Gen Z is harnessing its influence to change U.S. shopping trends—and this formidable group of consumers is pushing a more sustainable agenda.
The consumer contingent born between 1997 and 2012 is estimated to be worth a whopping $323 billion, CGS found in a new report. And as Gen Z shoppers age into their peak purchasing power, their preferences stand to shape the way that American brands engage with shoppers, according to the software services company.
CGS data, gleaned from a June survey of 1,000 shoppers, showed that consumers ages 9-24 are redefining the e-commerce landscape in particular, shirking mega-etailers like Amazon in favor of sites that offer eco-friendly wares and more sustainable ways to shop. According to CGS, Gen Z consumers are five times more likely than Baby Boomers to frequent secondhand sites like ThredUp or eBay. The older generation relies much more heavily on online marketplaces (67 percent) than their younger counterparts (37 percent).
Despite the fact that many are just starting their careers, only 18 percent of Gen Z respondents cited cost as a motivation behind their purchasing decisions. Instead, more than one-quarter said they were largely motivated by quality, and more than one-fifth said influencer endorsements swayed their choices.
The vast majority of U.S. consumers (81 percent) admitted they have shopped for clothing during 2021, but they referenced different reasons for those purchases. More than one-third of Gen Z respondents said a wardrobe refresh was in order because their duds were outdated, while millennials largely pointed to a need to top off their work-ready staples in anticipation of a return to the office. Baby Boomers are largely looking for footwear, CGS said, or choosing to forgo shopping altogether.
The older demographic is abstaining from another trend being driven by the younger set: “revenge shopping.” The majority of millennial and Gen Z shoppers have admitted to making up for time lost during the pandemic by increasing spending, with 82 percent admitting they’ve already splurged on a purchase this year.
Nearly half of all consumers surveyed expressed a desire for everyday clothing, while one-quarter are still clinging to the pandemic uniform—athleisure—as their garb of choice. About one-third of shoppers expressed interest in augmenting their footwear collections, while 13 percent are on the hunt for handbags, jewelry and other accessories. A small contingent of consumers (11 percent) has their sights set on luxury items, while two-fifths said they were abstaining from purchasing apparel items at all.
Shoppers are also pushing an agenda for American-made goods, the survey revealed. CGS said that seven in 10 shoppers believe that children’s items, like apparel, should be made stateside, with 42 percent citing concerns about manufacturing materials and more than half (54 percent) pointing to a desire to support local businesses. More than two-fifths of shoppers named durability as the top quality they look for in kids’ clothing, beating out low cost (22 percent) and comfort (22 percent).
While about 70 percent of shoppers relied on Amazon for most of their shopping needs last spring, a year later, they’ve branched out, CGS added. While more than three-fifths of shoppers will still look to online marketplaces for non-essential purchases, small businesses, direct-to-consumer sites, secondhand retailers and rental subscriptions are all capturing their attention to a smaller degree (18 percent), and notably, nearly one in five shoppers said their most frequent shopping destinations are department stores like Macy’s.
More than half of all shoppers have noticed delivery delays on their online purchases, most likely due to continued backlogs at U.S. ports and general logistics slowdowns. Still, 34 percent of those impacted said that the retailer they ordered from notified them of the delay. More than half of all shoppers said they were satisfied with the support they’ve received from online retailers.
“The pandemic, naturally, had a lasting impact on consumer habits and shopping behaviors,” said Paul Magel, president of Business Applications division of CGS, noting that “brands, retailers and their customers experienced the scarcity and delay of goods over the last year.”
At the moment, however, shoppers are taking a step back and identifying how—and where—they want to spend, he said. “For some generations, we are witnessing a gravitation toward sustainable and locally made goods, for others it is secondhand marketplaces,” he added. “Other age groups are going back to what they know, whether that be department stores or the large online marketplaces.”