They’ve been dubbed the original digital natives, but Gen Z may be shaking up retailer expectations this year by what they’re doing offline as well as online. Online shopping has been a greater draw than ever this season. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday loosened a few wallets, including GenZ’s. But the results of a national survey of U.S. tweens and teens, tell a somewhat surprising story. Traditional shopping malls rival the Web for GenZ holiday gifting. Traditional shopping malls rival the Web for GenZ holiday gifting. Click To Tweet According to the 2018 WeRGenZ Holiday Spending Survey, as many tweens and teens are flocking to malls and local business as those who shopped online for their customary holiday gifts. For U.S retailers, that means that Generation Z customers may be scouring store shelves as well as checking out online. In fact, if retailers increase the social nature of their shopping experience, there’s real opportunity to woo them into brick and mortar stores.

Years ago my husband and his friends got very jolly while doing some focused holiday shopping for their wives and girlfriends. A chic women’s store marketed a Male-Only holiday shopping spree promising a high-quality guys’ bonding experience and guaranteed some very happy women in the process. Doing the same in 2018 may be just what’s needed to cultivate a new, valuable and renewable customer base between ages 13 and 22- one with serious lifetime customer value.

According to the survey of 595 youth from 20 states, a good sale was the only thing that influenced GenZ’s holiday shopping more than social media. But hold on, they didn’t expect to buy via social media, just research, check reviews and brag about purchases to their friends. An overall slump in foot traffic this season doesn’t seem to extend to American youth.

A good sale was the only thing that influenced GenZ’s holiday shopping more than social media Click To Tweet

GEN Z SHOPPING OFFLINE THIS YEAR

While 69% of respondents said they would purchase gifts online, that wasn’t where their shopping would start and end. The same percentage planned on making buying trips to local malls, neighborhood businesses and area outlets for their holiday giving. Our What’s Hot, What’s Not Trends panelists also reinforced that thinking, but for different reasons.

I was going to buy some stuff from Bath and Body Works online, but a lot of the merchandise was sold out. I had to go into the store to get what I wanted Click To Tweet

“I was going to buy some stuff from Bath and Body Works online, but a lot of the merchandise was sold out. I had to go into the store to get what I wanted,” says WeRGenZ panelist, Elisha Cutter. “In the past, actual stores closed down because so many people bought online, but now the reverse is happening.”

Where do you buy your gifts?

Two specific reasons drew youth to shop the malls. At the top of the list was the draw of transforming traditional shopping sprees into in-person social experiences. Teens like being with their friends! Then there was also the confidence built into trying on, seeing in person or sampling the proposed gift for themselves. With the anticipated wider use of augmented and virtual reality by retailers in the future those percentages may change, but it’s difficult to imagine an essentially non-social shopping experience winning out with this generation. And whether they buy online or off, a significant 57% of respondents said they have or will share their shopping haul with friends via social media.

Before they even stepped foot into a store or navigate to an online shopping cart, 47% say they always research and weigh product reviews and another 33% may check out reviews first. Where do they trust product reviews? Store websites, not manufacturer sites, are their go-to source of reviews. Social media and consumer reports get teen attention as well. 46% admit to having bought a product after seeing it promoted on social media. And retailers can score even more sales by easing the process with acceptance of Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Venmo and the like as GenZ turns more to non-traditional payment systems.

RETHINK ADVERTISING SPENDING TO WOO GENZ

Whether GenZ shops online or off, marketers everywhere are wondering how much sway their advertising dollars have. According to the 2018 Holiday Survey, traditional television, radio and print advertising will have a negligible effect on GenZ spending. But that should be no surprise since time spent with those types of media has long past. With the average American teen spending five or more hours a day on the Internet and checking social media as many as 100 times a day, digital will win out every time. Nearly 50% of respondents acknowledged that social media and influencer advertising/promotions sway them to dip into their savings. 42% say other digital advertising also effects their holiday spend. And listen up marketers, more than 11% of GenZ respondents claim that ads of any kind turn them off to a brand. At a recent Adobe Marketing Leadership conference, WeRGenZ participants bluntly told the audience of global marketers that one of the biggest challenges facing brands that try to woo the younger generation was rooted in misinformed, and what they considered arrogant, campaigns.

GenZ Think Tank Members Jyo Kavil, Noah Laramore, and Lydia Laramore with Moderator, Kathleen Hessert, at the Adobe GMO

16 year old Indianapolis native, Noah Laramore, told the audience that talking down to GenZ by suggesting that youth NEED their brand does nothing but hurt their chances of drawing younger consumers. “We have more choices than ever before, and actually, you need us more than we need you. Make us believe that you want us and you might have a chance.”

We have more choices than ever before, and actually, you need us more than we need you. Make us believe that you want us and you might have a chance. Click To Tweet

MOBILE SHINES BUT NOT VOICE TECHNOLOGY

“Alexa, add gift cards and DIY stuff to my shopping list.” As big as voice technology is becoming, GenZ is not totally onboard with it this holiday season – at least not for purchases. Only 13% expect to use it for purchases and 13% will use it to ensure their shopping list is up to date. 19% will use voice technology to research choices or check reviews. A significant majority, or 65% of respondents, say they will not use voice technology at all.

Will you use Voice technology/Smart Speakers i.e., Alexa, Siri, Google Home?

However, mobile shines when it comes to GenZ. Nearly three quarters will use their smart phone to research possible gifts and/or check product reviews. 64% will purchase directly from their smart phone; and listen up marketers, 45% say they’ll use their phones to share their prized purchases with friends on social media.

GIVING TIME, TALENT, AND TREASURE

the average teen will purchase between five and ten gifts, which is about the same as in 2017 Click To Tweet

So how much does Generation Z spend on holiday gifts? According to the 2018 GenZ Holiday Spending Survey, the average teen will purchase between five and ten gifts, which is about the same as in 2017. 49% will have a budget somewhere between $20 and $100. 40% expect to spend a total of somewhere between $100 and $200 on friends and family. If this doesn’t add up to enough for you to care, remember that GenZ spends over $44 Billion annually, and by the year 2020, they will add up to a full 40% of the U.S. population. Consistent with the generation’s focus on causes, 75% of GenZ expects to give time and talent to their favorite charitable causes.
Although no one in Generation Z will probably remember a single celebrated word of American author Mark Twain, they certainly seem to live by some: “To get the full value of joy, you must have someone to divide it with.”

 

Please comment below about your holiday shopping experiences and how they mirror or differ from the results of our latest survey.

For ongoing insights into what fuels Generation Z, follow us on social media @WeRgenZ on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube. Our next original survey of over 1000 real teens and our What’s Hot, What’s Not Trends panel can be found here in January 2019. Also checkout “The GenZ Brain” and other infographics on www.WeRGenZ.com .