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The Future of Consumer Behavior in the Age of Gen Z

Published July 13, 2023
Published July 13, 2023
Karina Tess x Valeria Nikitina via Unsplash

Gen Z is changing the landscape of consumerism in beauty. The generation now expects brands to meet their demands, keep up with the latest trends, and create the best quality products at an affordable price. Although still very young, (ages between 11 and 26), Gen Zers have already lived through key worldwide events that influence their consumer choices—from the pandemic to the cost of living crisis and the rise of digital lifestyles, including social media and the metaverse. To further investigate Gen Z's beauty shopping habits, Mintel has revealed The Future of Consumer Behaviour in the Age of Gen Z report. Here are the key mindsets shaping the industry in the years to come:

Financially Focused

Due to circumstances taking a strain on Gen Z's disposable income, it is now more important than ever for brands to connect with the generation in ways that catch their attention and are worth their money. The report highlights that Gen Zers are all at different life stages, with some depending solely on their parents due to inflation, while others are getting by with their own small disposable income.

Forty-three percent of Gen Zers expect to cut back on nonessential spending, while a further 51% prioritize their finances and saving, with 61% of Gen Z women compared to 49% of men planning to focus on their finances. The cost of living is increasingly impacting beauty, with businesses such as Superdrug recognizing consumers' struggles, tackling the issue by appointing a Cost of Living Ambassador and freezing the prices of over 5,000 products.

"From new jobs and businesses to purchasing first houses and getting married, Gen Zers expect to experience a number of major life events in the next five years. And while they display a positive outlook for their own future, the era of political, economic, and climate uncertainty that they have grown up in is making this transitional period more difficult. Brands need to provide Gen Zers with a sense of control and support them with short- and long-term goals, including a strong focus on improving their finances, their physical and mental health, and connections with loved ones," says Francesca Smith, Senior Consumer and Lifestyles Analyst at Mintel.

Digital Desires

As the first generation to grow up in the digital world, often unable to avoid the internet, Gen Z has become a generation of digital nomads. According to the report, 98% of Gen Zers use social media, and 38% admit to shopping online at least once daily. This is attributed to  the generation being able to make faster and more informed decisions about their purchases, which drives a higher level of engagement with brands than their older counterparts. Sixty-nine percent of Gen Zers turn to TikTok to learn more about beauty, and 43% of the generation use the app to view opinions of products before purchasing, with 54% trusting online reviews of beauty products. Many are now using TikTok itself to make direct purchases through TikTok Shop, which raked in revenue of $4.4BB in 2022.

Being able to interact with beauty products virtually is a priority for Gen Z, with 48% of Gen Z adults and 53% of Gen Z teens reporting this is something they like to do. Activations such as Metaverse Beauty Week are making this possible, with Glossybox reporting a 49% click-through rate, proving that digital interaction leads to further brand interest.

The success of online shopping across Gen Z can also be attributed to the ease of payment options through virtual wallets, including Apple Pay and Google Pay, as well as pay-later options such as Klarna. Mintel confirms Gen Z is twice as likely to use online wallets than the average consumer, with 23% stating they often use these services.

Determined for Diversity

Gen Z is the most diverse generation ever, whether this is based on race, gender, or sexuality—48% of Gen Z are people of color, and 21% belong to the LGBTQIA+ community. The generation is renowned for speaking up and challenging traditional societal structures, with two-thirds agreeing that conventional gender roles are outdated. Due to being surrounded by such a range of people, Gen Zers often stand for diversity even if they are not directly affected by such issues, turning up as allies for their peers. According to Mintel, over one-third of Gen Z adults and 13% of teens do not use brands that act unethically.

As a result, the generation is actively seeking out brands that align with their values. The majority of beauty businesses are opening their eyes to these demands, creating campaigns that directly support minorities. MAC Cosmetics is a prime example of this, supporting the LGBTQIA+ community through its Viva Glam initiative; it donated 100% of all lipstick sales to LGBTQIA+ charities during 2023's pride month. Although the initiative began in 1994 before Gen Zers were even born, the choice to continue to evolve the activation many years later makes the brand further appealing to the generation, showing their sincerity and encouraging loyalty in their consumers; a smart choice considering 37% of Gen Zers repeatedly purchase from their favorite brands. Retailers, including Sephora and Ulta, are also creating consumer loyalty with Gen Z by aligning with its values and pushing their accelerator programs that uplift up-and-coming BIPOC brands, as well as welcoming a rise of more inclusive Gen Z-focused and genderless cosmetic companies.

Seeking Sustainability

A sustainability-focused lifestyle is essential for Gen Z, with three out of four stating they prioritize the sustainability of a product over a brand's name and claims. As more brands begin to roll out ethically minded products and campaigns, Gen Zers are becoming more clued in on greenwashing, and 58% agree that they do not believe mainstream brands that claim they are sustainable. 

Regarding making false claims, Gen Z is often known for retaliating through cancel culture, with 34% believing that a brand should be boycotted if they do not correctly act on social and environmental issues. Initiatives such as ChemFORWARD's Know Better, Do Better—a collaboration with retailers including Credo and Beautycounter to learn more about potentially harmful chemicals in products—are likely to help brands navigate their way through sustainability, ensuring that their products are as safe for the environment and consumers as possible. However, the choice to commit to these types of offerings to provide genuinely sustainable products is ultimately up to beauty businesses themselves, as  eagle-eyed Gen Zers look on, with 88% stating they feel brands greenwash to stay relevant and on-trend.

Going Forward

As more and more research on Gen Z's consumer habits come to light, it is vital for brands to keep up with the evolving generation to market to them effectively. As Gen Zers grow older, their priorities will continue to change at a rapid pace, but the brands that continue to prove they can keep up with their needs are sure to prevail. Despite the generation's limited spending power at present, its disposable income is set to increase as Gen Zers enter adulthood, secure higher-paid jobs, and become more financially stable. Ultimately, if brands get it right today, they will be future-proofed for a successful relationship with Gen Zers, and positioned to grow along with them.


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