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Gen Z and millennials

Note from the editor

If there's anything retailers want more than financial stability right now, 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. 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.

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 sampling of our favorite picks.

Cara Salpini Editor

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.

Pay it down: How millennials' relationships with credit cards will change retail

The 2008 recession is just one reason the demographic rejects plastic payments. Brands are now being pushed to fill the void with convenient, frictionless solutions.

Temporary living: The rise of furniture rental

Consumers are less concerned about putting down roots. Is rented furniture the solution?

What does experiential retail even mean these days?

For some it's sprinkles, others meditation pods. What really matters is localization, service and shareability, store design experts say.

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.