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Generation Z, the nation’s population of teens and tweens, are already the most influential consumer group when compared to the rest of the country.

Most of them don’t remember a time when there wasn’t a black president, or when our country wasn’t at war.

Most of them also don’t remember a time when we couldn’t simply just connect and get questions answered instantly.

They also are the one generation who will be most affected by climate change (thus far), and we’ve been educating them on the dangers of it for years. They are the most connected generation, and contribute over $44 billion to the American economy each year. That’s a strong figure. If you want to connect with them, then you need to understand their wants and needs.


One of those needs is access. Generation Z has the time and resources to find the best price and the best product available. They have the ability to move through various retailers, whether it’s a physical storefront or an online retail site, and if they are awake at 3am, they expect you to be too (or at least able to take an order).

Being that they are always logged into and connected to multiple platforms at once, one would think that their partial attention mindset is a flaw. However, these consumers can still make educated decisions, because all of the knowledge in the world is in their pockets, and they’re used to searching it.


Gen Z, aside from being the most tolerant generation, is also the most culturally diversified generation. Mixed ethnicity families and blurred gender roles are another characteristic. Being that they were born into the tablet and social media world, there is an emphasis on the “we”. They understand the value of working together for a common good as a community.

Much like how they will fact check everything that comes out of a politician’s mouth, these tech-savvy individuals will research a product or service heavily before buying it. This is much different from the typical Gen X and Y folk, who have a much shorter “screening process” when it comes to making a purchasing decision.

Gen Z understands the role of marketing, as they have been super-saturated with it since they can remember on all their forms of communication. Thus, they naturally will trust their peers more than advertisements. Consumer reviews will become more and more important in a business’ success.

Gen Z welcomes updates and upgrades. They see it as a form of innovation, something that they can relate to. On the other angle, they will actively dislike something that isn’t being updated.


Gen Z would rather pay less to access a product or service than pay more to own it. This is evident in the types of apps and services that are popular with these people, such as Netflix or Spotify. Even the function of Snapchat, the nations top messaging app, promotes this kind of use-when-needed idea.


Branding and signage play a secondary role to the actual product itself. Studies have shown that Gen Z won’t even look up when shopping- they do it at eye level. It’s an expectation that as a retail store, you’ll need to adapt to if you want to keep their business.

Therefore, in order to be visible to this generation, you’ll need to start with understanding the importance of and how to embrace the following aspects-

  • Peer reviews- more people, especially young Gen Z, are trusting complete strangers writing reviews online than advertisers.
  • Social media advertising and publicity- Social media is where Gen Z goes to express themselves. 80% of Gen Z are on social media daily, and according to research firm Wildness, 80% of Generation Z considers creative self-expression important. Furthermore, at least 25% are posting original video content weekly. This is a lot more compared to the small 26% of adults who have done this, most of them only having posted once or twice.
  • Mobile banner and video ads- According to Refuel Agency, 37% said they pay most attention to mobile banner ads (things you see in apps or on mobile web browsers), and a whopping 45% said they pay most attention to video ads.

In order to access this generation, you’ll need to:

  • Promote “scrapbooking” and wish-listing
  • Promote full customization
  • Promote an inviting physical and digital presence as a retail store
  • Understand the uses of Google, and how their advertising works

Then comes the actual purchase decision:

  • Reassurance and social approval is ideal. Consumer, and more importantly, peer reviews come strongly into play when spending money is involved.
  • Remarketing will be key in reaching this partial-attention consumer, as staying in their eye isn’t only a strategy, it’s an expectation. Remarketing involves continued marketing on people who are already familiar with your brand.
  • For Gen Z, is no shame in buying used goods or products. eBay and bargain sites play a large role, as they are exactly what this generation is looking for- a quality product for the best price. Used or new doesn’t matter as much, and you can see this in the rise of many second-hand retail stores (such as Buffalo Exchange).

After the purchase itself is complete, next comes show and tell:

  • It’s important for Gen Z to be able to share pictures of their goods, or at least tell their friends how they feel about it. The easier it is to do this, the more free advertising you will get. There is never a “too soon”, as this generation loves to show off their recent purchases as soon as it lands in their hands.

“Seamlessness” is a way of life that represents all of Gen Z. They are used to a world where they can go from their digital persona into reality. In fact, there isn’t that much of a difference to them. Your online persona is your persona, much in contrast to how millennials, Gen X, and Gen Y people view the internet. Therefore, in order for your retail store to compete in this upcoming market, you will have to make sure that your store design, marketing, and online operations are in sync. Fluid and collaborative are the key words here. Be sure that your retail store is ready to receive Gen Z’s shared data and information, and by ready I mean as ready as they (Gen Z) are to share it.

These qualities also mean that stores will have to push towards aspirational browsing rather than just solid pushing for transactions. They don’t want someone to sell them. They want an “opt-in” style service relationship. They want to have a dialogue with their brands, and they want to see mutual reward (as opposed to just one sided). As loyal customers, they want to be involved in everything- from conception, to funding, to production, to distribution, even to public opinion. And with the world being connected as much as it is, this sort of invitational mindset is more possible than ever.


  1. All in all, don’t make your products about “buying”— make them about “doing”.
  2. Don’t tell your story, learn about theirs.
  3. Don’t worry about making it perfect before it hits the shelves- make it about how to make it better as a team, with their input.

Is your retail store ready for your new consumers? Have you implemented eCommerce into your brand? Do you have a social media presence? How about a strategy in how to target Gen Z specifically? All of these are crucial if you plan to compete, let alone survive, in as little as five years from now. Don’t get left behind, as we at United Capital Source have helped many small retail businesses thrive in this new playing field. Talk to one of our experts today and check out how we can help your retail store here.

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