Gen Z vs Millennial Shoppers: How They Differ

By Tinuiti Team

With a combined shopping power of over $200 billion, Millennial and Generation Z shoppers have become the core consumer focus for a great majority of retailers in 2019.

These cohorts share many traits; they’ve had the most exposure to the internet, mobile devices, social media, and more.

However, it would be a mistake for marketers to simply lump both generations into the same targeting category because Gen Z and Millennials browse and shop quite differently.

Here’s a quick look at some of the differences between Gen Z and Millennial consumers that marketers should be mindful of in 2019 and beyond.


What Attracts Gen Z?


Today, Generation Z’ers range in ages from 7 to 22, with the older spectrum of this group attending both high school and college — meaning they are just beginning to enter the workforce.

This group has never lived in a world without computers at school (aka instant access to vast information at all times). But more than their tech-savvy, Gen Z consumers were coming of age in the Great Recession, causing them to be savers and bargain shoppers that also value convenience and efficiency.

what do gen z shoppers buy

Gen Z shoppers are looking for the things that a high school or college student need most, like casual apparel and inexpensive basics for a dorm room or first apartment. Apparel retailers looking to reach Gen Z would be wise to invest in digital advertising, as many Gen Z consumers actually like online banner ads and appreciate the proactive and personalized experience they bring to advertising.


Where Does Gen Z Shop?


Gen Z consumers shop in different ways from previous generations, and many of these ways do not include technology. 

1. Shopping brick and mortar stores present Instagrammable experiences for Gen Z.

That’s right; Gen Z likes to document everything in their lives – from what they eat for lunch to where they buy their shoes – leading to Gen Z consumers returning to the physical retail locations that millennials left for online shopping.

generation z shoppers prefer stores

As they shop, they take photos of cool sightings around the store and hold polls on social media for what to buy. They also Google for coupons, check their email for promotions and read reviews about products as they consider to buy them in the aisle.

2. Gen Z strongly prefers Amazon and brand name websites for online shopping.

This generation also really likes to shop on Amazon and brand name websites for fast and free shipping and apparel basics.


Gen Z apparel shoppers
Source: The 2019 U.S. Forecast on Apparel Shopping Trends


And when compared to other age groups, Gen Z consumers purchase from name brand websites like Le Creuset instead of multi-brand websites like Macy’s by a 10% margin.

3. Both Gen Z and Millennial Shoppers Are Using Mobile Devices to Browse and Shop

In our recent apparel survey, we found that 53% of shoppers aged 18-24 and 25-34 chose mobile as a preferred device for apparel shopping.

Although desktop may still be the device of choice for many older shoppers, mobile devices are fueling the majority of sales growth in many different verticals.

This correlates with a larger trend of mCommerce (or mobile commerce) becoming a greater portion of total ecommerce across all verticals — apparel included.

Mcommerce sales are predicted to make up 44.7% of total US ecommerce sales in 2019, up from 39.6% in 2018.


What Attracts Millennials?


When you think about a millennial, you may picture an entitled intern taking selfies and wasting their paychecks on $5 designer lattes and avocado toast; I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong.

The Millennial demographic consists of a diverse range of shopping habits and needs.

Millennials (ages 23-38 today) span 15 years that include college grads with 1-2 years of work experience, all the way up to homeowners with two children, a dog, a cat, and a manager title. 

what do millennials buy

Shopping trends often follow the consumer in their life stages. As such, millennials are buying work clothes and baby products in increasing numbers over casual attire.

But beyond life moments, these shopping habits can also be attributed to digitally native brands that sell those types of products like Rent the Runway’s monthly rental subscription service and MM.LeFleur’s Bento Box for women’s workwear and Monica + Andy for toddler niche products and apparel.


Where Do Millennials Shop?


The rise of digital shopping experiences and services have helped fuel the love affair millennials have with online shopping and ecommerce.

1. Millennials shop online. And above all else, on Amazon.

Free, fast shipping is the expectation, not the value-add service it used to be.

In our recent apparel survey, 63.4% of 18-24 year-olds and 57% of 25-34 year-olds responded that they had purchased apparel from Amazon in the last six months

2. Instagram and Snapchat are other online channels Millennials go to buy clothes.

Over 70% of our own study participants self-identified as Millennials and have made a purchase from one of the two social media outlets in the last months, compared to less than one-third of Gen Z’ers.

3. Millennials still shop at big box brands like Wal-Mart and Target.

These legacy brands are still trusted by millennials, presenting an array of options as well as an online and mobile experience. These stores also offer convenience in location and a variety of clothing, housewares, and groceries all under one roof.


Leverage the Nuances of Gen Z and Millennial Shoppers

Understanding which websites your target audience is already buying from is just as important as understanding which types of products they’re purchasing.

If you are looking to reach Generation Z and Millennials, then you need to consider the fact that the majority of these cohorts already purchase from Amazon’s Marketplace and brand websites.

To succeed in 2019 you’ll need to build your visibility across multiple channels. That means improving the functionality and features of your ecommerce website on mobile devices, investing in creative content for Amazon and social media, and ideally implementing a paid media strategy to scale traffic to each.

Want to learn more?

The 2019 U.S. Forecast on Apparel Shopping Trends

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