32% of Gen Z consumers shop online daily
Consumer behavior differs by age group, Jungle Scout finds.
Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash
Consumer behavior differs by age group, Jungle Scout finds.
Gen Z consumers are shopping online at higher rates than other generations, and choosing to start product searches on TikTok over Google.
Those are a couple of takeaways from a new report on consumer trends issued this week by ecommerce seller platform Jungle Scout.
When it comes to Gen Z consumers, the report found the following:
Daily digital: 32% of Gen Z consumers shop online at least once daily. That’s compared to 25% of millennials, 15% of Gen X and 7% of baby boomers.
Starting at TikTok: 43% of Gen Z consumers start product searches on TikTok. That’s a higher share than those that start searches on Google. In the overall population, a majority of consumers still start product searches on Amazon.
Secondhand savings: 42% of Gen Z consumers purchased a resale item in the last year. Gen Z is the most likely generation to shop secondhand items online to save money.
The report highlights how Gen Z appears to be more digitally inclined, and willing to embrace emerging shopping modes, whether that is a social media platform or category like resale. At the same time, it underscores the generational variation in consumer behavior.
Gen Z seems to be putting the lowest priority on saving money, despite wider anxiety about the economy during this period of high inflation. The report found that baby boomers are 78% more likely than Gen Z to purchase items on sale. Boomers are also the most likely to use credit cards that have perks allowing them to save money.
Meanwhile, 56% of Gen X and 43% of millennials are cutting back on purchases in the fun or impulse category to save money. Among Gen Z consumers, the share of those pulling back is 37%.
“In the world of ecommerce, one size does not fit all,” says Michael Scheschuk, President of Small & Medium Business at Jungle Scout. “Businesses must understand each generation’s unique values, preferences, and behaviors to create tailored strategies. As the youngest and newest cohort of shoppers, Gen Z offers invaluable insights into the current and future trends shaping retail.”A note on spending: When it comes to overall commerce spending, data from Jungle Scout shows that spending ticked up in the first quarter, though more spend is being directed toward essentials. Consumers bought more groceries, cleaning supplies and supplements, while cutting back on discretionary items such as electronics, clothing and home goods.
The retailer's marketplace is expanding quickly.
When it comes to ecommerce growth, was the pandemic a blip or a new trendsetter?
As we move further from the height of COVID-related closures, it’s a question that will start to be answered through the lens of history.
So far, the narrative of ecommerce growth in the U.S. from 2019-2022 has gone like this: Ecommerce’s share of overall retail saw a huge spike at the height of the pandemic in 2020-21, when goods in general were in demand and online shopping was necessary to preserve health and safety. Experts looked out and saw a permanent exponential change in the penetration of ecommerce as a share of retail that would last beyond the pandemic. Then, in 2022, everyone went back to stores and the trendline came back to 2019 levels. Growth was no longer exponential. There was still growth, but it was not happening as fast as during the pandemic period.
With this in mind, it’s worth pointing out that 2023 is the first year that there likely won’t be a pandemic-influenced swing to influence ecommerce growth. It is also a year where demand has suffered challenges amid inflation and interest rate hikes.
So as we seek to determine the importance of ecommerce to overall retail, it’s worth it to continue taking a close look at what growth trends retailers are seeing now, whether ecommerce is remaining resilient amid consumer pullback and how retailers are preparing for the future.
The latest example arrived this week from Macy’s. It’s a fitting one for the times. Overall, Macy’s is seeing a slowdown as consumers pull back on discretionary purchases, with sales declining 7% in the first quarter versus the same quarter of 2022. Digital sales were down 8%.
Macy’s is particularly susceptible to the macroeconomic headwinds that many brands and retailers are facing, as spending among the middle-income consumers it counts as a primary customer base is particularly softening, said GlobalData Managing Director Neil Saunders.
But while ecommerce is slowing overall, the importance it gained to Macy’s business during the pandemic is remaining in place.
In 2019, ecommerce made up 25% of Macy’s revenue, CEO Jeff Gennette told analysts on the company’s earnings call. That jumped to a high of 44% in 2020. By 2022, digital reached 33% of sales after the pandemic boom. In the first quarter of 2023, it remained at 33%. So, while the trend line dipped after shoppers returned to stores, ecommerce share still settled in at a higher post-lockdown point than it was before the pandemic.
This came in a quarter in which traffic was “relatively good” across both online and in-store, Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette said. It was “flattish” online, and slightly up in stores.
“We do expect that this is the reset year with the penetration between them,” Gennette said. “But we do expect more aggressive growth in digital in the future versus stores as we think about '24 and beyond. And that's going to be foisted by a lot of ideas and strategies.
Over the last year, the retailer has made investments in boosting ecommerce, even as shoppers returned to stores. In a bid to boost the assortment of goods available online, Macy’s launched a marketplace in September 2022 that welcomes goods from third-party sellers.
The marketplace had an “outstanding” first quarter, said Macy’s President Tony Spring, who is poised to succeed Gennette as CEO next year. Gross merchandise value increased over 50% when compared to the fourth quarter of 2022, while the average order value and units per order for marketplace customers was 50% above those not shopping at the marketplace.
Macy’s is continuing to build the marketplace even as it racks up sales. The retailer added 450 brands, ending the quarter with 950 brands.
This is helping to draw in new customers, as well as younger existing customers who are buying more items, resulting in increased basket size.
“We're very excited as to how marketplace is really attracting the Gen Z customer, particularly in categories where it was not economically feasible for us to carry in the past,” Gennette said.
In the end, Gennette said a strong digital and social presence is key to attracting younger consumers. That's a different type of shopper than other age groups.
“We know the younger customer starts first online,” Gennette said. That behavior will still be in place as the generation gets older, and gains more buying power in the process.
Going forward, Macy’s is seeking to expand the model to other retail banners in its portfolio. Bloomingdale’s will open a marketplace in the early fall.
The Macy’s ecommerce trajectory isn’t that different from the wider U.S. ecommerce narrative detailed above. With one quarter of 2023 data, there is evidence that ecommerce share settled out at a higher point after the pandemic than where it started before COVID arrived. There is flattening now, but the retailer is taking it not as a sign of a slowdown, or a signal to change course. Rather, it sees changing consumer behavior as a reason to build for the future.