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How Gen Z Is Shaping the Future of Ecommerce

Cillian McGillycuddy 3 August 2021 • eCommerce, Opinion, Trends • 8 min read

Just when you thought you had Millennials figured out, a new generation of shoppers has entered the mix – Generation Z. The good news is that what Gen Z expects from the online shopping experience is exactly what online retailers should be doing anyway to increase visits, sales, and repeat purchases. So, optimizing your site for a Gen Z mindset is just great optimization in general. It’s win-win.

Generation Z, or zoomers, are those born between 1997 and around 2015. They are the first generation of true Digital Natives and are highly tech-literate. For online retailers this is a good thing, but it means you have to bring your ‘A’ game to ecommerce. No one is more familiar with shopping via multiple devices than Generation Z.

Gen Z is shaping the future of how we sell online in a good way. From better online experiences to more engaging social interactions, Gen Z is changing how we position our online businesses and products.

This guide will show you how the Gen Z mindset is impacting ecommerce and how you can optimize your online to meet the demands of the next generation of online shoppers.


Deliver Great Customer Experience

Succeeding online in 2021 is all about customer experience. In May of this year, Google rolled out their Page Experience Update which brought new ranking criteria to the forefront of site optimization. The new update was designed to put pages that deliver a great user experience at the top of search results pages.

This trend towards delivering great online experiences is being driven by Gen Z, who demand fast and seamless interactions with your site. In a recent study by Forrester Research, a well-designed user interface was found to raise your website’s conversion rate by up to 200%, and a better UX design could raise conversion rates by up to 400%.

88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.

Justin Misfud, Founder of Usability Geek

But what are the primary pillars of user experience you need to look at? Your site needs to be:

  • Mobile-friendly
  • Secured
  • Accessible
  • Fast

More than half of all web traffic now comes from mobile devices, so by not having a mobile responsive site you’re effectively missing over half of your potential customers. For Gen Z, they’re not likely to return to your site if it doesn’t display correctly on their phones.

Here’s new NitroSell retailer Jim McLoughney Menswear who’s site looks great on every device.

Your site also needs to be fully secure so customers will feel safe giving you their credit card information. This means having an SSL cert to secure your site which adds HTTPS to your site. Accessibility is another growing trend as your site should be usable by anyone, no matter what impairments they might have.

The last pillar of user experience is increasingly important from both a technical and customer-focused perspective and is of primary importance to the new generation – speed.


Site Speed Is More Important Than Ever

They’re not called zoomers for nothing. As the first true digital native generation, they do things quickly and they want stuff quickly. Speeding up your site is essential if you want to do well in ecommerce and was called out by Google as a major ranking factor in their latest update.

The speed at which you display images and text or how fast your site’s design shifts when on different devices are all essential factors in determining speed score. From a user perspective, speed is everything to Gen Z.

A recent study found that 60% of Gen Z will not use an app or website that loads slowly. You can check how fast your site loads with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. You want to get as close as you can to having your site load in 1 second. Common issues blocking fast loading are large image files and unnecessary scripts loading on your site.

To fix this you should always compress your images before adding them to your site using a free tool like TinyJPG, and always review what scripts are running on your site. You may find marketing or site analysis tools that you no longer use.

Gen Z wants things fast, but so does Google. By optimizing for the new generation, you also optimize for the search engine that holds the keys to unlocking more organic traffic for your store.

Each additional second of load time causes an additional 5.8% of people to give up and move onto something else.


Talk About Your Values

Values are extremely important to Gen Z. There’s an authenticity in the Gen Z mindset that translates to wanting more from the brands and companies they engage with. More than just providers of products and services, they expect the brands they like to stand for something and have real values.

Being the first generation to hear about issues like climate change on an almost daily basis, corporate responsibility is an important factor for Gen Z when choosing who to do business with.

If there are values that your store stands for or social issues you want to highlight, then let your customers know. Whether it’s a banner on your site or some posts on social media, tell the world what you stand for. Just look at one of Gen Z’s most famous sports stars in Marcus Rashford, who has made it his mission to tackle real social issues in the United Kingdom. He’s celebrated and regarded as a hero both on and off the field.

Gen Z responds to and champions people that show what they believe in. It’s the same for the brands they engage with too. Initiatives that retailers could consider is looking at sustainable packaging which is a big concern for an environmentally conscious generation.

Using social media to highlight your values is a top tactic to winning them over, because social commerce is very important to Gen Z…


Embrace Social Commerce

Gen Z has a truly omnichannel approach to online shopping. As mobile phones have always been a part of their lives (98% of them own a smartphone), they don’t think of commerce as a binary interaction: go to X to get Y. Zoomers know they can shop for and discover products via a lot of different channels, and they take pride and enjoyment in their ability to do that.

Using channels like Instagram or TikTok, Gen Z wants to celebrate their individuality with the purchases they make. They fully embrace social media and will engage with influencers or micro-influencers to see what products they’re wearing or using. Social currency is very valuable with Gen Z, so brands need to get on board or risk being left behind when they fully come of age.

For most Gen Z shoppers, social media isn’t just an addition to their e-commerce habits, it’s their main online shopping source. A recent study showed that 97% of Gen Z customers say social media is their main source of discovering products. Social commerce is proving to be the dominant shopping medium for the new generation.

This means retailers need to have a profile on all the major social media platforms and have it connected to their online store. NitroSell retailers can do this by integrating their product inventory directly to social platforms like Instagram and Facebook.

Once set up, your social shop will look something like this:

NitroSell retail Sioux Shop‘s Instagram store.

Your social shop isn’t just a “nice to have”. It’s now expected from the new generation. If they can’t find your shop on social media, then you simply don’t exist.


Wrapping Up

Gen Z is the most value-conscious and experience-driven generation to have purchasing power. Retailers need to rethink how they are engaging with customers and understand what kind of dialogue they are having with shoppers, from discovery through to purchase.

As well as what you sell, Gen Z cares deeply about why you sell. They want to hear about your business values and understand the story of why you are selling a particular item. They care about authenticity and as such, expect your business to stand for something.

Telling your story through great website design is also crucial to winning them over. But you also need to pay attention to the multi-channel experience they expect. They want a fast and seamless transition between brick-and-mortar, website, and social media, because they shop across all platforms.

As digital natives, they are more aware of how fast websites should load and how easy the shopping experience should be. Broadly, targeting Gen Z effectively means following the trends of website design that Google promotes higher in their search results pages: make it fast, mobile-friendly, and have a great user experience.

For further reading, check out these posts around maximizing your online traffic and sales:

Ecommerce SEO: The Complete Guide (2021)

Email Marketing for Retail: 11 Tips for 2021

9 Steps to Creating Product Descriptions That Sell

How to Create the “Complete Content” That Google Loves


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