Generation Z now makes up 40% of global consumers, according to McKinsey, accounting for $150 billion in spending in the United States alone
As these young shoppers take over as the biggest consumer group, the fashion industry will need to make necessary changes to meet their expectations and demands. Quality and price will continue to impact purchasing decisions, but so too will the values that modern companies adopt core to missions that include sustainability, inclusivity, and traceability.
What do Gen Z consumers expect from the businesses they shop, and what can fashion brands do to create a more fitting industry focused on better and more inclusive customer experiences that meet the myriad of customer body shapes and preferences?
As demonstrated by widespread protest marches led by young activists such as Greta Thunberg, Gen Z is taking a stand against spiraling environmental issues – even more so than previous generations. This new generation believes in its collective power to force change, which will increase the pressure on the industry to clean up its act.
According to the World Bank, the fashion industry contributes 10% of annual global carbon emissions. If clothing consumption continues at its current pace, this will surge by an additional 50% over the next 10 years.
The new generation is rightly concerned — close to 60% of all clothing ends up in incinerators or landfills within a few years. However, fast fashion, which has significantly contributed to the industry’s spiraling environmental impact, has experienced significant decreases in growth as the new generation seeks change. According to a study by Thredup, more than half of young consumers say they would purchase higher quality items that last longer in order to reduce the fashion industry’s abundance of waste.
The pandemic may accelerate this trend. In the wake of the pandemic, 35% of all female shoppers intend to buy fewer garments according to the RSA, increasing the pressure for fashion to prioritize quality over quantity.
Environmentally-conscious Gen Z shoppers will expect the industry to do more to overcome its struggles with sustainability. Some 90% of Gen Z consumers believe companies have a responsibility to not only highlight environmental issues but actively work to overcome them, according to Porter Novelli.
However, with 45% of Gen Z shoppers likely to seek additional information on a product or company before making a purchase, they won’t just take your word for it that you’re encouraging change.
Younger generations have already forced transparency and traceability in other industries, such as food. Fashion is unlikely to be exempt. As this demographic grows, the fashion industry will face greater pressure to provide proof of sustainable production through increased traceability throughout the supply chain. Subsequently, brands won’t only need to scrutinize their own practices, but those of their partners and suppliers too.
Some 36% of Gen Z believe ‘open-mindedness’ best describes their generation, according to psfk. Young generation’s ‘be yourself’ mantra is reflected in what they desire from brands. Close to half of Gen Z shoppers, for example, say they value brands that don’t label garments as male or female.
Gen Z cares less about how popular a product is, and more about how it helps them to express their individuality, with three in five willing to pay a premium for personalized and tailor-made items, as reported by McKinsey.
Gen Z consumers expect technology to be integrated into most aspects of their lives. Unsurprisingly, according to Drapers, online and mobile shopping are the preferred fashion retail channels for 58% of the demographic.
However, this isn’t the end of brick and mortar. Gen Z recognizes the benefits physical stores provide, such as the ability to try on items, but wants to see brands leverage technology to create a cohesive and convenient multi-channel shopping experience.
As reported by the National Retail Federation, more than half already use their smartphones while browsing stores to compare prices, while just under half use devices to ask friends and family for advice.
By leveraging the technology that is already in customers’ hands, brands and retailers can create a better shopping experience. 3DLOOK’s solution, for instance, can provide customers with perfect body measurements wherever they are, using just two photos. In turn, Gen Z shoppers gain access to the kind of innovations they expect — faster fitting processes, accurate size recommendations, and 3D dressing model capabilities.
Fashion technology will play a crucial role in creating an industry fit for Gen Z, helping to design more inclusive and personalized clothing that drives down returns and waste, and improves sustainability.
Gen Z demands change, and the pandemic has provided an opportunity to do so. We must now tackle long-standing problems in the industry, and prepare fashion for a new generation of conscious consumers who prefer less of better and want to know where their products are coming from and how they are made.