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Gen Z and millennials

Note from the editor

If there's anything retailers want more than financial stability, it's to understand Gen Z. The demographic may be young, but paired with millennials, they also hold the keys to the industry's future — in some ways even more now as retailers look forward to an eventual recovery from the pandemic. That makes it worth a retailer's time to figure out what makes them tick.

The answer, unfortunately for retail, is not straightforward. Gen Z is still in the process of growing up, with the oldest members in their young 20s, and — as tends to happen — they're changing as they grow. Researchers are learning more about the generation, but what's important to them now could be totally different from what's important in five years.

Many studies show that the group likes shopping in physical stores and enjoys spending time in malls, which is good news for retailers looking to form personal connections with a younger consumer base, but should not be taken to mean Gen Z is the savior of suffering mall stores. The generation has high expectations for retail, from how well a retailer's technology functions to what the in-store experience is to how sustainable the products are. And behind those trappings lurks that elusive brand trait — authenticity.

Millennials may be on the verge of being shunted aside for their younger counterparts, but the generation played an active role in changing traditional retail strategies. Read: rental models, subscriptions, how we buy furniture, etc. Retailers can't afford to ignore this group either, even as the next generation ascends. Figuring out how to appeal to a group still scarred by the Great Recession and visions of unending student loans is no easy trick either.

Add to both of those equations an uncertainty over how much of those trends will still hold true once we're through this period of upheaval and change caused by the intersection of the pandemic with sustained national protests across the country. 

We'll go over this, and more, below, but as with anything — this isn't the end of our coverage. Consumer behavior is constantly shifting and what we've selected below is just a sample of our analysis of those evolving trends.

Cara Salpini Senior Editor

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Millennial, Gen Z shoppers lead contactless payment adoption

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Ikea goes after urban millennial consumers

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Are traditional wedding registries a thing of the past?

While gift registries remain relevant, more and more couples are asking for cash to fund experiences, down payments on homes or fertility treatments.

H&M is ready for Gen Z

The fast-fashion retailer’s latest moves seem tailor-made for a cohort that wants companies to align with its values.

How to get on Gen Z's wish list

A unique assortment is just one part of the challenge, as the young group has high expectations and low loyalty. Here's what brands need to know.

Why marketers must evolve their outlook on gender — or lose out

From consumer campaigns to product design, the adoption of less narrow, binary definitions could be critical to growth and winning over audiences like Gen Z.