Following our latest Gen Z webinar, we explore what college students are buying this semester, plus shopping trends and more.
Earlier this month, we sat down with a panel of outspoken Gen Z students to ask them about their shopping preferences, income, social media habits and more. In our last blog, we shared all the highlights from this session on Back to School, student income and student incentives. Here, we turn our attention to shopping trends, social media and how brands can build lifetime loyalty with Gen Z.
Now that the fall semester is well underway, you might be thinking ‘what exactly are students buying?’ or ‘what’s trending right now?’. We asked our panel just that.
“I know as the year winds down, there’s a lot of big shoe releases, so I do have my eyes on a couple different pairs of shoes,” comments Bailey. “Aside from that, I try to get my Christmas shopping done early for my big family, so basically I start keeping my eyes open super early for different products for each of my family members. I’ve already seen some home decor for my mom and some clothes for my brothers that I’m keeping my eye on.”
For Lacey, a big part of spending plans reside around home decor and her student lifestyle. “When you have your own apartment, there’s so many things you didn’t realize you actually need. So I am excited to get my own set of dishware and looking more at home appliances, like a Dyson vacuum, because I love to clean – so that’s a really big one for me right now. Also some home decor and shoes.”
Paula agrees: “I plan to buy an air fryer soon. I had one in my parents house but now I have my own apartment so I really want one. And also some room decor, something to make my space a little bit more my own.”
“I try to follow a lot of people or influencers in a sense that are from my area, and a lot of the time I always look to them for their fashion or trends,” explains Lacey. “I’m finding new trends and styles from TikTok and Instagram that inspire me to go outside my comfort zone. Fashion trends I’ve seen lately have been inspired by a lot of generations before us. I noticed a lot of us have been doing the Y2K trend, and corsets are back in trend. Everythings been getting more fun and risky and there’s a lot more chances to take in fashion now – there’s not just one style, there’s so many different trends at this point. It’s really fun to see something from the 80s or 90s, 2000s, coming back – and coming back in a way that we haven’t seen before.”
“Style-wise, I’ve seen a lot of patterned jeans, jeans with cut-outs, just lots to do with jeans really and creative ways of wearing them,” adds Paula. “Personally, I follow a lot more micro-influencers – I feel like I trust more what they have to say because they are trying to reach their audience in a better way. Even though they are still getting paid a lot of the time, they just feel more trustworthy. So I find myself looking to smaller influencers for advice, or if they have coupon codes.”
For Bailey, it’s a case of keeping an open mind when it comes to ads and trends. He explains: “I don’t really keep my eye on one person or one genre, I kind of just look at everything that’s thrown at me and keep my mind and all doors open. Between Instagram and Snapchat I see a lot of ads for a lot of different things, so usually that’s where I’m finding stuff that I’m maybe interested in or stuff that I’ve never seen before that I might buy, but then TikTok in itself is just crazy with the algorithm – i’ve definitely seen a lot of cool items on TikTok that I probably wouldn’t have seen or known about if I hadn’t been scrolling through my feed. That has been the biggest change with my shopping – TikTok and it’s crazy ways.”
When asked if they’ve discovered any new brands over the last few months, Paula says: “I’m very very very loyal to the brands I usually shop with. Nike, Adidas, American Eagle – those are the main brands I use.”
Lacey tells us more: “I’m also a big Nike, Adidas and American Eagle kind of person, but I have recently discovered Princess Polly, and more brands like Gymshark and athletic clothing. I do tend to stick to a lot of brands that I know and love already – but I’m still looking for more brands to connect with and try their stuff.”
Clearly, winning Gen Z students now means you’re likely to win loyalty that lasts way beyond college years, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be convinced to try new brands – the key is a good, targeted strategy. So, what can brands do to win over Gen Z consumers? Our panel offers their advice to brands on how to make their shopping experience one they’d go back to again and again.
“I like to see brands make a more one on one connection with students,” says Paula. “I feel like getting more micro-influencers on board is a better, more direct way to connect with students – and even with Back to School, there’s a lot of freshmen that don’t know what to do, don’t know what they need, so I feel like that content would be really nice to see from brands.”
“I think being more direct with one another is key,” Lacey adds. “I really love brands that reach out to students in a way that a lot of brands don’t. One specifically that comes to mind is a brand called Verb – they have a personal text messaging feature where an actual person talks to you, and it’s really nice because they ask a lot of questions regarding ourselves and what our outlook is on their brand, and they’re very diverse in making sure that we as a consumer are satisfied and are enjoying their product. For me that’s pretty big and how I love to shop – and how I love to connect with new brands is the directness.”
Bailey concludes, “I know for me when it comes to customer support, I base a lot of my brand loyalty and brand trust on that personal touch. If I have issues or concerns about shopping online, I prefer customer support that’s going to be real people that you’re talking to – so it’s going to connect you with someone and that someone is going to help you and be communicative with you. So I think anything on the customer support side that gives you that one on one connection is huge because the only more frustrating thing than having issues when shopping is getting answers for those issues.”