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    Gen Z vs. Gen Alpha: What Do They Want From Brands?

    October 10, 2023
    11 minute read
    Gen Z vs. Gen Alpha: What Do They Want From Brands?

    In the blink of an eye, our two youngest generations, Generation Z (Gen Z) and Generation Alpha (Gen Alpha), are now at the helm of making important purchasing decisions.

    Gen Z, born in the years spanning 1997 to 2012, and Gen Alpha, born between 2010 and 2024, are quickly becoming our next tastemakers — and you might be surprised at some of their choices.

    While there’s overlap in the Gen Z vs. Gen Alpha shopping behavior discourse, there are also notable differences. Appealing to these two generations is a delicate balance between being innovative and hip to their values and interests.

    Gen Z vs. Gen Alpha: Values, Interests, and Shopping Habits 

    Here’s a breakdown of Gen Z vs. Gen Alpha: their shopping habits, their core values, and how you can tweak your strategy to ensure you capture their attention. 

    Gen Z Shopping Habits

    The most common Gen Z shopping habits center around social media, cutting costs, and finding the best deals. 

    Social Media Is Gen Z’s Most Popular Path to Product Discovery 

    Unlike millennials and boomers, Gen Z doesn’t know what life without technology looks like, and it shows in their purchasing behaviors.

    Despite research from interactive agency Razorfish showing that 55% of surveyed Gen Zers would like to spend less time online, social media is the most popular path to brand discovery for 47% of surveyees.

    Salsify’s “2024 Consumer Research,” a survey of 2,700 U.S. and U.K. respondents across generation groups, reports that 45% of Gen Zers bought a product on social media. 

    If you want to step up your social media presence, creating a social media strategy and working with influencers is a fantastic way to ensure that you’re effectively engaging with your Gen Z audience.

    This is also an excellent opportunity for brands to participate in social commerce, which allows for direct purchasing on social media apps. It will show Gen Zers that you’re willing to put in the effort to connect with them meaningfully.

    Cost Is a Critical Factor for Gen Zers 

    Gen Z’s experience growing up during the 2008 economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted how much they’re willing to spend on a product.

    And they’re not alone, as 39% of Salsify’s consumer research respondents say that rising costs have caused them to focus on budget-friendly options and 35% are prioritizing essentials over nonessentials.

    Nearly 80% of global Gen Zers engage in online shopping because of the ease of price comparison and the breadth of product assortment and paying options, according to Statista.

    If you want to appeal to the cost-conscious Gen Zer, consider offering buy now, pay later purchasing options. Financial technology company Afterpay reports that Gen Z accounts for 14% of Afterpay spending. 

    Eighty percent of Gen Zers used Afterpay to spend on fashion, and 260% have increased their spending on small businesses since January 2020.

    This shows that Gen Z is trying to support small businesses with their shopping, with a primary focus on purchasing clothing.

    Recommerce has also become a popular option for Gen Zers, as it appeals to both their sustainability and low-cost interests.

    Consider dedicating a portion of your websites to reselling pre-loved clothing for a steeply discounted price. This will prevent shoppers from purchasing your secondhand clothing on fashion marketplace apps like Depop.

    Loyalty Is a Thing of the Past 

    Gen Z’s passion for great deals means they may stray from their favorite brands to find the cheapest options.

    Finding dupes of products — or cheaper knockoff items — on Amazon has also become commonplace for Gen Zers.

    Global media company Forbes says, “Most consumers, including the youngest shoppers, are seeking out disruptive, innovative, and consumer-centric brands and experiences and comparing them to traditional offerings.”

    Forbes also reports that only 37% of Gen Z are considered brand loyalists.

    According to Salsify’s consumer research, 34% of shoppers are willing to spend more on a product if there’s a perceived higher quality, and 73% say that product quality makes them loyal to a brand.

    You can capture Gen Z’s loyalty and trust with excellent product pages, quality customer service offerings, and seamless omnichannel commerce experiences.

    Gen Alpha Shopping Habits

    Gen Alpha values having the crème de la crème of tech and connecting deeply with their peers, both of which have a strong influence on their shopping habits. 

    Gen Alpha Needs the Latest and Greatest in Tech

    Razorfish calls Gen Alpha “digital ninjas,” noting that COVID-19 remote learning restrictions sped up their tech adoption timeline. Forty-three percent of Alphas own tablets before the age of six, and 58% own a smartphone by 10. 

    Gen Alpha’s desire for the best in tech far outweighs Gen Z’s. According to Razorfish, 63% of Alphas value having it, while only 31% of Gen Zers want it. Alphas want futuristic features like a 3D hologram in their phone, but Gen Zers focus more on durability. 

    Brands need to put their best face forward if they want to capture Gen Alpha’s attention. This means offering a seamless, engaging experience that will hold up to the scrupulous eyes of these tech ninjas. 

    product experience management (PXM) solution will help you keep up with the latest trends and consumer demands by syndicating new content instantly across all your channels. 

    YouTube Is Gen Alpha’s Most Popular Path to Product Discovery 

    Statista reports that children and teens watch more than an hour of YouTube every day, and Razorfish notes that 51% of Alphas first discover brands on YouTube. 

    Because of their accelerated digital adoption, Alpha is also interested in mature brands. Gen Z and Gen Alpha have nearly identical tastes in brands like Amazon, Apple, Nintendo, and Target, says Razorfish. 

    Without a YouTube account, you’re isolating yourself from your Gen Alpha audience. Consider partnering with influencers who can promote your brand through their channels, in addition to creating your own channel. 

    Gen Alpha Places Great Emphasis on Their Values 

    Despite their strong attachments to tech, Gen Alpha is doing a commendable job of creating a tech/real-life balance. 

    Razorfish notes that they’re empowered by tech, not dependent on it. Gen Alpha places a large emphasis on getting outside, connecting with their peers, and staying true to themselves and their values. 

    If you want to connect with Gen Alpha on a deeper level, you need to be as authentic and genuine as possible. Using user-generated content (UGC) will help you achieve this because you’ll be promoting the real opinions of your customers. 

    You should also consider creating campaigns that emphasize staying true to yourself, like Aerie’s real campaign that champions unretouched campaign photos of models.

    The Importance of Evolving Your Strategy for Gen Z and Gen Alpha Shoppers 

    Gen Z and Gen Alpha are each making their mark on ecommerce. If you want to gain their loyalty, it’s imperative that you pay close attention to their values, demands, and shopping habits and tailor your strategy accordingly

    Evolving your strategy and tactics to meet these shoppers where they are will help you gain a place in their hearts — and their carts. 

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    Written by: Madeline Koufogazos

    Madeline Koufogazos (she/her) is an editor and writer at Salsify, based out of Boston. She enjoys sharing her insights on consumer trends and behaviors, commerce, media, pop culture, and travel.

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