Targeting Generation Z


Understanding Gen Zers’ habits is essential to tapping into this powerful consumer base.

Over the past decade, brands and retailers have worked exhaustively to understand how Millennials think and act; all in an effort to tap into their ever-increasing buying power. Getting notably less attention, however, is Generation Z, those born between the mid 1990s and 2000s. In 2015, Generation Z, or “Gen Zers,” spent almost $830 billion within the U.S. market and they wield a tremendous amount of purchasing influence over other members of their household. With their income and influence set to increase over time, companies would be wise to pay attention to Gen Zers’ digital and shopping behaviours.

A recent study conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value, in collaboration with Oxford Economics, surveyed 15,600 consumers aged 13-21 in 16 countries across 6 continents to understand the overarching characteristics of this generation.

As the first generation to be born into a world with the Internet and mobile devices, it’s no surprise that Generation Z has a strong grasp of technology. 74% of those surveyed said that spending time online was their first choice for what they do with their free time. Growing up in difficult economic conditions, constantly evolving technology, and exposure to a wealth of social and political information have also made Gen Zers more practical and self-reliant versus their Millennial counterparts. This technological savvy and general pragmatism affects the WHAT, WHERE, WHY, and HOWs of their purchasing behaviour.

What Are They Buying?

Gen Zers have a low tolerance for slow or faulty technology. Their pragmatism makes them less brand loyal, and more likely to move on to competitors when dealing with apps and websites that are difficult to navigate. This generation is looking for quality, availability, and value, first and foremost. 75% of respondents spend over 50% of their monthly income and allowance on clothes, apps, and entertainment. They are also strong influencers within their household when purchasing big-ticket items like furniture or travel.

Thoroughly test your technology to avoid damaging your relationship with this generation. Forget the bells and whistles and focus on delivering a fast and easy experience.

Where Are They Shopping?


75% of those polled say that a mobile phone or smartphone is their primary digital device, with a quarter of respondents saying they spend over five hours on these devices every day. Surprisingly, while much of their research is conducted on mobile platforms, the overwhelming majority of their purchases are made at bricks and mortar retailers. With technology touching almost every aspect of their lives, the lines between their online and offline worlds are often indistinguishable.

Create mobile focused strategies and ensure consistency across all content both online and in-store.

How Are They Shopping?

29% of respondents spent their free time trying to earn extra money, further demonstrating their self-motivation. While 59% receive a monthly allowance, 22% make money over and above this allowance, allowing for disposable income unencumbered by adult obligations such as mortgages and kids. While they may have the means to spend recklessly, their sensible outlook means that checking online peer reviews and ratings is second nature to this generation.

Be respectful and open to this generation’s feedback and opinions. Whether it’s for customer service purposes or new product launches, creating an interactive environment can help engage Gen Zers.

Why Are They Buying?

The blend of being cyber savvy and street smart has made Gen Zers more reluctant to share personal information online, including purchase history and payment information. Companies will have to work hard to break through the cynicism and gain the trust of these consumers.

Be transparent about security and how personal information will be used to gain insight into their shopping patterns.


Through understanding Generation Z’s unique blend of digital acumen and self-determination, brands can establish content and communications that successfully appeal to them. They are shrewd shoppers who have high expectations from brands. As this generation becomes older, their purchasing power will become even greater, making it prudent to start laying the groundwork to engage this valuable consumer base.

What strategies to do you have in place to appeal to Generation Z? Let us know @stjoseph.


Now, tell us how we can help