All retail brands should be paying attention to Gen S spending habits this year. The oldest in Generation Z—those born between 1997 – 2012—are all grown up. Now that they’ve gotten their degrees and entered the workforce, we’re beginning to see the shape of their views and desires. Like every generation before, they will one day transform American society, so it’s important that we pay attention to their priorities. Gen Z spending power will shape retail over the next decade.
Even though Gen Z is still young, their spending power is significant. Their current spending power is worth hundreds of billions of dollars, and as they get older, this number will only increase. On top of this, younger Gen Z holds some influence over older generations as their Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial family members purchase gifts or even necessities. Gen Z is an important demographic that companies, especially those in ecommerce, must pay attention to. However, Gen Z is still young. While paying attention to Gen Z, companies should still maintain a relationship with older generations. Diversification is key; both Gen Z and older generations prefer a range of shopping methods.
Download our free guide on gaining Gen Z loyalty.
So, what is Gen Z’s spending power, and how do they make their purchasing decisions? Let’s take a look at some stats.
Want to know more about the influence of Gen Z? Download our ebook here.
Understanding the significance of Gen Z in the consumer market
Currently, Gen Z contributes to about 5% of spending in the United States. However, that number is expected to grow to 17% by 2030. Gen Z will enter their peak earning years imminently, making them an important market.
Even though Gen Z only accounts for a small percentage of spending, they tend to spend their money in key areas. This generation purchases items on social media more than any other, and they are more likely to research products online before making a purchasing decision.
However, some statistics show surprising habits that go against common Gen Z stereotypes, especially concerning brick-and-mortar businesses. Let’s take a look at the stats surrounding Gen Z spending habits.
Gen Z uses social media to make purchases
Perhaps unsurprisingly, social media isn’t just a form of entertainment for Gen Z, but a tool. Statistics show that the younger generation is more likely to partake in online interaction with the brands that they enjoy, use YouTube for research about a product, and even make purchases through social media sites and live events.
- Twenty-nine percent of Gen Z surveyed said that they were more likely to purchase from a brand with a social media presence (SurveyMonkey)
- The hashtag #tiktokmademebuyit has more than 6.7 billion views, indicating a new Gen Z shopping habit within social media, particularly TikTok. (Forbes)
- A whopping 97% of Gen Z shoppers claim that they get their inspiration from social media. This suggests that partnering with influencers and content creators is highly important. (The Influencer Marketing Factory)
- Among Gen Z adults, 74% opt for mobile shopping. Their preferred sources? Youtube comes out on top with 47% of Gen Z researching their products here before making a purchasing decision, then Instagram, SnapChat, and TikTok. (Hubspot)
- Companies that want to dip into this market need to be aware that Gen Z cares about their privacy. About one-third worry about online security measures and 38% are concerned about brands sharing their data. (SheerID)
Gen Z prefers to communicate online via smartphone
According to numerous reports, Gen Z likes to reach out to brands via the Internet. Like Millennials, they avoid phone calls in favor of social media chats or email. To reach this demographic, companies need to make their online customer service options readily available and mobile-friendly.
- A 2022 survey found that 57% of Gen Z prefer to be contacted by brands via email. Social media is the second preferred reach-out method at 44%. (Statista)
- A large number of Gen Z consumers shop on their mobile phones up to 4 times per week—68%. (VentureBeat)
Gen Z still shops brick-and-mortar
In spite of their increased preference for social media shopping, a large portion of Gen Z still enjoys brick-and-mortar shopping, especially if they need to try something on or see something in person.
- Gen Z is straying away from ecommerce sites like Amazon. Only 37% said they rely on these types of online shops while 67% of older generations still make frequent use of such entities. (CGS)
- A vast majority of Gen Z (81%) still prefer shopping in-store, and 73% enjoy discovering new products in-store. The study found that Gen Z enjoyed the retail therapy that brick-and-mortar stores provided, allowing them to disconnect from their phones. (CBS)
How much spending power does Gen Z have?
Although Gen X and older still hold most of the spending power (around 68% according to Afterpay), Gen Z spending is on the rise. As more people belonging to Gen Z enter the workforce year after year, this number will only increase.
Gen Z’s spending power is on the rise
The older Gen Z gets, the greater their spending power. Perhaps due to the fact that they’ve seen multiple recessions in their young lives, they tend to embrace gig culture and take on side hustles. Because of this, their spending power is growing quickly.
- Business Insider estimated that Gen Z has around $360 billion in disposable income. This may be due to the fact that Gen Z spending habits show they are all about the hustle culture, with many of them having side gigs alongside their full-time jobs. (Influencer Marketing)
- As more Gen Z enters adulthood, they will make up a larger percentage of the workforce. It’s estimated that by 2030, 30% of the workforce will be Gen Z. (Zenefits)
- It’s not just adults that have spending power. It’s estimated that Gen Z teens have an average of $115 in monthly spending money. This is on top of the influence they have on their parents when making purchasing decisions for their Gen Z kids. (YPulse)
- About half of Gen Z (46%) take on gig work on top of their full-time jobs. (Workforce Institute)
- Gen Z doesn’t just have spending power. They also have spending influence. Because of Gen Z’s influence on their parents, Gen X has become more willing to pay more for sustainable products (42% more), and their preference for sustainable brands went up by 24%, too. (Influence of Gen Z ebook)
How much buying power do Millennials and Gen Z have?
Although Millennials and Gen Z have similarities, they are still two very distinct groups. A key factor in this is that most Millennials remember a time before the digital era. Many of them grew up with encyclopedias and made the transition to Google in their adolescent years. Conversely, Gen Z has only known a world in which the internet ruled all. You can see this contrast in the way they consume media. While many Millennials still value text-based platforms, like blogs and digital articles, most of Gen Z prefer video.
That being said, the combined buying power of Millennials and Gen Z will lead the way within the next 10 years. Therefore, companies would do well to switch their focus to these younger generations in the upcoming years.
The spending power of Millennials and Gen Z: The stats
- Sixty-one percent of Gen Z and 53% of Millennials follow the brands they like on social media. (SurveyMonkey)
- In 2021, the combined spending power of Millennials and Gen Z was around 30% of all spending. (The Economist)
- Millennials and Gen Z shy away from credit cards compared to Gen X, and they (especially Gen Z) embrace Buy Now, Pay Later models rather than credit cards in order to make their purchases. (Rethink Retail)
What is Gen Z’s consumption behavior?
Gen Z is known for making socially conscious purchases, thriftiness, and being highly informed. This is likely due to the vast amount of information that has been available to them since birth as well as the fact that many of them saw a recession in their younger years. While older generations believed that they would have ample opportunity to earn wealth, most Gen Z grew up with an understanding that the economy won’t always be in their favor. Therefore, they are much more careful with their money and spend a lot more time researching their purchases.
Gen Z is the thriftiest generation
While Millennials were born in an economic boom, Gen Z entered the world in a recession and have seen their parents and older siblings struggle financially. Experts believe this is why Gen Z tends to be thriftier than older generations. Like those who were raised during the Depression, they are more likely to look for a bargain or shop secondhand.
- Gen Z saves an average of one-third of their income. (Influencer Marketing)
- An astonishing 80% of Gen Z stated that they were more likely to shop for secondhand items. (Influencer Marketing) This may be due to their thriftiness or due to their eco-conscious mentality.
- Forty-eight percent of Gen Z participants of a 2023 survey said that they shop primarily at discount stores. Gen Z luxury spending is quite low: only 9% said that they shop at luxury retailers. (ICSC)
They are willing to pay more for sustainable products
Gen Z holds sustainability in high regard. Although we’ve known the danger of climate change since the 70s, it is within their lifetime that its catastrophic consequences are imminent. In spite of their thriftiness, they are willing to pay more for eco-friendly products, and they take things like packaging into consideration when making purchasing decisions. They may even be more likely to spend a little bit extra on a sustainable cart. In order to harness Gen Z’s spending power, companies should do what they can to improve their sustainability goals.
- Packaging is important to Gen Z. A survey by Kearney found that 65% of Gen Z respondents wanted simple packaging and 58% preferred eco-friendly packaging. (Kearney)
- Fifty-seven percent of Gen Z wanted locally sourced products and/or products that are environmentally sustainable, according to a 2019 survey. (Kearney)
- According to a 2020 survey, 75% of Gen Z respondents stated that sustainability was important to them when making purchasing decisions. (IBM)
- Sustainability trumps thriftiness as 64% of Gen Z participants said that they would pay more for sustainable products. (Deloitte)
- It’s not just Gen Z that wants to shop sustainably. Consumers of all generations are willing to spend more for a sustainable product, up from just 58% of consumers just a few years ago. In fact, an astounding 90% of Gen X consumers said they would be willing to spend up to 10% more for a sustainable product. Two years ago, this number was only 34%. It’s clear that sustainability is a top concern for everyone. (Influence of Gen Z ebook)
They care about authenticity
As the first generation to know nothing but the digital era, Gen Z knows how to do their research. They are savvy, and they can see through sly marketing tactics. They prefer companies that are authentic, transparent, and genuine.
- A 2021 survey found that 32% of Gen Z point to authenticity as a driving factor in their purchasing decisions. (SurveyMonkey)
- Eighty-two percent of Gen Z survey participants said that they place more trust in a company if their ads feature actual customers. (BusinessWire)
Social media is a driving factor in purchasing decisions
Because they are attached to their phones (a large number of Gen Z openly admit to being addicted to their smartphones), social media greatly influences their purchasing decisions. Although they are receptive to ads they see on social media, they prefer when someone they follow recommends a product or when a brand produces content that they enjoy. Because they make a lot of purchases online, they prefer easy check-out processes, fast delivery times, and a seamless user experience.
- As of 2020, Gen Z was spending over eight hours a day online. This number is almost surely higher today as the survey at the time indicated that this number would only grow. (Global Web Index)
- A purchase driver for 28% of Gen Z is a simple online checkout experience. (Global Web Index)
- A large number of Gen Z consumers are adventurous when it comes to new technology for online purchases. Forty percent of participants in a 2021 survey said that they would try livestream shopping, and 24% said they would try on clothes using augmented reality. (CGS)
- A 2023 survey found that 45% of Gen Z consumers who made a purchase via social media did so because they saw a product that they liked. Twenty-four percent made one because the platform made it easy to do so. (Insider Intelligence)
- About 55% of Gen Z consumers have made a purchase after seeing a brand on TikTok. (AdWeek)
- Reviews are important. Around 68% of Gen Z consumers read or watch at least three reviews before making a purchase. (The Influencer Marketing Factory)
- YouTube is the go-to resource for researching products for 47% of Gen Z consumers. (SurveyMonkey)
- Instagram is used by 60% of Gen Z consumers to discover new products and services. (Glossy)
- Forty-eight percent of both Gen Z and younger Millennials have made a purchase from social media. (Statista)
- The majority (83%) of those browsing TikTok have said that trending products have influenced them toward a purchase. (Influence Marketing Factory)
Major Spending Categories for Gen Z
Gen Z spending habits show they care the most about fashion, makeup and beauty products, technology, and their pets. This is perhaps due to their young age and few major bills. Gen Z prefers Buy Now, Pay Later options over credit cards, limiting their interest rates, and a large number of 18 – 25-year-olds (about one-third) still live at home. Furthermore, some surveys suggest that Gen Z makes more personal purchases because of social media influence. Let’s check out the numbers.
Where does Gen Z spend their money?
- A 2022 survey found that Gen Z spends an average of $1,885 on their pets every year. This is more than every other generation surveyed. (AAHA)
- Another 2022 survey determined that Gen Z spends around $157.07 on entertainment each month. This primarily encompasses streaming services, music, and gaming. (self.inc)
- Social media drives 49% of Gen Z consumers to buy more clothing. Similar numbers were found when it came to purchasing beauty products (34%) and technology (31%). (SurveyMonkey)
- Among female Gen Z consumers, 40% shopped for clothing twice a month. (Statista)
- While most Gen Z consumers still enjoy brick-and-mortar shopping, another survey found that 51.5% of Gen Z said that they mostly shop online when buying clothes and gadgets. (self.inc) This highlights the importance of diversifying where your products might be found.
Although stereotypes place Gen Z as more consumerist than older generations, they seem to be careful with their money. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re not making purchases. They’re simply doing their research beforehand.
Businesses that want to reach this demographic need to focus on the following things to capture Gen Z’s spending power:
- Increase their social media presence, primarily through video or influencer partnerships.
- Improve their CSR, especially when it comes to sustainability. (You can check out some sustainability tips here.)
- Ensure that their websites are mobile-friendly and that they have a solid customer service messaging system.
- Provide deals. Gen Z is thrifty, and they love a good sale.