Gen Z Consumer Behavior & Shopping Habits

The five top Gen Z consumer values are: a digital-first mindset, sustainability, diversity and inclusion, authenticity, and accessibility.

Blog Post

9 minute read

May 06, 2024

Every generation comes with iconic moments, unique worldwide talents, and shifts in ideals and values. Gen Z already accounts for over 40% of the consumer population, and as their buying power continues to increase, understanding Gen Z consumer behavior is crucial for modern businesses.

If you’re looking to understand today's youth, join us below as we define five trademark characteristics and pillar values of the Gen Z consumer. 

  1. Digital-First
  2. Sustainability and Social Responsibility
  3. Diversity and Inclusion
  4. Authenticity and Individuality
  5. Accessibility  

Check out Impact’s eBook, The Ultimate List of Marketing Resources for Any Campaign for ideas on how to elevate any campaign you’re planning. 

What Is Gen Z?  

Gen Z refers to anyone born between 1997 and 2012.  

Sometimes referred to as post-millennials or the iGeneration, Generation Z comes after Millennials but before Generation Alpha. Unlike their predecessors, members of Gen Z grew up in a world where smart technology and social media were already easily accessible and widespread, which shaped their experiences, behaviors, and perspectives.


Generation populations

This constant exposure to technology has resulted in Gen Z being highly tech-savvy, with fluency in digital communication, information access, and online social media interactions.

Moreover, Gen Z is known for its progressive attitudes towards social issues such as diversity, inclusion, and environmental sustainability. With the increased global visibility that technology has provided, many Gen Z individuals are passionate about making a positive impact on society and advocating for change.

Gen Z also exhibits characteristics shaped by their socio-economic context, including a practical approach to education and career choices, a desire for financial stability in the face of economic uncertainty, and an entrepreneurial mindset fueled by access to online resources and platforms.

Identifying Generation Z Consumer Behavior & Values

With a stronger understanding of who Gen Z is, organizations can better tailor their messaging, advertising, and content to be aligned with the preferences and values of this demographic. This is especially important as Generation-Z begins to enter the workforce and make up a larger portion of the consumer market in general.  

By aligning your business practices with the values held by Gen Z, you’ll find it easier to connect with a growing and powerful consumer base that makes up more of the market each year.   

Join us below to learn more about the values that Gen Z holds when it comes to the consumer experience and brand expectations.   

1. Digital First

Having grown up in an era where digital technology is omnipresent, Gen Z individuals prioritize digital channels as their primary means of communication, entertainment, and information gathering. 

For Gen Z, digital platforms are not just tools; they are an integral part of their identity and social fabric.  

The digital-first mindset influences Gen Z's consumer behavior and expectations. They expect seamless and personalized digital experiences from brands, whether it's through mobile apps, e-commerce websites, or social media channels.  

Gen Z consumers are adept at conducting online research, reading reviews, and comparing products and prices before making purchasing decisions. They value convenience, speed, and customization in their digital interactions. Brands that fail to meet these expectations risk being overlooked in favor of competitors who offer a more digitally optimized experience. 

Ultimately, the digital-first mindset of Generation Z reflects their deep integration with digital technology and their preference for digital communication, information access, and consumer experiences.  

2. Sustainability and Social Responsibility  

Generation Z consumers place a significant emphasis on sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR), viewing them as essential factors in their purchasing decisions and brand loyalty.

Unlike previous generations, Gen Z grew up in an era where environmental issues like climate change, pollution, and resource depletion are pressing concerns, often amplified by widespread media coverage and social media activism. As a result, many Gen Z individuals are deeply passionate about environmental sustainability and expect the brands they support to share and act on these values.

For Gen Z consumers, sustainability goes beyond mere marketing rhetoric; they expect genuine commitment to environmental stewardship from brands. They prefer companies that adopt sustainable practices throughout their supply chains, reduce their carbon footprint, minimize waste, and prioritize ethical sourcing and production methods.  

Brands that demonstrate transparency and accountability in their sustainability efforts are more likely to earn the trust and loyalty of Gen Z consumers.

Similarly, Gen Z consumers value corporate social responsibility beyond environmental sustainability, encompassing social issues. They expect companies to take a stand on social justice issues, support causes aligned with their values, and actively contribute to making a positive impact on society.  

3. Diversity and Inclusion

Gen Z consumers place a high value on diversity and inclusion, viewing them as fundamental principles that should be reflected in society and embraced by the brands they support.  

Exposed to a wide range of perspectives through social media, Gen Z individuals prioritize inclusivity and representation in all aspects of life. They are vocal advocates for equality and are quick to call out instances of discrimination or exclusion.

For Gen Z, diversity goes beyond mere tokenism; they want to see true representation and meaningful inclusion across race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and other dimensions of identity. They expect brands to reflect the diversity of their customer base in their marketing campaigns, product offerings, and corporate culture.  

Companies that demonstrate a genuine commitment to diversity and inclusion by fostering diverse talent, promoting inclusive workplace practices, and celebrating people from all backgrounds in their messaging are more likely to resonate with Gen Z consumers.

Moreover, Gen Z consumers are quick to hold brands accountable for their actions and responses to social issues related to diversity and inclusion. They use their purchasing power to support brands that embrace diversity, while also boycotting those that engage in discriminatory practices or fail to address diversity-related issues adequately.  

As a result, brands that prioritize diversity and inclusion not only appeal to Gen Z consumers but also benefit from increased brand loyalty and a positive reputation within this socially conscious demographic. 

4. Individuality and Authenticity  

Gen Z consumers place a premium on brand authenticity and individuality, valuing genuine, transparent interactions over traditional marketing tactics.  

Members of Gen Z are particularly adept at detecting inauthenticity and are drawn to brands that express genuine values and a distinct personality. They seek brands that are unafraid to showcase their imperfections, engage in honest conversations, and authentically connect with their audience.

For example, consider how Domnio’s 2010 rebrand involved embracing real-life customer reviews bashing their current recipes.  

Brands that embrace their unique identity, celebrate diversity, and foster genuine connections with their audience are more likely to resonate with Gen Z consumers who value individuality and authenticity in a world saturated with cookie-cutter brands and generic messaging.

Further, Gen Z consumers prioritize their individuality and personal expression, seeking products and experiences that reflect their unique identity and values. They reject one-size-fits-all approaches and are drawn to brands that empower them to express themselves.  

Customization, personalization, and co-creation are key strategies for brands looking to engage with Gen Z consumers. By embracing authenticity and celebrating individuality, brands can forge deeper connections with Gen Z consumers and earn their loyalty in an increasingly competitive market.

“62% are willing to pay extra for personalization, more than any preceding generation.” 

5. Accessibility  

Gen Z consumers also highly value accessibility, particularly in the context of instant gratification.

Growing up in the digital age where information, products, and services are readily available at their fingertips, Gen Z has developed an expectation for quick and seamless access to whatever they desire. This mindset is deeply intertwined with their reliance on technology and their ability to navigate online platforms effortlessly. 

For Gen Z, accessibility translates to getting what they want, when they want it.  

Consequently, Gen Z consumers expect the same level of immediacy and convenience in all of their consumer experiences. Brands that can deliver on this expectation by offering fast and efficient services, streamlined purchasing processes, and responsive customer support are more likely to capture the attention and loyalty of Gen Z consumers. 

In the realm of e-commerce, for instance, Gen Z consumers prefer platforms like Amazon Prime that offer features like one-click purchasing, same-day delivery, and hassle-free returns, allowing them to make impulse purchases the way older generations did in brick and mortar stores to satisfy their desire for instant gratification.  

Similarly, in the realm of content consumption, they gravitate towards platforms that provide on-demand access to a wide range of content, from streaming services to social media platforms, where they can curate their own personalized experiences and consume content at their own pace.  

Overall, accessibility in the form of instant gratification plays a significant role in shaping the preferences and behaviors of Gen Z consumers, who prioritize efficiency and convenience in every aspect of their lives. 

Wrapping Up on Gen Z Consumer Behavior

With their buying power already surging over $360 billion, Gen Z is one of the most important consumer demographics. By understanding the values, ideals, and typical consumer behaviors native to members of Gen Z, businesses can better tailor their marketing and advertising efforts to align with those of the target demographic.  

Ultimately, if you’re looking to target Gen Z consumers you’ll want to focus on things like:  

  • A seamless digital presence
  • Sustainable operations
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Brand individuality and authenticity
  • Accessibility and speed of service

By investing in the above elements, you can create a powerful brand experience that attracts and engages Gen Z consumers.

Learn more about how you can evolve your marketing efforts with Impact’s eBook, The Ultimate List of Marketing Resources for Any Campaign.


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