5 ways to optimise your ecommerce store for Gen Z

There’s an up and coming generation of consumers who are changing the landscape of ecommerce and shifting merchants’ expectations.

Here’s how your ecommerce business can adapt to Gen Z.

Who are Gen Z?

Gen Z (loosely) refers to anyone born between 1997 and 2012; the oldest in this generation are now young adults in their early 20s entering the business world. Unlike Millennials who can remember a time without a stable internet connection or smartphones, Gen Z are digital natives who are at home with ecommerce and social commerce.

Though they might not have the same purchasing power as the generations before them, they have a significant influence on family spending across items such as furniture, food and beverage, household goods, and more (National Retail Federation).

Millennials vs. Gen Z: One size doesn’t fit all

It might be tempting for businesses to lump millennials and Gen Z in one group — after all, aren’t they all just tech-savvy young adults?

Not quite. Here are some differences between millennials and Gen Z that could impact the way you target them:

  • Technology. While millennials grew up with DVD players and dial-up internet, most of Gen Z grew up with smartphones, tablets and high-speed internet.
  • Mobile purchases. Both Millennials and Gen Z use mobile devices to access the web but Gen Z are more likely to purchase via their mobile. In a 2019 report, Global Web Index found that 61% of Gen Z respondents purchased products online via their mobile devices.
  • Social media. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are popular with Millennials, while Gen Z favours video-based platforms like Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat (Hubspot).
  • Attention span. Millennials have an average attention span of about 12 seconds, while Gen Z has an average attention span of about 8 seconds – bouncing more frequently from device to device (Oberlo).
  • Preferred ads. Gen Z prefers social media videos and influencer marketing, while millennials respond better to more traditional online ads and social media marketing (Martech Series).

Gen Z’s values and purchase drivers

The young adults of Gen Z typically have specific ideas about what they want, how they want it and how it should be delivered. They are defined by their skepticism, authenticity and strong sense of individuality.

Practical and skeptical

Gen Z has been found to be skeptical. They focus on quality and authenticity — brands that make promises and can’t deliver stand to lose. Gen Z consumers want businesses to do more than just make and sell products; they believe that businesses should serve communities and societies.

Consulting firm DoSomething Strategic found that a majority of Gen Z consumers positively perceive a brand because of an association with a social cause, and over half said such an association was a strong purchase driver.

Enthusiasts for authenticity

Gen Z prefers brands that are authentic. They’re not easily swayed by marketing hype and are savvy enough to distinguish fake claims from a company being genuine.

When it comes to establishing trust, they often pay attention to the quality of a product, positive online ratings and customer service (WP Engine). Businesses have an opportunity to create meaningful connections that can influence their level of brand enthusiasm and loyalty.

Identity and individuality

Gen Z are typically more individualistic and see brands as a way to express their values and lifestyle choices. They’re also more likely to be loyal to brands that have sustainable or ethical business practices and which match their own personal values. According to a survey from IBM, 55% of Gen Zs in growth markets choose eco-friendly and socially responsible brands.

How do you optimise your ecommerce website for Gen Z?

To build a successful relationship with Gen Z, brands need to be transparent and respond to their preferences. Unlike optimising your ecommerce site for older people, as we’ve discussed Gen Z’ers have quite different values and preferences.

So, here are five ways your business can optimise ecommerce for Gen Z:

1. Embrace omnichannel

Does Gen Z prefer online shopping? Not necessarily —  though they tend to be digital natives, Gen Z’ers aren’t loyal to social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram. An IBM survey found that they still prefer to shop in-store.

Gen Z typically expects relevant and engaging experiences regardless of channel or touchpoint — that’s where omnichannel retail comes in. To capture the Gen Z market, businesses need to deliver personalised, interactive engagement across physical and digital channels.

2. Optimise your ecommerce site for mobile

In 2019, 61% of Gen Zs purchased a product online via their mobile device (GlobalWebIndex). Thanks to the on-the-go accessibility of mobiles, Gen Z’ers tend to browse websites and engage in video-sharing and social related behaviors. Make the most of this by optimising your ecommerce site for mobile:

  • Ensure web design is responsive across devices. This means making certain that designs aren’t cut off anywhere and that they load properly, as well as building with elements are easy to click.
  • Ensure that the most important pages on your site, such as the contact page and your customer service section, are easy to find, accessible and clickable.
  • Improve website loading times by optimising images, reducing the amount of content on your site, using a caching plugin and similar techniques (essentially anything that will reduce the size of the website without sacrificing quality).
  • Build content to be concise, with buttons that are bold and clear and forms which are easy to fill out. Mobile screens are, after all, much smaller than desktop.
  • Minimise huge blocks of text and large white spaces.

3. Join the right social media platforms

Social networks have firmly overtaken search engines as the most popular destination for product or brand research. 27% of Gen Z’ers find out about new brands or products via influencers they follow on social media or celebrity endorsements (GlobalWebIndex).

Gen Z tends to also increasingly favour social commerce — the practice of purchasing via a social media platform.

Which online platforms are best for marketing to Gen Z?

Typically you’ll find that Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest work best for marketing to this generation of young adults. As a bonus, they also have social commerce built in.

4. Offer multiple forms of payment

Gen Z’ers want a variety of payment options — so long as they’re credible and secure. In New Zealand, the top five ways to pay online are:

  1. Debit and credit cards.
  2. Online banking/banking apps.
  3. Mobile wallets and payment apps like Apple Pay/Google Pay or PayPal.
  4. Direct online payment apps like POLi.
  5. Buy Now/Pay Later services such as Afterpay or Laybuy.

Looking at the data coming in about Gen Z, we’re seeing that they tend to be more likely to adopt new-generation payment services such as our own, POLi, as well as Buy Now/Pay Later, payment apps and in-app purchases (Payments NZ Consumer Study 2020).

Lean more:

5. Make your ecommerce site trustworthy

34% of Gen Z shoppers believe that the majority of online stores are untrustworthy (Tidio). So how can you ensure they don’t feel the same about yours? Try some of these ways to make your site more trustworthy:

  • Don’t overuse large promotional banners and popups.
  • Optimise your site for mobile.
  • Utilise modern website design.
  • Invest in good written copy, with no typos.
  • Use a sensible domain name.
  • Buy professional, high-quality images.
  • Encourage shoppers to post authentic product and service reviews.
  • Make sure your contact details are easy to find.
  • Ensure your customer support team is responsive.


Although Gen Z has little purchasing power now, it will pay to invest in engaging them early on – they are the future, after all. The key is to do so authentically by being transparent and true to your brand promise at every touchpoint.