Generation Z poses new challenges for online fashion retailers

Dec 1, 2017 | E-commerce and E-retailing, Social media

The latest generation to hit the shops in earnest has very different expectations from their parents, according to new research.

New online research commissioned by Apptus has found that Generation Z, aged between 18 and 24, is the first to have grown up with smartphones, social media and Google and it shows.

They are the most comfortable generation yet when it comes to buying online – 86% say they visit fashion store websites, the research found. That’s much higher than the 59% of their elders, those aged 55+, who visit these websites. On the face of it this generation – which will set the tone for the ‘digital-native’ generations that follow – represents a big opportunity for online fashion retailers.

In reality, however, their expectations of the online retail experience pose a new set of challenges. They expect a seamless, easy digital experience and they expect deep personalisation. For instance, in contrast with earlier generations’ distrust of personalisation, Generation Z is very much in favour.

Indeed, far from finding personalisation creepy, 48% said that an online fashion retail stores’ website remembering previous purchases and making recommendations based on them would make them feel valued – it would be good customer service.

Crucially, however, Generation Z is more likely to want ‘helpful personalisation’. They want to buy and want online retailers to deliver highly relevant experiences that make it simple and easy to buy. The research found a big shift compared with older generations:

  • 49% like “People who bought this also bought…” recommendations (compared with 18% of those aged 55+)
  • 56% like “You might also like…” recommendations (22% of those aged 55+)
  • 44% like autocomplete search boxes (i.e. search boxes that predict search terms based on what I’ve been typing) (17% of those aged 55+)

On the other hand, they find ‘gimmicky’ hard sell, conversion tactics a turn off:

  • Just 10% like “websites that email me after I have visited”
  • Only 12% like “X people bought this in the last hour” messages.

Andrew Fowler, UK country manager at Apptus said: “These findings point to a generation that values a seamless, low friction experience online. An experience that is shaped by relevance and consistent personalisation across every aspect of the online environment – not just search, recommendations and navigation but product selections, listings and sort orders.

“That level of customisation for every visitor simply cannot be achieved manually. In fact, it is a task that computers and machine learning could have been invented for. The power to gather vast quantities of customer data then act on it to deliver ever more relevant and tailored experiences will quickly become a must have as this new generation of shoppers makes its presence felt.”


All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,191 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 22nd – 23rd August 2017. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

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