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

What the pandemic has cemented about Gen Z

Marketing to young shoppers looks different — and may create different winners — but much of the group's core values have stayed the same.

• Published Nov. 23, 2020

Is the DTC brand aesthetic bad for business?

Sans serif font and bright colored backgrounds are hallmarks of digitally native brands, but it may not matter if they all look the same.

• Published Nov. 16, 2020

Brands could lose fickle Gen Zers over poor digital experiences, survey finds

• Published April 16, 2021

'Relevance is key': Why Nordstrom has gone all-in on DTC brands

The 120-year-old department store has welcomed in some of the hottest digitally native brands, from Bonobos to Everlane, all in an attempt to grow with its consumer.

• Published March 10, 2021

What's old is new: Brands craving connection with consumers turn to livestreaming

Video e-commerce is going live in the U.S., and retailers are pinning their hopes on its success.

• Published May 19, 2021

Will suburbia save the mall?

It's not clear how many people are leaving cities due to the pandemic. Or how much it helps the once-popular shopping destination if they do.

• Published April 9, 2021

Snapchat bets big on augmented reality's e-commerce future

The social media app has been setting the stage to blend e-commerce with its AR capabilities.

• Published May 5, 2021

Will COVID-19 push contactless payments into the mainstream?

Multiple barriers have curtailed retailers' contactless payment integration. But a pandemic may be the catalyst to widespread adoption.

• Published June 9, 2020

Algorithms vs. humans: Who's better at predicting fashion trends?

These days data is plentiful, useful and fast. But some in the industry warn that old fashioned merchants are undervalued at a crucial time.

• Published April 29, 2021

How COVID-19 could disrupt store credit cards

​Despite a pandemic-induced recession and uncertainty over another federal stimulus bill, store cards remain a channel for customer engagement.

• Published Dec. 2, 2020

Understanding the Gen Z and Milennial consumer

If there's anything retailers want, it's to understand Gen Z. The demographic may be young, but paired with millennials, they 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.

included in this trendline
  • Ikea goes after urban millennial consumers
  • How to get on Gen Z's wish list
  • Why marketers must evolve their outlook on gender — or lose out
Our Trendlines go deep on the biggest trends. These special reports, produced by our team of award-winning journalists, help business leaders understand how their industries are changing.
Davide Savenije Editor-in-Chief at Industry Dive.