Gen Z beauty: omnichannel, influencers and tech are key
With Gen Z now being the biggest generation on the planet, what they buy really counts, even if they don’t have the per capita spending power of Millennials, Gen X or Baby Boomers yet.
With that in mind, the Pull Agency surveyed 1,200 UK consumers to get an insight into how Gen Z is shopping and what influences them.
While the short term might see some unusual shopping shopping behaviour (or general lack of shopping) due to the coronavirus, looking ahead to the eventual recovery we’ll see Gen Z being an even more important part of the shopping population than they are now.
This group of consumers, aged anywhere from four to 24, currently spend £7bn annually and are very tech-focused. They’re said to spend on average 10.6 hours a day consuming content across their devices, for instance. They’re mobile-first and expect “unlimited information and entertainment at their fingertips. With 24/7 on-demand content and real-time news, Gen Z is accustomed to speed and accessibility”.
So what does that mean for beauty? Perhaps surprisingly, more than half (53%) of Gen Z said that they would rather buy health & beauty products in-store than online — more than any other age group. But that statement disguises some quite varied behaviour. Some 34% research and buy online, but 33% research online then go in-store to buy. As many as 20% both research and buy in-store. A surprisingly low 5% test in-store then buy online -- the generally held view that consumers are ‘showrooming’ by testing in stores ahead of making e-purchases seems to be wrong.
This consumer group is very focused on topical issues that affect beauty with the research showing that the keywords they choose as important to them include ‘wellness’, ‘health’, ‘natural’, ‘technology’, ‘artificial intelligence’, environment’, ‘environmentally-friendly’, ‘cruelty-free’, and ‘skincare’. This suggests that these are sophisticated shoppers seeking advanced, sustainable products, that take in tech and are kind to their skin and general health, even if they’re merely decorative.
And these priorities are showing up among consumers who would once have been considered a relatively unimportant part of the beauty market — the very young. Some 60% of this generation have bought a beauty product by the time they’re 14. That compares to only 39% of the next generation up, the Millennials.
In fact 13% of them started buying beauty products before they reached the age of 12 and another 26% before the age of 13.
So what exactly are they buying at this age? Some 45% said it was make-up and 27% skincare, those two categories easily beating any others – although to be fair to haircare, this is a category more likely to be bought for the family as a whole and so wouldn't figure on a very young teenager’s must-buy list.
WHERE DO THEY SEARCH AND BUY?
It’s interesting to learn where these consumers are discovering the looks and trends that influence their purchases. Pull Agency said some 52% cite Instagram as their starting point, easily beating the 39% of Millennials who say the same. For 25% of them, YouTube is key, and after that the sources drop off quite noticeably.
Only 7% say that they discover new looks and trends in a physical store and only 1% discover them in magazines. Those two figures represent big challenges both for shops and for media brands. Gen Z is showing how different it is from older generations here who discover things in shops much more often and who are much more dependent on magazines. It's a similar situation for TV, with only 2% of Gen Z citing that as an influence.
So is it game over for shops? Not at all. As our earlier figures show, physical shops remain important. Some 53% of these youngest consumers, when asked directly, still say that they would rather buy health and beauty products in shops than online, even if their research is done elsewhere. This is higher than any other age group. And while that's good news for physical shops it's also a challenge.
Physical store retailers need to ensure that research sends consumers in their direction, especially post-Covid-19 when all the rules are changing. They need to ensure they’re in all the places that Gen Z are searching and especially that they’re getting positive reactions from these consumers. That’s particularly crucial given that 83% of Gen Z are influenced by product ratings and reviews, compared to only 56% of Baby Boomers (and 79% of Millennials/65% of Gen X).
They also need to make sure they’re connecting with influencers as these make the biggest impact on Gen Z purchase decisions (33%, ahead of 31% influenced by friends and only 14% by celebrities).
SHOPPING ON THE HIGH STREET
Once Gen Z has made the decision to go into a shop, where do they go and what do they do? Well, 48% prefer to shop in high street chemists like Boots and Superdrug. Only 10% like to visit specialist retailers like The body Shop or Holland & Barrett. Yet while chemist chains are the most popular destination, when it comes to replenishing products that have been bought before, this often happens in supermarkets, mainly due to their convenience.
But it's also worth pointing out that shopping for beauty products isn't quite the mundane experience purchasing in supermarkets and chemists might suggest. These young consumers love to test out products and the immersive beauty hall as a concept is extremely appealing to them. How this will evolve post-coronavirus remains to be seen, but it's likely will see much more virtual testing technology. The research showed that 72% of this age group would be interested in using augmented or virtual reality in the future during their purchase journey.
And technology will have a big impact in other areas in the future as well, particularly in terms of voice search. Only 22% of UK households currently own a voice assistant but 32% of Gen Z say they've used voice search in relation to health & beauty products. That's higher than the number of Millennials that have done so (29%). Yet younger consumers still aren't using voice to actually make purchases with only 21% having use voice "as part of" a purchase journey.
But given that more Gen Z have used voice to look for products than any other generation, it's clear that this channel will develop further in the future. And it's interesting that most Gen Z do their voice searching at home. Given that everyone is currently at home, it could be that voice searching is seeing a rise.
The Pull Agency also said that defining a voice engine strategy will be key for a brand's success in the future.
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