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What Happens at Retail When You Cross a Gen Z With a Millennial?

zillennials, retail, shopping

As zillennials — the bridge generation born between 1991 and 1999 — grow into their prime spending years, their shopping habits are becoming increasingly influential in the retail landscape.

This cohort, nestled between millennials and Generation Z, exhibits unique characteristics that set them apart from either more traditional generational grouping. The new PYMNTS Intelligence study, “Generation Zillennial: How They Shop,” draws from a survey of more than 3,600 U.S. consumers in May, digging into the nuances of different generations’ shopping behaviors. Here are five key takeaways from the report.

The Digital-First Shopper

Zillennials lead the charge in the shift toward online shopping. According to the study, 37% of zillennials prefer shopping exclusively online, a higher percentage than both non-zillennial Gen Z and millennials, who each sit at 34%, while for the overall population, it is just 33%.

For retailers looking to reach this growing demographic, this digital-first approach highlights the importance of optimizing merchants’ online presence and providing seamless eCommerce experiences to attract and retain this tech-savvy audience.

Straight From the Horse’s Mouth

Person-to-person recommendations are a key driver of purchasing decisions for zillennials. The report reveals that 39% of zillennials were influenced by recommendations from friends or family in the last month, versus just 30% of the overall population. This preference underscores the power of word-of-mouth marketing and the potential for leveraging customer reviews and testimonials to influence zillennial shoppers.

The Price Is Right

When choosing where to shop, zillennials prioritize price over brand selection. Forty-one percent of zillennials consider better pricing more important than brand availability, compared to 38% of the overall sample, while only 21% cares more about the brands they prefer.

Notably, zillennials are more polarized than the population overall, likelier to either prioritize brands or prices, with only 38% saying that both factors are equally important, versus 46% of the complete sample.

To Each Their Own

This polarization can be explained by the different kinds of zillennial shoppers. The study categorizes consumers in this generation into four distinct persona groups: budget-minded, wealth builders, free spenders and givers. Each group has unique shopping preferences and behaviors.

For example, 47% of zillennials are budget-minded, often seeking the best deals both online and in-person, making this far and away the most common mindset.

Meanwhile, 37% are wealth builders, prioritizing saving or invest extra money, and 10% are free spenders, who want to use extra money to buy or do something fun. The highest income but least common group, givers, averaging $106,000 annual household income and making up less than 4% of zillennials, would donate extra money to charities or gift it to friends or family.

The Omnichannel Advantage

While zillennials show a strong preference for online shopping, a significant portion also values a mix of online and in-person experiences. For example, 39% of budget-minded zillennials shop both online and in-store to find the best deals.

Meanwhile, givers are the likeliest to want to shop only online, while free spenders are more interested than other groups in shopping only in person.

Understanding the distinct shopping habits of zillennials, and of the different subcategories therein, is crucial for retailers looking to capture their growing spending power. Their preference for online shopping, reliance on person-to-person recommendations, and price sensitivity can suggest guidelines for developing effective retail strategies.

By acknowledging the diversity within the zillennial cohort and leveraging an omnichannel approach, retailers can better meet the needs of these discerning consumers.