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Gen Z and the ‘new luxury experience’

Since 2020, the lives of generations across the globe have been shaped by COVID-19, and perhaps none greater than Gen Z. The pandemic world fostered the transition for many Gen Zers from adolescence to young adulthood and fashioned a unique identity that has strong influence over their behaviors, especially as consumers. This identity and the ideologies that support it have a profound impact on how Gen Z moves and participates in the market, particularly within the fashion industry. With a spending power of over $140 billion, recognizing the needs of this distinctive group will hold substantial weight in a brand’s success.

Ranging from ages 10 to 25 may give the idea that Gen Z is too young to construct informed opinions on subjects as established as luxury fashion brands. However, Gen Z should be considered the most informed customer ever with an entire arsenal of information in the palm of their hands. But digital fluency is just one facet of Gen Z consumers’ buying experience, other fundamentals include what they’re buying, who they’re buying from, and how they buy it.

Mixing It Up and Keeping It Real

To understand the Gen Z luxury buying experience, let’s start by delving deeper into what they’re buying. While all generations have their defining styles like Millennials with skinny jeans and ‘Millennial Pink’, Gen Z tends to focus more on unique looks which often lead to a preference for mixing and matching styles, brands, and price-points. For this reason, a Gen Zers wardrobe may include an $8 thrifted sweater paired with $80 Levi’s jeans and completed with $800 Burberry boots. From this, we can see trends leaning more towards eye-catching statement pieces rather than completed outfits or a closet filled with luxury brand basics. This element of Gen Z fashion is essential when making the connection between designer and customer.

Another trait to consider when looking at what Gen Z is buying, is how they identify these pieces. Gen Z is the most digitally indoctrinated generation and relies primarily on digital and social platforms for means of inspiration, information, and connection. The top apps used amongst Gen Z are Twitch, Reddit, TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram. The content hosted by these platforms, and the curators on them, holds great influence on the Gen Z audience and what they buy. This is because the curators on these sites can more easily gain the trust of their audience through digital social interactions. Trusting that a curator you interact with and observe regularly is giving honest opinions is easier than a brand you can only associate with big-shots and celebrities.

Sustainability and Meeting the Demands

After determining what Gen Z is buying, the focus should be on how to get them to buy it from you. Business of Fashion and McKinsey’s State of Fashion Report 2021 found that 9 out of 10 Gen Z consumers look for brands that reflect their same stances on environmental and social issues. One of the biggest of these issues is sustainability, in fact, according to a 2021 Forbes report, Gen Z shoppers are willing to spend 10% more on sustainable brands and products.

For luxury brands, this means a dramatic shift from the old business approach to a much more sustainable model- and the members of this digitally fluent generation are pros at sniffing out who’s the real deal and who’s a fraud. The attention span of Gen Zers is approximately 8 seconds, but rather than being an indicator of an inability to concentrate, it serves as a marker for how quickly they can process information. That means, it only takes about 8 seconds to decipher which brands truthfully embody sustainability, and which ones are greenwashing to drum up quick business.

In addition to looking for brands that exemplify the same ideologies, Gen Z consumers are also looking for brands that keep up with them in the digital sphere. If a brand’s digital presence has poor user interface, operates on outdated platforms, or uses social media in an advertorial, self-conflated way, it doesn’t matter if the products are on the cover of Vogue or worn by Hollywood’s finest: They will opt for a different brand and experience that aligns more with them and their needs.

Shifting to the Omnichannel Experience

How Gen Z buys is just as important as what they’re buying and who they’re buying from. While there has been a great deal of emphasis on Gen Z consumers’ digital focus, when it comes to the buying experience, there has been a definitive shift towards a mixed mode, omnichannel approach that includes both the digital and the physical interactions with the brand. This shift towards the return to brick-and-mortar stores is more prevalent amongst Gen Z than any of their predecessors. During the initial decision-making process, digital engagement is key, but many Gen Z shoppers are opting for in-person experiences as a final test for the brand and products before completing the purchase.

Keeping up with this need for the omnichannel shopping experience can be especially difficult for larger luxury brands who have generally served clientele that engage with either one mode or the other. However, this transition can be quick and seamless by connecting technologies that most stores already have with customizable software solutions. This shift also offers the perfect opportunity to bring digital transformation to the brand and offer a better overall experience to your entire client base.

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