Consumer app spending is up 73%.
Consumer app spending is up 73%.

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New research: what Gen Z is buying — and why.

Meet Mark.

He, and his friends, are in Gen Z. At less than 25, their generation is already on track to be the best-educated, yet. And, the most racially and ethnically diverse.1

Not to mention smartphone savvy. 

In fact, Gen Z has almost no memory of life before a smartphone. Mark’s whole upbringing was shaped by it. Last week, we talked to 200 Gen Zers, as they logged out of the Amazon app. And, at 11 to 13 years old, 36% already had a smartphone. Two years later, they started buying stuff.

Clearly, Gen Z is growing up differently. 

The disparities don’t stop there. That plastic in the palm of their hands has shaped every behavior of a generation. And will shape those that follow. To understand them, you need to step inside their smartphones.

Come on in, I’ll show you four major insights.

Insight #1: Gen Z is a cross-channel consumer.

Mark shops online, right?

Wrong. He’s a cross-channel consumer. An omnichannel consumer. In fact, 50% of his generation goes in-store as much as they go online. That’s why we trace their smartphone behavior…it goes everywhere they do.

Here’s what we see in-store.

Mark was raised by Gen X. His parents still shop in-store 40% of the time.2 For Mark, it’s nostalgic. In fact, 49% of Gen Z return online purchases to physical stores and 70% stick around to shop. 63% of that group will spend more in-store than the value of their return.

You said you usually stay and shop, do you spend MORE than the value of your return?

And, here’s what we found online.

For the 43% we surveyed, who prefer online shopping, 62% will use a smartphone to do it. That matters. A lot. Why? The younger your market is, the more you need app + web and brick + mortar insights. It’s the only way to talk to people like Mark, while their feedback is still fresh in their minds.

There’s more…

Insight #2: Gen Z likes a little luxury.

Here’s a neat little fact.

The majority of Gen Z spends $21 to $100 every month on Amazon, see below. While you may wonder how they can — when many are still in high-school, or college — here’s the truth…

This generation has cash.

Sure, they’re mindful of what they spend. Gen Z isn’t stocking up on travel, electronics, furniture, or cars. After all, they grew up in a recession, and are financially focused.3 

But, they do spend.

For 53%, that means paying a premium for products, as opposed to services. Especially in COVID, when services are scarce. They’d rather have something in hand, than their Millennial, experience-based counterparts would.4 And Gen Z would like their stuff to be premium. 

So, what are they buying?

Glad you asked.

Insight #3: Gen Z is more sustainable than Millennials.

Let’s look at Mark again.

He’s a conscious shopper. And, he’s not alone — 86% of Gen Z will purchase sustainable products at least occasionally. So, while everyone seems to think Millennials are the sustainable ones, it’s really Gen Z who’s supporting this movement. Check it out. They care about price, quality, and long-term value.

In fact, 85% will pay up to 30% more for sustainable products. Compare that to the 53% of Millennials who will pay 10% or more. That’s quite a lot. Gen Z seems to be setting a bar.

And, here’s what they’re buying — 73% want personal care products. They’re followed by 71% who buy sustainable clothing. 

Clearly, the marketing you do for Gen Z should focus on value, rather than price.

Insight #4: Gen Z is relatively easy to influence. 

So, where do you reach Gen Z?

Social media is one way, as 28% are likely to buy a brand based on an influencer. But, if you don’t have deep pockets for social media, don’t worry.

There’s much more — in word of mouth.

That’s right, focus on their family and friends — after all, that’s where they’re “relatively” easy to influence 😉. Sorry, I had to. And it’s true, 77% are more likely to follow a recommendation from a friend or family member.

So, while things certainly change from generation to generation. Some things stay the same. And, for now, it sounds like word-of-mouth (WOM) is still the most powerful form of marketing.5 Use it to influence your Gen Z target market, and if you need a little help with research, we’re just an email away.

For more Gen Z, Millennial or Representative research, contact us.   


New habits: 76% now buy online, pick-up in-store.

Foot traffic has evolved.

Once an “in-store” metric, it’s now expanded to include online impressions as well. As an omnichannel metric, foot traffic is as vital to retailers, as essential workers are in a crisis.

In March, shopping came to a screeching halt1—so did in-store traffic. Retailers, big and small, could no longer rely on in-store sales. They were forced to expand. Yet, savvy retailers leaned into the change. They found a way to protect in-store habits, while ringing in extra sales online. 

How BOPIS boosts sales.

A hybrid approach, Buy Online, Pick-up In-Store (BOPIS) brings together the best of both worlds. It lets customers get what they want—and protects the habit of in-store shopping. It’s an evolution.

And, it’s not new. Even so, the click-and-collect method has gained serious adoption in the past few months. In fact, 76% of US consumers are now buying online and picking up items in-store2.

Here’s why BOPIS skyrocketed in the crisis, it’s:

  • Fast. Items are ready for pickup in an hour, not days.
  • Free. 48% of shoppers use BOPIS to counter shipping fees3.
  • Safe. Consumers don’t have mass exposure to other shoppers.
  • Easy. There are no lines and no waiting; it’s instant in-store gratification.
  • Assured. Buyers have a 100% guarantee their item is in-stock at the store.

What should I know?

A BOPIS plan is essential to retailers, consumer goods companies—and market research firms, alike. Here are three ways to leverage consumer insights to build, or strengthen, your plans.

1. Harness the MAYA4 principle.

A woman buying online, ready to pick-up in-store

BOPIS creates a new, but familiar, habit. 

Retailers offset the “newness” of buying online by making it familiar: with an in-store pickup, showcasing the Most Advanced Yet Acceptable (MAYA) principle4 of making something novel feel familiar. Adding that in-store component creates instant comfort.

In times where consumers feel anxious, they crave this level of familiarity. If you’re a retailer and don’t have a BOPIS strategy—or just need to see how you’re doing, it’s a great time test it on real consumers. Observe shoppers as they walk inside a store, go online, or access an app, then survey them to see how they feel about your strategy.

2. Map the online Path-2-Purchase®. 

The crisis cratered brand loyalty5.

When shoppers couldn’t find what they wanted, they broke brand habits. And, they did so en force: 72% of in-store shoppers tried new brands in light of COVID-19. 

Meanwhile, buyers tried on new behaviors. A full 73% moved to shopping on apps. Their actions drove a massive increase in eCommerce. And brands mapped their online Path-2-Purchase® to better meet their needs. You can too. Hear real consumers share in-the-moment, digital insights. Then, adjust the customer experience model for your brand or product, as needed.

3. Survey digital shopping behavior. 

Online sales are up 50%6

Shoppers are buying into omni-channel attitudes and behaviors—literally. And, the more they repeat these behaviors, the more permanent they become. We’re watching it now, 79% have already said they plan to keep shopping on apps after the crisis ends.

The change is permanent. Stay a step ahead of your competition by keeping a pulse on consumer behavior. This is a good time to see where consumers are going online and in-store, find out which apps they’re using, and survey them based on the actions they take. If you need a holistic view, consider a mobile tracker to track their data over time. It’s a helpful way to stay in touch with consumer needs.

We’re facing a new world.

One we didn’t dream of—even four months ago. As crazy as times are, they will also make us stronger. This is the time to be agile in our roles. A time to evolve. To be bold; be brave. And, if it makes sense for your business, to put in a strategy and capitalize on BOPIS. We can help. 


How Coronavirus is impacting consumer spending.

Coronavirus is a consumervirus.

It’s as deadly to the economy, as it is to people.

In less than two months, COVID-191 has ravaged the U.S. economy, savagely infecting consumer behavior as it spreads around the world. And, according to Oxford Economics, it’s estimated the virus will likely lead to $1 trillion in global losses2 before it’s stopped.

Here’s why that matters.

Consumer spending in the U.S. accounts for about 70%3 of the economy. That’s a massive amount of balance precariously placed on the health of consumer behavior. Any move in the wrong direction, and we find ourselves in a very painful predicament.

Our economy depends on China. A lot.

The U.S. supply chain is very closely tied to China. And the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai has found that 78% of American companies don’t have enough staff to resume full production4. Nearly half said the shutdowns are impacting their global supply chains.

On Feb. 1, Apple closed all of its retail stores, and offices in China 5.

The impact on consumerism is clear, especially in technology. China makes roughly half of the world’s LCD panels for TVs, laptops, and computer monitors. Its economic impact6 is expected The longer Coronavirus is in play, the greater the impact will be worse than:

  • 2003 outbreak of SARS
  • 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster
  • 2011 Thailand floods

We’re seeing the early impact on consumer behavior. Eighty-six percent of our consumer panel is limiting social interaction. Travel is social. So, we’d expect other high-traffic businesses to feel the effects3, as the outbreak continues.

Jeff Harrelson, COO at MFour.

What we found in researching consumers

Research highlights from the Surveys On The Go® consumer panel:

  • 38% airport decline was observed through GPS tracking on panelists’ smartphones
  • 72% of panelists expected the concern of Coronavirus to last more than two months
  • 86% planned to limit social interactions, or visits to public places, as a preventive step

This means COVID-19 caused a 38% drop in U.S. consumer behavior.

In early January, the first death7 linked to COVID-19 was reported. Consumers took notice. Two weeks later, MFour traced its consumer panel’s visitation to the top 10 U.S. airports. Using the market research app, Surveys On The Go®, the company found a 38% decline in airport visits. The drop correlates to the first reported Coronavirus case in the U.S8.

The behavioral data tells us travel was much more impacted than what was stated in the surveys we ran. This is why watching what consumers do is more important than just surveying. As we tracked people, we saw up to a 38% dip in travel, compared to the 23% that was stated in surveys. That’s a 15% shift in behavior, observed by tracking their locations.

Research was conducted comparing visitation to top 10 US airports by MFour’s consumer panel.  Examined Jan – Feb 2019 vs. same period 2020.  

For a full copy of the Research Reports click here to contact MFour.



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