3 Trends That Reveal How Gen Z Plans to Shop This Holiday Season

This holiday season, Gen Z will support businesses that do more than just sell them what they want. Notoriously skeptical and debt-averse, Gen Z shoppers want more out of their shopping experience all year round, not just when the days are short and underwear is long.

They can afford to be picky about how they spend their collective billions — and who they spend it with. Sound dire? Doesn’t have to be! Brands can hone a competitive edge that’s sharper than a candy cane shiv this winter if they understand what Gen Z wants. In 2021, that comes down to three major trends in Gen Z’s holiday shopping habits. Let’s dive in:

Gen Z will do their holiday shopping in person

Accenture’s 15th Annual Holiday Shopping Survey found that overwhelmingly, Generation Z wants to shop in person this year, with 70% saying that they planned to hit brick-and-mortar establishments in 2021. That tracks with across-the-board preferences for experiential retail shopping. An on-point in-person experience is table stakes this year for capturing Gen Z’s attention and dollars.

70 percent of gen z wants to shop in person in 2021

Shopping isn’t the only thing Gen Z plans to experience in-person this year. Research conducted by Discover in conjunction with BusinessWire found that 72% planned to travel over the holiday season, making them the cohort most likely to travel home this holiday season. Will their online cart be linked to a brick-and-mortar location when they arrive?

Target is working on it — and leveraging data from Gen Z’s online behavior to help enhance their in-store shopping experience. The retail giant is turning stores into “key fulfillment hubs” to meet the steady demand for in-store pickup. The goal? Seamlessly integrating online and in-person buying journeys and wrapping it all in a personalized, adaptive bow that caters to Gen Z’s shopping preferences.

Seasonal, seamless social commerce experiences will set brands apart

For Gen Z, catered, omnichannel experiences like these aren’t an upgraded shopping experience — they come standard on the model. For a generation of digital natives, whether something is experienced on the internet or off of it is a distinction without a difference. That’s what makes Gen Z the perfect group to pioneer the metaverse — they were already exploring its unsettled frontier in Minecraft back when millennials were getting “YOLO” unironically tattooed onto themselves.

According to McKinsey, Gen Z plans to use social media to guide their holiday shopping decisions, and they use a mix of channels to help them navigate the buying journey. From inspiration, research, comparison shopping, to actually making the final purchase, the Gen Z buyer’s journey has multiple touch points on social media.

Today, whether they’re socializing, studying, gaming, or gift-giving, generation Z expects to pick up where they left off without missing a beat. For the holiday shopping season, that means social media and commerce.

Social commerce isn’t just about thumbing over to the shopping tab on Instagram or TikTok, however. Brands that stop at setting up shopping capabilities have managed to trip over what Gen Z considers a very low bar. Are you tired of hearing the words “authentic” and “engaging” when it comes to Gen Z shopping trends?

Too bad. 🤗

Brands have to supply authentic and engaging social media content to keep Zoomers interested, and increasingly, that content includes an online shop that must be as easy on the eyes and intuitive to navigate as their real-world counterparts.  Even YouTube recently announced they would be adding shopping capabilities to their platform. (Just in time for Christmas, no less!)

Now, they’ll have to add clean, intuitive shopping experiences on the same platform. If it seems like what was once a steady stream of updates and feature rollouts is now an open fire hose of marketing “must-haves”, you’re not crazy. We get it. Keeping up with what’s new, next, and necessary is … a whole lot.

But it’s not one-sided.

With each new suite of capabilities and accompanying set of best practices, brands have an opportunity to connect with Gen Z on their own terms, too.

Social media capabilities and commerce capabilities present an opportunity for brands to tailor their narrative to capture Gen Z attention and connect over shared values and social good goals. 

It helps, of course, to know where to start. When it comes to social commerce, tactical strategy outweighs the “spray and pray” method.

Going straight to the source and getting Gen Z insights from consumers themselves allows brands to reduce risk and provides proof-of-concept for brands that are ready to court the cohort.

All Generation Z wants for Christmas is BNPL

Wondering what to offer the special Gen Z’er on your brand’s list? Apparently, you can’t go wrong with a Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) option for the debt-averse cohort. Instead of traditional high-interest credit cards, Gen Z is flocking to retailers that offer BNPL options like Klarna, Afterpay, and Affirm.

Across the board, BNPL demand and usage only seems to rise more each year, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down:

  • On Cyber Monday this year, Klarna’s sales were up 129% over last year
  • On Black Friday, Afterpay reported 442% more in-store sales than in 2020
  • Cardify surveyed 2000 holiday shoppers and found that BNPL shoppers planned to spend more money this year over last when compared to non-BNPL shoppers

Millennials are actually the group most likely to avail themselves of BNPL, but Generation Z may well be the fastest-growing. Afterpay conducted a study last year on generational spending on their BNPL offering. What they found was a jaw-dropping 200% increase over the cohort’s 2019 spend. Remember: many members of Gen Z got to watch the slow-motion financial carnage of the Great Recession. They’re in no rush to put out a sequel, and BNPL is an awfully attractive alternative to credit cards and long-term, insurmountable debt. 

Knowing what Generation Z wants when they’re out shopping for the holidays is useful all year round. That’s because Gen Z’s holiday shopping habits set the stage for the state of consumption for the new year, This is a sneak peek of what’s to come in 2022. So, what would you do with a crystal ball? We don’t have one of those, but we have something even better: over 60,000 Zoomers with answers to your brand’s burning questions. Get in touch today to see how we can help you leverage them into a winning strategy for 2022.

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