Gen Z 101: Shopping Habits, Online Behaviors & Money Saving Tactics

Zooming in on Gen Z Shoppers

Understanding Gen Z shoppers is increasingly important for brands & retailers. As members of this generation enter adulthood and the workforce, their buying power will continue to grow. But understanding this generation can be tricky, with significant differences in life stage and lifestyle even within the 18+ cohort of this generation. What do businesses need to know when looking to connect with Gen Z shoppers?

Numerator’s recent Gen Z Report highlights the intragenerational differences of adult Gen Z consumers (ages 18-26) to help brands & retailers understand the nuances in shopping habits, spending and saving within this up-and-coming generation. Read on for a summary of the report’s key findings.

Gen Z Shopping Habits at a Glance

  • Gen Z shoppers are highly influenced by their stage of life and living situations, with many still in school or living with parents / guardians.
  • Younger Gen Z adults spend more of their money on discretionary items like dining out and apparel.
  • As Gen Z shoppers start their careers and move to their own homes, their spending shifts to more essentials-based categories like groceries, household goods, medications and housing.
  • Around age 21, many Gen Z shoppers begin focusing on budgeting and look for new ways to save money.
  • Despite their tech-enabled upbringings, Gen Z’ers spend less online than other generations, something that is likely to change as their spending power grows.

How does Gen Z’s life stage impact their shopping habits?

Adult Gen Z consumers are in a highly transitional stage of life— while younger Gen Z adults are graduating school and getting pets, older Gen Z’ers are transitioning to new jobs or starting families. While 60% of 18-to-20-year-olds live in someone else’s home, over 70% have shifted to independent living by the age of 26, according to Numerator’s 2023 Gen Z shopper survey. Those living at home are less likely to be responsible for basic living expenses, leaving them with more discretionary income for non-essentials.

As Gen Z’ers move to their own homes and enter the workforce, they also increase their financial independence, with 73% claiming to be mostly financially independent by the age of 26— up from 45% at age 20. This increased independence means increased responsibility for purchasing essentials. Given the vast intragenerational differences among Gen Z’ers, it’s important to take a nuanced view and increase targeting by specific age groups and living situations.

gen z life stages

What do Gen Z shoppers spend their money on?

Between the ages of 18 and 26, consumer spending shifts from discretionary to essentials-focused. Dining out (59%) and Apparel (58%) are the top two categories 18-to-20-year-old Gen Z’ers say they pay for themselves. Groceries become the top category purchased independently as Gen Z shoppers age, replacing dining out. Observed spending in most categories increase with age, but not all categories experience linear growth— grocery spending sees a dip in spend around age 23 when many Gen Z’ers become more conscious of their budgets.

How do Gen Z shoppers save money?

Increased financial independence also means increased need for money saving measures— age 21 is when many Gen Z shoppers begin trying to save money. Buying cheaper brands & products is the top way Gen Z shoppers look to save money, followed by cooking at home instead of eating out, a tactic that increases most significantly between the ages of 18–20 and 21–23. With this increased focus on budgeting, brands and retailers should aim to present money-saving opportunities to Gen Z shoppers around this age to gain their business and loyalty.

gen z saving money chart

Does Gen Z shop online more than other generations?

Currently, Gen Z spends less online than other generations— they make the majority of their CPG trips in traditional channels like food and mass. However, Gen Z’ers are significantly more engaged with their mobile devices, social media and technology in general. Additionally, they’re more likely to view online shopping & deliveries as “convenient” as they age, pointing to increased usage in the future. At their current stage, brands & retailers should use technology to connect with Gen Z shoppers, but plan for in-store purchases. As they age and find more value in online shopping and grow their overall buying power, Gen Z’s tech-savviness is likely to translate to increased ecommerce spending.

gen z online shopping behavior

Download our report to learn more about Gen Z

Numerator’s Zooming in on Gen Z Buyers report goes deeper into the trends outlined in this article. Download the full report to learn more about this up-and-coming generation of shoppers. For more information on how Gen Z shoppers are interacting with your particular brand, category or retailer, get in touch with us today.

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