Youth Marketing 101: How does Gen Z make purchasing decisions?

In order to grow your brand with young consumers, you have to understand each stage of their customer journey, and how it tends to differ from older generations. Here’s our step-by-step guide to how Gen Z shops.

Step 1: The discovery

How do young shoppers discover the products they want to buy? The answer is different depending on the person and the product, but there are some key trends to be aware of.

Social media plays a big role in discovery of brands and products for this demographic. They are inspired by content shared by both influencers and their peers, in addition to targeted ads that raise awareness of relevant products and services.

Young consumers typically have several points of connection with the brands they are fans of, which can include following them on social media, subscribing to their email newsletters, and bookmarking their websites to check for new product releases. The more engaged shoppers often have an encyclopaedic knowledge of their favourite brand’s current range.

You may be surprised by the role physical shopping plays in Gen Z’s lives. Despite being digital natives, reports show they are driving a resurgence in the high street/mall. They visit shopping centres to hang out with friends, visit restaurants, check out experiential stores and events, and of course, to shop.


Step 2: The research

Growing up in times of financial uncertainty have turned Gen Z into a group of savvy spenders, who will carefully research each purchase to make sure they get the best quality at the best price. This might mean they are cautious with their cash, but they’re also willing to spend more for quality products that will last, and cool brands that they love to be associated with.

Research to find the right product can involve checking their favourite brands’ websites and social media, taking advice from relevant blogs and websites, and visiting stores in person. When it comes to getting the best price, they will check price comparison sites and discount apps like Student Beans before making their purchase. This could mean weighing up convenience vs. cost: Do they order online and save money, or spend a little more to get the item straight away from the store?

Retailers should be aware that this generation will be reviewing all the options before making a purchase, not just the shop next door, so it’s important to treat online stores and even reselling platforms like Depop and eBay as competitors too.


Step 3: The purchase

Once the young consumer has decided what they want to buy and where they’ll get it from, it’s time to make the payment. Our research has found that although new forms of payment such as Apple Pay are popular with 20-somethings, the younger members of Gen Z still want the option to pay with cash. When buying online, they may use their parent’s credit card, which means getting permission first. Both parents and young shoppers like to see evidence that an online store is trustworthy, such as the lock symbol that confirms the site is secure. This is crucial in order for ecommerce upstarts to compete with familiar, established brands like Amazon.

Other factors that make the purchasing process more positive for Gen Z is transparency around how their data will be used, and a simple sign-up that doesn’t ask for unnecessary personal information. It’s also important that the site is easy to use on mobile, so young shoppers can make quick purchases via the device they live their lives through.

Extra incentives that will encourage these consumers to shop with your store over competitors is offering options such as free returns, or a pay later scheme through services such as Klarna. This can make a cautious spender feel more comfortable, knowing there’s a backup plan if their order isn’t right once it arrives. And finally, don’t sting the shopper with unexpected fees and delivery charges when they’re about to make their payment: be upfront from the start about exactly what they’ll pay, to ensure a smooth and positive customer journey.

Find out more about Gen Z’s relationship with brands at our upcoming youth marketing festival, YMS19 NYC, taking place this September in Brooklyn. Click here to see what you can expect from this exciting two-day event.