The Gen Z Shopper is Different; As If We Didn’t Have Enough to Deal With

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Gen Z is 43% less likely to be concerned about healthy eating and 22% less likely to exercise regularly. They’re also less likely to be sports fans. In fact, Gen Z is 25% less likely to watch the NFL on television than Millennials.

"From A to Gen Z; Getting to Know the Next Generation of Shoppers"
– Numerator, Shawn Paustion

The Generation Z consumer has arrived. They are entering the consumer space at a rapid pace and as they do, they are bringing a history and worldview with them that is notably different than prior generations. So, just when we thought we had it all figured out with the Millennials and the disruption they brought to shopping patterns, now we have to get to know a whole new generation of consumers.

Before getting into the details, here is a recap of the generations currently inhabiting our world:

    Generation        Birth Years

    Silent                 1925-1945

    Boomer              1946 – 1963

    Gen X                1964-1978

    Millennial           1979 – 1995

    Gen Z               1996 – 2010

Each of these had a different set of life experiences. The Silent generation had to make it through the Great Depression and World War II.  Baby Boomers came of age during the 1960s and were heavily impacted by the Kennedy assassination, Viet Nam, landing on the Moon and Watergate. Gen X dealt with the AIDS epidemic and had to watch the Challenger disaster take place on their classroom televisions. Millennials, in turn, had to deal with Columbine and the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9-11. 

Gen Z has its own set of life experiences: The Great Recession, Sandy Hook as well as the rise and fall of ISIS just to name a few. As our experiences shaped us, theirs is shaping them.

The Great Recession had a major impact on this generation. They have never known the kind of hot economy that many of us remember from the 1990s. In their world, student loans are a heavy load, jobs are harder to come by and starting families has to wait until they can leave their parent's homes.

They are a far more diverse generation when it comes to race and gender. They are a minority, majority cohort that has far more tolerance for those who are different in terms of race and sexual preference.

They have also never known a time when virtually any information they wanted was not just a few keystrokes, or a voice command, away. They live and breathe digital and spend their free time immersed in their mobile devices.

I found some excellent research on this generation in a great article by Numerator blogger, Shawn Paustian. His piece, "From A to Gen Z: Getting to Know the Next Generation of Shoppers" is an excellent overview of what makes Gen Z tick. Consider this quote:

Gen Z is 43% less likely to be concerned about healthy eating and 22% less likely to exercise regularly. They’re also less likely to be sports fans. In fact, Gen Z is 25% less likely to watch the NFL on television than Millennials.

I am not sure what to make of the healthy eating or lack thereof, but if I was the NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB I would be very concerned. Gen Z loves its e-Sports and that passion is apparently coming at the expense of traditional physical sports. E-sports certainly accounts for some of the trending away from traditional sports but I have to wonder if the latter hasn't priced its way out of this generation's consciousness.

Taking the family to a ball game is now prohibitively expensive for many parents. That means that children are not experiencing the loyalty and passion that comes from actually sitting in a ballpark, eating a hotdog and rooting for the home team. If parents aren't taking their kids to see a ball game then those kids are not going to grow up with a passion for the sport.

There is also some very interesting information in the article about how and where Gen Z spends its money. For example, according to the research, it spends more at convenience stores and less at mass merchandisers than prior generations. 

And that is where I think we need to be cautious in assessing this generation. They are still very young and they have limited expendable income (if they have income at all as many are still in elementary school).

Bottom line, Gen Z is a cohort with its own distinctive markings, composition, and outlook, which makes it very different from prior generations. We need to study them but in doing so maintain a respectable, wait-and-see attitude. After all, they are still growing up.

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