How Gen Z is driving the future of retail

NRF Retail Converge: Insights and trends from the digitally native generation

Although Generation Z is still building up its finances, these younger consumers were exposed to online shopping and brands earlier than other generations. At NRF Retail Converge, MaryLeigh Bliss of YPulse and Ken Wincko of Barnes & Noble College discussed research comparing shopping, brand and social media preferences and behaviors of Gen Z and millennials.

Bliss and Wincko found that Gen Z is constantly looking for brands that provide entertainment and personal connection and align with their social responsibilities. The top social media platform for Gen Z is Instagram, followed by YouTube and TikTok. In contrast, the leading social media platforms for millennials are Facebook, YouTube and Facebook Messenger.

Generation Z

Learn more about Gen Z consumer trends and how they are changing the way retailers do business.

These generations are using social media for entertainment, to create communities and learn more about products. Gen Z self-reported they spend 4.5 hours on social media daily, while Millennials spend about 3.8 hours each day.

Gen Z is a video-driven generation, Bliss said: It wants organic content while scrolling online. Retailers can no longer create one commercial designed for TV and upload it across all platforms.

Both generations are using social media for product discovery. Barnes & Noble College found 80 percent of Gen Z follow and/or interact with brands online (No. 1 is Instagram), and 72 percent of those who engage with brands are somewhat/significantly more likely to buy a product.

The research also shows 6 percent of Gen Z follow online celebrities/influencers on social media, and 21 percent would be much more likely to buy a product endorsed by a celebrity, whereas 15 percent of Millennials would buy a product if endorsed by a celebrity.

Although this generation is driven by social media, 73 percent of Gen Z prefer email marketing because of the ability to opt into content. Additionally, 70 percent of college students prefer their campus store for school branded apparel, whereas only 22 percent prefer Amazon.

With Gen Z ready to take over the economy in the next decade, retailers must engage with this digitally native generation across multiple platforms to hold its interest.

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