Generation Z poses new challenges for online fashion retailers

18-24s almost universally visit fashion websites - and they want a low-friction, deeply personalised experience not ‘hard sell’ conversion tactics.

The latest generation to hit the shops in earnest has very different expectations from their parents, online research commissioned by Apptus has found. Generation Z, aged between 18 and 24, is the first to have grown up with smartphones, social media and Google and it shows.

They are the most comfortable generation yet when it comes to buying online – 86 per cent say they visit fashion store websites, the research finds. That’s much higher than the 59 per cent of their elders, those aged 55+, who visit these websites. On the face of it this generation – which will set the tone for the ‘digital-native’ generations that follow – represents a big opportunity for online fashion retailers.

In reality, however, their expectations of the online retail experience pose a new set of challenges. They expect a seamless, easy digital experience and they expect deep personalisation. For instance, in contrast with earlier generations’ distrust of personalisation, Generation Z is very much in favour.

Indeed, far from finding personalisation creepy, 48 per cent say an online fashion retail stores’ website remembering previous purchases and making recommendations based on them would make them feel valued – it would be good customer service.

Crucially, however, Generation Z is more likely to want ‘helpful personalisation’. They want to buy and want online retailers to deliver highly relevant experiences that make it simple and easy to buy. The research shows a big shift compared with older generations:

  • Forty-nine per cent like ‘People who bought this also bought…’ recommendations (compared with 18 per cent of those aged 55+)
  • Fifty-six per cent like ‘You might also like…’ recommendations (22 per cent of those aged 55+)
  • Forty-four per cent like autocomplete search boxes (i.e. search boxes that predict search terms based on what I’ve been typing) (17 per cent of those aged 55+)

On the other hand, they find ‘gimmicky’ hard sell, conversion tactics a turn off:

  • Just ten per cent like ‘websites that email me after I have visited’
  • Only 12 per cent like ‘X people bought this in the last hour’ messages.

Andrew Fowler, UK country manager at Apptus says, ‘These findings point to a generation that values a seamless, low friction experience online. An experience that is shaped by relevance and consistent personalisation across every aspect of the online environment – not just search, recommendations and navigation but product selections, listings and sort orders.

‘That level of customisation for every visitor simply cannot be achieved manually. In fact, it is a task that computers and machine learning could have been invented for. The power to gather vast quantities of customer data then act on it to deliver ever more relevant and tailored experiences will quickly become a must have as this new generation of shoppers makes its presence felt.’

Further reading on Generation Z

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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Generation Z