The Gen Z eCommerce Shopping Trends Your Subscription Brand Needs to Know

Gen Z has significant buying power, which is only expected to grow. Here are the Gen Z shopping trends your eCommerce brand should know to grow your business.

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    Born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z is growing up — and with that comes substantial buying power. 

    It’s estimated that Gen Z collectively earns about $360 billion in disposable income per year. Combined with this generation’s affinity for online shopping and digital experiences in general, eCommerce merchants have an opportunity to substantially grow if they can effectively target Gen Z. 

    And with 46% of Gen Zers reporting that they were interested in subscriptions, subscription brands can especially stand to benefit from understanding the way this generation thinks.  

    To help you better attract and engage these younger consumers, we’re covering the Gen Z trends and priorities that your subscription eCommerce brand needs to know — as well as how you can best cater to these preferences.

    Gen Z Shopping Trends

    Gen Z Shopping Trends For Subscription eCommerce Brands

    They Love an Engaging Digital Experience

    Gen Z grew up surrounded by technology. They know online accounts like the backs of their hands and tend to place more importance on an enriching digital experience. 

    Overall, 9 out of 10 consumers expect a brand to have some kind of online portal — so this value isn’t exclusive to Gen Z. However, Gen Z’s expectations for these portals are especially high, and they have even less patience for brands with ineffective portals (more on this later). 

    In other words, having an online component for your subscription is a start — but let’s be honest, it’s not enough. 

    The real secret to engaging Gen Z is creating a robust, community-building customer account portal — which is conducive to fostering long-lasting relationships. This way, your Gen Z subscribers get an elevated digital experience while also fully controlling their subscription journey.

    There are many ways to transform your portal into a brand engagement hub. For one, you can encourage subscribers to cash in rewards with a loyalty program. Not only will tech-savvy Gen Zers be able to navigate this easily, but they’ll also appreciate being acknowledged for their loyalty. In fact, most Gen Zers are especially excited by brands with a loyalty program

    Gen Z Loyalty Statistic

    Referral rewards are another smart way to play up engagement, lean into the digital landscape, and simultaneously spread awareness through word-of-mouth marketing. You can further strengthen engagement by offering loyalty points to current subscribers as a way to encourage them to refer their friends. 

    We’ll dig into social media in a later section, but we’d be remiss not to mention the role that it can play in your account portal. 

    Incorporating creator upsells directly in your portal by featuring a creator or influencer’s favorite products helps capitalize on Gen Z’s innate comfort with social media, better capture their attention, boost social proof, and increase AOV with effective product recommendations. Plus, Smartrr’s robust account portal even lets you display a featured snippet of your Instagram feed in your portal experience. But again, more on this later. 

    Convenience & Self-Sufficiency Are a Must

    Because Gen Z is so well-versed in technology, they’re used to having fast and easy answers at their fingertips. That means that in addition to controlling their digital experiences, they also reportedly prioritize self-sufficient solutions more so than millennials.

    Gen Z Customer Support Statistic

    Here are some ways you can prioritize convenience and self-sufficiency in your subscription offering: 

    Promote Flexible Subscription Management

    Leading with convenience starts with offering flexibility — because nobody wants to feel trapped by their subscription. 

    Empower your consumers to have complete control over their subscriptions with quick actions like skipping, gifting, delaying, pausing, or altering subscription frequency. The freedom to truly own their experience will be especially meaningful for Gen Z. 

    Another secret to having flexible subscription management is to make a concerted effort to promote it to new and existing subscribers alike. Send personalized messages outlining the many ways subscribers can manage their subscriptions to ensure there’s complete clarity on your offering. Plus, illustrating to your subscribers that they’re in control builds an innate sense of trust in your younger audience. 

    Allow Subscription Management Over Text

    Gen Z is fluent in texting — so SMS subscription management just makes sense. 

    When notifying subscribers that their order is about to be shipped, allow them to quickly adjust their settings directly in the text thread simply by replying “SKIP.”

    SMS Subscription Management

    This is also a prime opportunity to send consumers a link back to their account portal to further manage their settings and continue the digital experience. As an added bonus, remind subscribers how many loyalty points they have so they can choose to redeem an item or a discount while they’re already logged into their portal. 

    They Value Social Impact & Ethics

    About 70% of this younger generation said that they purchase products from ethical companies — so eCommerce businesses absolutely need to consider their social impact if they want to win over Gen Z.  

    In general, brands with a charitable component typically do well with subscriptions. Consumers are extra willing to spend money each month if they’re supporting a good brand — plus, it helps foster community and build loyalty by having your audience rally around a common issue.

    Here are some tips for weaving social causes into your subscription offering:  

    Be Genuine and Consistent

    This is a more abstract tip — but as much as Gen Z values social impact, they hate brands that support causes for suspected performative reasons. In other words: they don’t want you to just post about Earth Day. They want a meaningful commitment. 

    Gen Z Social Impact Quote

    When choosing to align your brand with a cause, pick one that is relevant to your product or means something to you personally. If you have a genuine story to share about why you’re choosing this cause, write about it on your socials and on your site. 

    Further, it’s important that these ethics are true throughout every part of your brand experience. If your bamboo toothbrush gets shipped with plastic toothpaste in a styrofoam container, that automatically negates your communicated values and undermines your cause. Make every effort to illustrate your values in every part of the brand experience. 

    Be Transparent 

    Whether your products are made from sustainable packaging or you donate a portion of your proceeds to a cause, be sure to make every positive aspect of your brand visible.

    Asuvi Deodorant Sustainability Initiative

    For example, Asuvi lives and breathes sustainability. With the tagline “For Nature & Nurture,” clearly-labeled sustainable packaging, and promotion of their 1% For the Planet initiative, Asuvi’s mission is always evident. Transparency will work wonders to build meaningful long-term relationships with subscribers, foster loyalty, and drive engagement. 

    Meters and impact calculators either on your website or in your account portal are also excellent ways to make subscribers feel like part of your mission. These visualizations tap into Gen Z’s digital literacy and will only further encourage subscribers to participate in your social impact efforts. 

    Don’t forget about newsletters either. If you hit impressive milestones related to your initiative, share them with the audience that helped you get there! People like to feel like they’ve made an impact, and this kind of messaging can really move the needle on making your subscribers feel valuable and involved. 

    They’re Highly Active On & Influenced By Social Media

    Believe it or not, 54% of Gen Zers say they’re on social media for at least four hours each day — and 38% report that they’re online even more than that. 

    So it’s no surprise that Gen Z is extremely impacted by social media when it comes to making purchasing decisions. But not all social media platforms are equal in Gen Z’s eyes. Research shows that they’re particularly susceptible to TikTok, Instagram ads, and Instagram influencer posts. Facebook ads, Twitter ads, and Facebook influencer posts have some impact as well, but measurably less so. 

    Here are some creative ways to utilize social media to better appeal to Gen Z: 

    Lean Into Social Commerce

    Leveraging social commerce is one of the most effective ways to capture Gen Z’s attention and grow your audience. 

    Even if some of these buyers opt for one-time purchases, social commerce gives you a prime opportunity to spread brand awareness to Gen Z. Plus, you can ultimately convert these one-time buyers into subscribers with strong messaging and a great customer experience after they’ve gone through with the purchase. 

    One thing to remember about Gen Z is that they typically have a shorter attention span. They’re used to endless scrolling, short videos, and limitless entertainment options. Because of this, you only have a few seconds to win their attention.

    Test different styles of ads, utilize short and snappy copy, and invest in great imagery to display your product. Identifying the right recipe for these shoppable ads will be necessary for having the highest possible impact. 

    Utilize & Reward User-Generated Content (UGC)

    In general, it’s human nature to care about social proof. The more people we see using and loving a product, the more we implicitly trust the quality of the product and the brand by association. 

    User-generated content (UGC) is the key driver of social proof for Gen Z. In fact, consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view UGC as authentic as opposed to brand-generated content.

    UGC covers a range of posts. It includes your customers and brand loyalists who post your content simply because they love your brand, and it also includes paid creator content. In all instances, effective UGC aims to act as a genuine recommendation rather than serve as a more traditional ad. 

    Here are some tips are you’re fleshing out your UGC strategy: 

    • Interact with customers who post about your brand. Comment on and reshare any content that comes in organically. Customers who are empowered to post on their own are extremely valuable, so make sure to follow up with personalized thank you notes whenever possible. 
    • Offer discounts, loyalty points, or a fun giveaway opportunity in exchange for posting. You can also effectively incentivize customers to post about your brand by offering explicit rewards for doing so. This can either be a reward on an individual customer level (like loyalty points to strengthen the subscription experience as a whole) or a bigger giveaway opportunity for anyone who posts and tags your brand.
    • When using creators, ensure the creator actually likes your product. This is major. Gen Z can sniff out an inauthentic creator recommendation better than any other subgroup, and making sure a creator genuinely likes and uses your product is essential.  Start with finding a creator whose content is typically aligned with your style and is relevant to your brand, and approach the conversation from the perspective of a partnership. Don’t be afraid to be picky. Picking the right creator relationship will have a big impact on your ROI. 
    • Start an ambassador program. Much like a great subscription offering, giving ambassadors VIP perks and making them feel highly valued is an exceptional way to incentivize quality content creation while forming a tight-knit following. 

    Talk About Your Subscription Offering — But Not Too Much

    With such an enormous Gen Z audience on social media, it’s a great spot to speak to the benefits of your subscription offering. Don’t forget to sing your subscription program’s praises by outlining its convenience, flexibility, exclusive perks, and substantial savings.

    Having said that, it’s important not to overdo it. At the end of the day, a strong subscription won’t matter if you don’t have a strong product — and it’s crucial to sell your product over your subscription. Think of your subscription-specific marketing as the cherry on top of your social media sundae. It shouldn’t be the core part of your strategy, but it should be a recognizable and important part of it nonetheless. 

    Mindfully targeting Gen Z means opening the door for meaningful, lifelong engagement.

    By leaning into a thoughtfully-designed customer account portal, prioritizing convenience, genuinely promoting an ethical cause, and developing a strong social media presence, you’ll better attract and retain the highly-digital, ever-loyal Gen Z. 

    Of course, leveraging the strongest suite of tools to tap into Gen Z’s loyalty is ultimately the best thing you can do to win their trust. Interested in learning how Smartrr can bring your subscription offering and customer retention to the next level? Request a demo below.

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