Kids today. They’re optimistic, in spite of coming of age during one of the roughest economies in generations. They want the world to be a better place, and they think brands have a responsibility to wield their influence to take steps towards achieving that. They’re digitally savvy, price-conscious, and are drawn like moths to a flame to brands that rapidly innovate.
With Generation Z and Millennials set to compose approximately 70% of the global population by 2028, according to Retail Dive, these preferences of the younger generations are poised to define the direction successful retailers must go to win them over in order to be successful.
Young Shoppers Love Amazon
Perhaps not surprisingly, Amazon is immensely popular with the 18-34 set. Free shipping, race-to-the-bottom prices, and detailed customer reviews are all attractive features for shoppers of all ages, but just under 50% of shoppers age 18-34 called Amazon their sole preferred channel, according to Retail Dive. That number outpaces the 45-54 age group by nearly 10%. It’s also not uncommon for shoppers in these younger demographics to check Amazon prices and reviews before making a purchase in a brick-and-mortar store, often while physically standing in the store. The younger generations rely heavily on their mobile phones to find the best prices and find out what fellow shoppers are saying about the items they’re eyeing.
The younger generations have grown up in a world of instant gratification. From on-demand television and movies to instant feedback from peers via social media, today’s under-35’s know what they want, and they want it now. This preference is deeply rooted, and has been a factor in the rise of fast-fashion brands like Michael Kors, Kohl’s and H&M. These brands focus on getting items from runway to store racks quickly, and at a reasonable price point. The rapid changeover of merchandise capitalizing on the latest trends combined with low prices make these retailers appealing options for Gen Z’ers and Millennials.

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Angie Read, co-author of “Marketing to Gen Z” told Retail Dive:
“They are looking for high quality products that they can get quickly. One of the reasons we know [Gen Zers] go into retail is because they can try it on, they can see it, they can make sure they’ve got the inventory and they can walk out with it right away — it’s that immediacy that they’re looking for.”
Brands that Stand for Something Gaining Cachet
Today’s younger shoppers are also gravitating towards brands that share their values, and eschewing ones that don’t. Social media has been a major driver in spreading the word when a brand puts its foot in its mouth. H&M recently took heavy fire, including protests, after its eyebrow-raising choice to use a young black model on its website wearing a sweatshirt that read “coolest monkey in the jungle.” In response to the vociferous outcry, the company pulled the offensive image, apologized, and hired a diversity officer. In an era where every mistake can be rapidly shared by hundreds of thousands or even millions of consumers, brands have to tread carefully and more consciously cater to the social consciences of its customers.

Social media can also be a powerful tool for brands to leverage in a positive way. Studies have shown that more younger consumers tend to follow brands on social media, and are typically more easily influenced by what their friends are buying as a driver to their own purchasing decisions. In order to remain relevant with the up and coming consumer generations, brands need to have a robust social media presence, particularly when it comes to fashion and beauty. Gen Zers and Millennials want to interact with their favorite brands online, and brands are responding by making sure there’s someone at the other end of that connection.
Of course, younger generations can spot a phony a mile away, and are quick to call out brands for ersatz attempts to “rap with the kiddies.” This behooves brands to hire younger, diverse employees to helm social efforts to avoid the stench of inauthenticity.
The world is changing rapidly, and much of that change is being driven by the young. As they come into their own as the world’s top consumers, brands can either align themselves with their preferences and values, or get left behind.

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