with my Shopify store?” 

Right. Gen Z is shaking up more than educational and political statistics. They also present some consumer behaviors that differ sharply from preceding generations. 

“Ugh… I just mastered all things Millennial.” 

We feel you. We’re a wily bunch to wrangle. Lucky for you, we’ve done the legwork to help you effectively navigate the generation shaping the future of shopping.  

Who is Generation Z?

Gen Z (members of which are popularly known as Gen Zers or – adorably – Zoomers) is the generation following Millennials, and roughly includes anyone born between 1997 and 2012. As of 2022, that’s about 68.2 million teens and young adults who make up 20.2% of the population.

They’re also the first generation considered “digitally native”, meaning they grew up with technology and social media (the birth of which Millennials witnessed first hand) and have little or no memory of the world as it existed before smartphones.

Given that you’re in the eComm biz, it bodes well for you that these cats are tech-obsessed, but what do they look like as consumers?

Glad you asked.

“Zoomers” as Consumers 

As of 2021, Generation Z had $360 billion in disposable income. (Yup, you read that right.) According to Bloomberg, that’s more than double the projection from 3 years ago. If that’s not enough to convince you of their power as consumers,

70% of Gen Zers say they influence family purchase decisions on furniture, household goods, and food and beverages. 

That’s a lot of influence held by one generation. Here’s the catch: they may have a boatload of buying power, but here in life A.C. (After Corona*), it’s tricky to get them to wield it:

70% of Gen Z also says they’re more spending-conscious as a result of the pandemic.


*Not sure we need to emphasize this, but just in case — we’re talking After Corona’s inception, not now that Corona is done. Because duh.

SO. You have a whip smart, high-influence, digitally savvy generation with lots of buying power and a stingy streak. How the heck do you convert that?

Step one: get to know them. Here we go… 

They Are Almost Never Without Their Phones (Seriously)

Being that Gen Z was born into technological wealth, it’s nearly impossible to separate them from it.

98% of Gen Z owns a smartphone, and most average over 4 hours a day on various apps.

Take it from Skye Featherstone (Product Marketing Manager at Snap, Inc.): “Leveraging data to understand how to best reach consumers on mobile is more critical than ever.” 

Considering that Snapchat is the leading social channel for Zoomers (yup, over TikTok…for now), Skye probably knows a thing or two about them. With the average Gen Zer having over 20 shopping apps on their phone, there’s more opportunity than ever to meet them on mobile, whether that’s through push notifications, in-app personalization, or even gamification. 

Social Commerce is Kind Of Their Thing 

Gone are the days when Instagram was your only way to make sure your 83 followers saw that blurry (but filtered!) photo of a sandwich. Social commerce is the new, hip thing.

For those unfamiliar, social commerce is “the practice of purchasing wholly within a social media platform”, and has become increasingly popular in recent years. You’ve probably experienced it yourself — like that time you hastily tapped the “Shop Now” button when Instagram kindly showed you the exact shirt you saw IN A STORE and considered purchasing 5 days ago.  

No, They aren’t watching you. The algorithm is just that good, which is probably why

a recent study shows 97% of Gen Z consumers use social media as their top source of shopping inspiration.

Well-groomed algorithms give brands the opportunity to serve consumers hyper-personalized content and ads, then allow the entire shopping process to occur on one platform — totally closing the loop between awareness and add to cart.

Major social platforms are paying attention to this trend, too: Instagram added a shopping tab back in 2020, hashtags such as #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt are consistently trending (Shopify x Tik Tok for Business is a thing, by the way), and platforms like Facebook and Pinterest have recently announced plans to expand their Shopify partnerships.

(FYI, we did a full write up on some of Shopify’s best sales channels – social commerce included – over here.)

They’re All About a R-r-reeeemixed Retail Experience

If you’ve been following our blog, you know that some successful direct-to-consumer brands are returning to retail, even after making their millions because of the D2C model. They’re definitely on to something. 

In a survey done by A.T. Kearney,

81% of Gen Z prefers to shop in stores, with 73% taking a liking to discovering new products in stores. 

“Wait. What? You just said Gen Z prefers social commerce.”

Not so fast. While Gen Z may trust the Internet more than any of us ever have, they’re also all about an omnichannel shopping experience. They’re Pinning, Saving, and double-tapping all that shopping inspo, and definitely making purchases -- but they’re also willing to log off for the curated brand experience that physical stores offer.

What’s more, after spending so much time inside and online during the pandemic, in-person shopping has become a novel social excursion. (A mall? OMG, so vintage!) 

Physical retail is definitely not going anywhere, and brands have an opportunity to engage Gen Z by creating cohesive, innovative, and memorable shopping experiences. Even eComm brands with no plans to officially expand to brick-and-mortar can leverage the in-store experience with pop-ups, dropshipping, or one-off brand events! 

They Think Micro-influencers are Mega Cool

According to the popular influencer app LTK (formerly liketoknowit), a micro-influencer is someone who has only 1,000 to 100,000 followers on social media. Unlike influencers with millions of followers, micro-influencers tend to be “more transparent, authentic, and raw with promotion”, which is why Gen Z tends to gravitate toward them. 

Unlike larger influencers, micro-influencers have the time to provide more engagement and interaction with their audience, which translates to a greater sense of transparency, authenticity, and personal connection.

As a result, their followers feel like they’re actually gaining a friendship, leading 52% of Gen Z to trust the influencers they follow.

A micro-influencer’s greatest asset is the trust built with their audience, which is why brands looking to foster authentic connections with Gen Z might do well to consider sprinkling micro-influencers into their marketing strategy.

They’re Serious About Sustainability

If there’s one thing that Millennials and Gen Z have in common, it’s their dedication to sustainability.

79% of Gen Z across 18 different countries said that companies behaving more sustainably is more important to them since the COVID-19 outbreak. In fact, Gen Z shoppers are willing to spend 10% more on products that are sustainable. 

However, sustainability is just one social value of many they’re willing to pay for. In general, Gen Z’s behavior shows us that they are moving their focus away from price and toward brands’ values. 

Especially given that there are so many ways to sell to the newest generation, it’s more important than ever to ensure you stand out. When it comes to Zoomers, one of the most effective ways to do that is to ribbon your brand with a cause and, like…actually care about it. 

Need more help setting your Gen Z strategy?

Come say hello and we’ll help you get started. 

Topics: Business