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Generation Z’s Online vs. In-Person Purchasing Habits

Posted By: SGK July 11, 2019

It takes a lot of information and time to understand what compels people from across generational lines to purchase a product, and with Generation Z on their way to becoming an estimated 30% of the workforce by 2030, it is vital that brands take the time to recognize this younger generation’s habits.

The most obvious defining quality of Generation Z (people born between 1996-2012) is the extent to which technology and social media influence their day-to-day lives. Unlike previous generations, Gen Z grew up with technology from childhood and have developed an inherent and unprecedented ability to adapt to change as technology rapidly evolves.

This interaction between Generation Z and the internet for daily use is especially highlighted through this group’s reliance on brand content on social media. For instance, 73% of Gen Z-ers surveyed stated that they search for branded content the most on Instagram and prefer brand engagement through this platform.

However, this preference for brand interaction on social media is not necessarily straightforward, as Gen Z has also expressed that they, “Feel like they get too much information on their phones and don’t appreciate an advertiser adding to that overload with a notification,” according to eMarketer research.

Therefore, despite a very close relationship to the internet and online shopping, this research also notes that brick and mortar stores are still Gen Z-ers preferred purchasing channel. In fact, over two-thirds of consumers ages 13-21 who were surveyed expressed that shopping in-person is better than online shopping.

One reason that brick and mortar stores are favored by this group is that the experience itself of shopping in person is optimized perfectly to create their own social media posts to Instagram or Snapchat, not only to foster engagement via these platforms with mutual followers, but also the brands themselves that they interact with in that brick and mortar setting.

Unlike in previous generations, Gen Z expects brands to provide the consumer with meaningful content that showcases the brand journey in a sincere, social media-savvy way. This could take the form of an emotional advertisement that is optimal for going viral on Twitter and the social media landscape, or a pop-up experience where consumers can form their own content in line with what the brand wants to convey.

These in-person experiences can successfully take the form of interactive exhibits similar to museums, like the Color Factory in New York City, or 29Rooms in Chicago, both of which combined have garnered over 90,000 individual Instagram posts with the location tagged.

This type of personal experience from Gen-Z consumer to the brand is ideal for spreading brand awareness and allowing the consumer to create their own content that aligns with the brand journey presented in the in-person experience. Pop-up events like these perfectly hybridize what Gen-Z is really looking for: the seamless combination of a social, physical, and in-person experience with the potential for adaptation of the experience onto online social platforms like Instagram or Snapchat.

This hybrid of online and in-person experiences can still be very tricky to perfect, as those who are a part of Generation Z also heavily value brand authenticity and sincerity, so a balance between what the brand wants to convey and what consumers will take away is also important to understand.

Since Generation Z is always looking for that perfect, “Instagram-able” moment, brands should consider this when creating both packaging of products for brick and mortar stores, but also when developing a social media presence on platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.

According to Barkley’s research on Generation Z, this group spends an estimated $143 billion every year, and perhaps now more than any previous generation, Gen Z encapsulates a true balance between online and in-person retail, which provides a compelling opportunity for brands to capitalize on both purchasing channels.