For Business

Gen Z has money to spend. Are you ready?

Get your brand in front of this new generation of shoppers who’re realizing their purchasing power.


Although Baby Boomers are estimated to be the richest generation and millennials are the largest by number, Generation Z is coming of age and presenting itself as a notable group of consumers. Colloquially known as zoomers, this shopper audience is already wielding billions in purchasing power—$360 billion to be exact—with the top end of the generation entering the workforce and the rest helping spend their parents’ disposable income.

But just because they have money to spend, doesn’t mean converting them into customers is as simple as showing them targeted display ads or sending them a promotional email. Gen Z is the first digitally native generation and shops a bit differently than its boomer and Gen X parents. Dubbed the key holders to ecommerce’s future, according to Wunderman Thompson, this group’s preferences for shopping and engaging with brands are worth paying attention to.

Read on to learn more about zoomers and how they shop, as well as valuable tips for how to engage and convert them.

Who is Generation Z?

Born between 1997 and 2012, according to the Pew Research Center, Gen Z comprises 27% of the US population and is the first digital native cohort. Zoomers grew up with the internet, social media, and mobile phones as part of their daily lives. Preceded by millennials and succeeded by Generation Alpha, the oldest of Gen Zs are already in the workforce—and shaping the ecommerce of the future—while the youngest have just entered middle school—and are influencing how and where their parents shop.

Molded by climate change anxiety, pandemic lockdowns, and fear of financial crises, Gen Zs spend more time online than other generations, prefer a better quality of life and mental well-being over money, and are passionate about key issues, such as diversity and inclusion, social and environmental justice, and authenticity.

But what kind of shoppers are they? According to Intuit’s 2023 Prosperity Index Study, 73% of surveyed zoomers “would rather feel more fulfilled now than save for a future that’s unknown.” And with a total disposable income of $360 billion, they really are a group of shoppers worth delighting. But before you can delight them, you have to understand how they think and how they shop.

What makes Gen Z shoppers unique?

“As shoppers, zoomers aren’t quite as willing to compromise on things that are important to them,” explains Zack Boileau, Sr. Customer Journey Insights Manager at Amazon. “Being the first fully digitally native generation, they’ve had choice at their fingertips their entire lives, and so they’ve learned that they don’t necessarily need to settle for less.”

Gen Z shoppers’ key characteristics:

  • They’re always online.
  • They have high standards.
  • They’re price focused.
  • They’re passionate about authenticity.

Social media is a key differentiator for zoomers. There, they form lasting friendships, make work connections, get their news, and research and shop for products. In fact, according to Statista, 48% of surveyed Gen Z consumers say they use social media to research a product before making a purchase. Digital word-of-mouth, both authentic reviews and influencers, is how zoomers discover brands and products.

But it’s not just any social media. According to Piper Sandler’s spring 2023 Taking Stock with Teens survey, Gen Z teens socialize mostly on TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram, and consume videos using Netflix and YouTube. Yet, compared to previous years, these numbers are declining on individual platforms, as zoomers go to other social media platforms in search of authenticity.

As Sonali De Rycker writes in Wired, “a new wave of platforms is starting to gain both mindshare and market share, fueled by a desire for more authentic, meaningful online interactions with the people users choose to stay close to.”

The digital natives have an innate ability to distinguish fake from real online, and that’s why being authentic matters to them. The National Retail Federation found that an “authentic brand” demonstrates continuity, credibility, integrity, and symbolism. For zoomers, authentic brands are honest and transparent, provide quality products or services, care about customers and their values, and allow for their real selves to shine.

Although authenticity is important, with many in Generation Z fitting the characteristics of ethical shoppers, price ranks high as well, says Zack. In fact, 78% of them say that price is the most important factor when making a purchasing decision, according to Hubspot’s 2023 State of US Consumer Trends report.

“When it comes to being cost-conscious, they are different from other generations,” Zack explains. “A lot of them are paying attention not just to the price, but also to the quality the product offers and the authenticity of the brand behind it. The price aspect underlines the purchasing decisions, but it’s not the only thing that matters. They do wait for sales and enjoy rewards programs but only if the brand is authentic and the product passes their research for quality and value.”

How does Gen Z shop?

After a lot of research, they prefer to shop in a convenient, hybrid manner with an empowering and satisfying customer experience.

Zoomers seek social proof

Ultimately, zoomers look for inspiration and do their product and brand research in the same places they spend most of their time on: social media. In particular, 41% of surveyed zoomers say short-form videos on social media are the preferred avenue for research and new product discovery.

Similarly, YouTube is an overwhelming destination for product research. Compared to other generations, 47% of Gen Z use the platform, followed by 35% of millennials and 28% of Gen X.

But zoomers aren’t just watching the videos, they scroll through comments making sure others believe those reviews to be truthful and authentic. One-quarter of them say that likes or positive comments influence their purchase decision.

Social proof carries a lot of weight in determining a product’s value. This makes reviews very important, says Zack, “Gen Z looks at reviews as their way of understanding how a real person would experience this product and, in particular, finding reviews from people who are like them and looking for the same things that they’re looking for.”

Zack points to the popularity of beauty product reviews on TikTok: “It’s not just a review, it’s a demonstration of the product; it’s an interactive experience.”

Zoomers shop online and in person

It might come as a surprise, but digital natives enjoy shopping in brick-and-mortar stores too—55% of surveyed zoomers say so. And 17% say the option to place an order and then go pick it up can increase the likelihood of them purchasing a product.

“In a sense, members of Generation Z are always shopping, because they’re always connected,” McKinsey experts explain the phenomenon. “They buy on any device and in any format or channel. At the same time, they’re surprisingly old school. They are much more likely to shop in physical stores than are millennials, who are the first generation to grow up with online shopping and who are more likely to shop that way.”

A blend of physical and digital shopping channels is something that Gen Z came to expect and prefer, as IBM researchers discovered as well. They say that hybrid shopping is a primary buying method for 36% of zoomers, compared to 27% of consumers in general.

Getting the product immediately in a physical store is a convincing factor for one-third of Gen Z shoppers; another one-third values the opportunity to see, touch, and try the product; while 11% don’t want to pay for shipping, according to the ICSC 2023 The Rise of the Gen Z Consumer report. Fast, free delivery and a convenient shopping experience online are must-haves for an ecommerce brand trying to delight this cohort.

In addition to convenience and ease of shopping in person, this generation also values social proof by way of store associates. Also according to the ICSC report, 43% of zoomers say that new product purchasing decisions are influenced by interactions with store associates and seeing the product in person. The store associate’s validation ranks high, coming in third after recommendations from friends and family and online reviews.

Zoomers value unique brands

Zoomers search for brands that reflect their individuality and speak to them personally. “They prefer brands that feel authentic and real, that are known and communicate quality,” Zack says. “For instance, when it comes to beauty products, they prefer and like those that reflect individuality and diversity: ethnicity, genders, body or hair types, and others.”

Although “known” brands resonate with them, shopping the big name brands isn’t as important to them, according to the research from McKinsey; they tend to value unique products.

“They’re really looking for unique items that set them apart,” says Emma Spagnuolo, an Associate Partner at McKinsey, in the podcast Meet Generation Z. “And this is a place where millennials and Gen Z diverge. Whereas a millennial is looking more for that kind of showcaser status—'Look at me wearing this brand item’— Gen Z is looking more for an item that shows that they’re different, that they’re unique.”

This trait makes them more open to give “likes” to smaller and lesser-known ecommerce brands.

Because they have access to information that previous generations didn’t, thanks to social media and the internet, “they’re able to see a little bit more deeply into brand behavior,” Wunderman Thompson Intelligence Editor Emily Safian-Demers told Retail Dive. “They’re able to dissect how brands are behaving, and if they’re actually putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to things like sustainability and diversity.”

How to engage and convert Gen Z shoppers?

To no surprise, Generation Z values engagement. This generation wants brands to pay attention to them, acknowledge their values, and understand their needs—such as a trusted and convenient shopping experience. So when it comes to converting Gen Z shoppers, ensure that your ecommerce site and other channels, especially social, are optimized to capture and keep their attention. The following five tips can help you get started.

Tip #1 Invite shoppers to engage

When asked by IBM researchers whether they would like to engage with a brand, 44% of surveyed zoomers say they’d like to submit ideas for product design, 43%—participate in product review, 42%—participate in an online game for a campaign, 36%—create digital content, and 38% would attend an event. Overall, 60% of those surveyed say it’s important for brands to value their opinion.

“I think that the idea of inviting Gen Z into the process of the brand, into product development and product ideation and giving Gen Z a seat at the table is a really good way to engage this generation,” Wunderman Thompson Intelligence Editor Emily Safian-Demers said in an interview with Retail Dive.

If a brand isn’t listening, it will fail the Gen Z authenticity test..

Tip #2 Build and nurture relationships

Engaging this digital savvy generation is best done through social media by building and nurturing relationships. After all, social media is where they spend most of their time. So make sure to create content that appeals to them, such as authentic TikTok and Instagram stories, user-generated content (UGC) from other customers, or “gamified” content.

“Anything you can do to gamify your social efforts is a good way to get users engaged, while helping to build affinity,” says Jordan Abidor, Social Media Manager for Buy with Prime. “And the more you can tap into user-generated content as part of your brand story, the more likely your followers—and your followers’ followers—are to emulate that behavior.” (Check out more social media marketing tips from Jordan.)

At a minimum, stay active in comments. One of the easiest ways to build and nurture relationships with zoomers is through comments in your posts—reply, like, and keep a conversation about your brand going. Some social media experts even claim that comments are the best part of TikTok.

Tip #3 Give zoomers social proof

Customer reviews, especially those that feature real photos or videos, are incredibly valuable to Gen Z shoppers. As mentioned, they value authentic feedback from users like them and that feedback plays an important role in purchasing decisions. So consider offering a ratings and review feature on your ecommerce site to provide them the social proof that they seek.

If you’re a Buy with Prime merchant, you can tap into the volume and authenticity of shopper-trusted reviews directly on your ecommerce site. You can add Reviews from Amazon to eligible Buy with Prime product pages, boosting shopper confidence and helping them make informed buying decisions. Even if you already use a third-party review feature on your site, Reviews from Amazon amplifies your site’s existing reviews solution to give shoppers more information about your products that offer Buy with Prime.

“Reviews from Amazon empowers merchants to give shoppers a familiar experience that they trust, while helping to expedite their decision making by showing them the social proof they’ve come to expect when perusing products on,” says Ben Li, Sr. Product Manager for Buy with Prime.

Tip #4 Offer a trusted shopping experience

Because zoomers are regular shoppers and Amazon is one of their favorite corporate brands, offering a familiar shopping experience that they already love can help you increase conversions on your ecommerce site.

With Buy with Prime, you can offer a seamless checkout, free 1–2 day shipping, transparent delivery times, easy returns, and 24/7 customer service—a shopping experience zoomers are likely to find authentic, convenient, and valuable. Learn more about Buy with Prime.

Tip #5 Future-proof your ecommerce business

Whether you’re an omnichannel ecommerce business or an online merchant with one product, you can effectively engage and convert Gen Z shoppers for years to come.

“Zoomers are the future of shopping, and they, more so than other generations, expect a seamless transition and movement between channels, between experiences, when everything runs and blends together in a really sort of seamless fashion,” Zack of Amazon Customer Journey Insights says. “But this is also an audience that values authenticity above all else: No matter which social channel you choose to concentrate on first, it’s more important to have a presence there that feels authentic and real and lets them easily purchase something that they find inspiring.”

For more inspiration, check out our guide to different types of shoppers.

Lindsay Holloway