The Rise of the Gen Z Consumer

Introduction: The Experience Factor Members of Gen Z are graduating into adulthood and many are finding their independence, as the oldest members of this generation get their first taste of the workforce.

This cohort of 16- to 26-year-olds is also exhibiting an array of distinctive, and perhaps surprising, consumer habits. They have clear ideas about how to achieve their financial goals — and they are expressing their principles through their decisions about what to buy and how to pay for their purchases.

They are five times as likely to value successful careers over having the newest items.This emerging group of consumers likes the ability to check out products in person at physical stores. They are overwhelmingly credit-averse, preferring to pay for purchases with debit cards or cash.

And while it may not be news that most of these digitally native consumers routinely make purchases through social media, recommendations from family and friends have far greater sway on what they buy than online influencers do.

These insights are among the findings of ICSC’s 2023 survey of Gen Z consumers. This report describes how a generation shaped by both current and distant economic headwinds is taking steps to plan, save and invest for the future. What’s more, they are loyal to brands, both from a price-value perspective and a standpoint that considers sustainability, diversity and ethical issues.

About the Survey From March 2–8, 2023, Big Village conducted a national survey of 1,008 respondents from Generation Z, ages 16 to 26, on their shopping preferences, personal finances and long-term goals. Respondents were split among workers and students: 55% were employed full-time, part-time or self-employed; 28% were students; and 13% were unemployed.

The sample set also included respondents from a variety of living arrangements: 50% live at home with parents, guardians or another family member; 29% are renters; 15% own their own home or apartment; and 5% live in college or university housing, either on or off campus.


Source: ICSC