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Gen Z Represents Two Types of Clashing Consumers

One generation, two outlooks—that’s what retailers and brands have to contend with as the buying power of Gen Z ramps up.

In a new white paper titled, “The Gen Z Equation,” WGSN describes the two million strong generation aged 16-21 as a demographic united by common circumstances of their upbringing, yet fiercely individualistic and of two separate viewpoints, Gen Me and Gen We.

Getting to know Gen Me

Stylish, social media-obsessed escapists, WGSN pegs Gen Me as the side of the generation that most brands know and market to, particularly because they buy into the hype surrounding streetwear brands like Supreme, Bape and Palace.

“In 2017, the hype seemed to reach fever pitch, with consumers clamoring for access to exclusive releases and logo-heavy activewear,” the report noted.

Hype brands are the new luxury for this segment of consumers, which are willing to wait in line and pay for highly coveted items like Levi’s x Air Jordan collaboration or Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty lingerie collection. In some ways, this form of retail is a sport for Gen Me. As quick as they show off their purchase on social media, it’s on the resale market. In fact, WGSN said this is the demographic that is driving the resale culture of fashion, which is projected to reach $41 billion in sales by 2022, according to ThredUp data.

A new drop is also a social occasion for Gen Me, as “the line” has become a new community where teens come together, shop talk and connect in real life. The community has also moved online through apps like Supreme Community, where WGSN said teens can stay up to date on drop dates, and stocklists.

Brands need to wise up to the new retail game. “With resell culture set to outpace fast fashion by 2027, brands must brace for this evolving consumption behavior,” WGSN said.

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Getting to know Gen We

Compassionate and expressive, Gen We can’t be bothered to buy into buzz surrounding hype brands. Rather, they are out to fix the injustices in the world. That altruistic nature has the potential to be gangbusters for brands focused on sustainability and transparency. Brands that have built a transparent supply chain, like Everlane, have a leg up on this movement.

“Gen We cares deeply about doing good and humanity’s impact on the environment, and new alternative forms of education have put sustainability and the environment at the forefront,” WGSN wrote.

The food industry is an example of how an industry is adjusting to Gen We’s desire for more information. Having grown up with information easily accessible, WGSN said the demographic expects to know where products come from, where it’s made and who made it. They are also concerned with how food affects the environment.

That level of awareness influences Gen We’s hobbies. “According to WGSN research, their favorite weekend activities include eating out, going to friends’ houses or other intimate settings where teens can interact with each other and spend quality time,” the report noted. Instead of following Instagram celebrities, they use social media to organize and meet like-minded activists. They also prefer to travel for cultural immersion, as opposed to vacationing.

Both sides of the fence

Despite the two sides of Gen Z, WGSN urged brands to not think too linear. This is a generation that keeps people on their toes. Rather, brands should inherit the generation’s openness and fluidity of new concepts and ideas.

“Although Gen Me and Gen We exude confidence and authority in their opinions and beliefs, they’re not immune to understanding each side’s allure, free-flowing along the spectrum and—either self-willing or unconsciously—contradicting themselves,” WGSN wrote.