Selling Online to Generation Z

With marketing strategies often hinging on a brand’s understanding of their customer and how they behave, we take a look at some of the latest trends for Generation Z and how to reach the youth market. Raised online in the era of smartphones and social media, selling online to Generation Z needs to be done with considerable finesse.

Who Are Generation Z?

Picture of woman and phone
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Often mistakenly lumped in with Millenials (who are born between 1980-1995 and reach adulthood around the year 2000), Generation Z are born roughly between 1996-2010. Although those born in the latter half of this bracket are still in their infancy, the older segment are defining the generation and understanding them now can pay dividends for years to come.

Research examined in an article by the New York Times1 highlights some characteristics of Generation Z that may not immediately spring to mind:

  • Growing up in the wake of two economic crashes in 2000 and 2008 has caused Generation Z to replace optimism with pragmatism. This pragmatic approach extends from an industrious career drive to taking less risks in their personal life.
  • Generation Z is known for being the first generation of true digital natives. Some research suggests that Generation Z is so connected and savvy that they have learnt from millennials mistakes and are careful not to put sensitive information online that may harm their ability to get a job.
  • Constantly connected, Generation Z consumes information at a rapid rate and favours easily digestible formats like emojis
  • Generation Z takes in information instantaneously and loses interest just as fast
  • Exposure to the enormous success of start-up companies like Facebook has instilled entrepreneurialism into Generation Z.

What do Generation Z want from an eCommerce website?

Now that we have explored a little about who Generation Z are, how can eCommerce brands adapt to attract this audience?

The first digital natives

Generation Z are widely considered to be the first digital natives and the most inherently connected to a digital lifestyle over any other generation.

Graphof device usage 
Image source: Sparks & Honey

Where marketers might account for Millenials mutli-screening with two screens, Generation Z can shift seamlessly between five screens on a daily basis.

  • Share your brand and your message across multiple screens including desktop, tablet, mobile, TV and gaming console and offer a seamless multi-channel experience across all devices.
  • Some research suggests that Generation Z’s acute awareness of world issues like the NSA scandal has led to an interest in self-destructing social media platforms like Whisper and Secret.
  • 52% of teens use YouTube or other social media sites for a typical research assignment in school. Online is their first stop for research and purchase behaviour so making sure that your search engine results and social search results are optimised is a must.2

Takeaway 1: Generation Z want a seamless experience from eCommerce brands across multiple screens

I want it now!

The need for immediacy burns strongly in Generation Z, this means that things like website speed and delivery options can have a big impact on Generation Z and their decision to buy. Research by Shutl of over 2000 UK consumers shows3:

  • Over 85% of 18-24 year olds factor in delivery options when choosing which online retailer to purchase from. This statistic declines with age – 83% of 25-34 consider delivery options a key influencer, compared to 73% of 45-54s and 64% of 55+.
  • 90% of 18-24 year olds would shop online more frequently if there were more convenient delivery options to choose from.
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Although the age bracket of 18-24 year olds is only on the cusp of the Generation Z age range, the research also shows a decline in importance placed on delivery with the age of a consumer. This suggests that for the younger consumers in Generation Z these figures will be even more pronounced and immediacy of delivery will play an increasingly influential role.

Takeaway 2: Generation Z expect fast delivery made simple from an eCommerce site.


Growing up in a world where Generation Z are constantly connected to their devices in the age where the latest trend, in joke or need to know information on social feeds can disappear if you come along too late, Generation Z are strongly affected by FOMO (fear of missing out). Indeed 56% of social media users reported to suffer from FOMO4 a large proportion of which are undoubtedly Generation Z.

FOMO drives Generation Z to feel special and exclusive and it’s imperative that eCommerce brands take care of their brand ambassadors in this way with a five star treatment that helps them be the first person to take advantage of any new product or promotion. As well as rolling out the red carpet for the most loyal customers’ there are some other ways that eCommerce brands can take advantage of Generation Z’s FOMO:

  • Show limited quantities on product pages to provide a sense of urgency and desirability
  • Give a limited time for purchase on a particular deal
  • Show how many people are currently looking at products
  • Create limited edition ranges or collaboration products
  • Let customers know about special promotions before they start via email and social media to build a sense of suspense and feeling like your customer will miss out if they’re not prepared for the start of a promotion
  • Consider a co-creation strategy where customers can have an input into particular products. This microsite Starbucks created for the concept, led to customer ideas such as “buy 10 get 1 coffee free” making it into the real world.

Takeaway 3: Generation Z want to feel exclusive to quell their FOMO

Generation Z are a demanding bunch at the forefront of online retail trends, and marketing to them requires a thoughtful and agile approach that many brands just can’t keep up with. But if your strategy is up to the challenge Generation Z are set to be one of the most lucrative generations for the consumer eCommerce market.

Thanks for Reading

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Category: eCommerce

About the author: Olivia Collins

Olivia has over 3 years of digital marketing experience, with expertise in digital strategy across content, email marketing and social media. With a degree in Advertising and Brand Management Olivia designs strategies that provide audiences with useful content and has successfully delivered B2C and B2B email marketing campaigns generating thousands of pounds for brands like Calumet Photographic and Employer Advice.

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