Gen Z is built differently. You can see it in the way they exchange ideas, interact online, eat and drink, how much they spend, and most importantly how they shop — and marketers need help navigating these different behaviors. This is especially true when it comes to brand loyalty and the perception that brand loyalty among Gen Z is on the decline. Brands need to know what it takes to keep their Gen Z customers coming back.
How Brand Loyal are Gen Z?
Forbes reports that only 37% of Gen Z are considered “Brand Loyal”, as compared to Baby Boomers who are 56% loyal. Digital accessibility has contributed to this factor. When there are a million other stores to shop for online, it makes it harder to remain loyal to a select few unless they are pulling out all the stops.
This generation also does a lot more research and due diligence before making a purchase, like reading or watching product reviews. TikTok has become a major platform for product reviews, and these can sway a customer before they even considered buying your stuff. Reportedly 80% of Gen Z shoppers use online sources before they decide to buy.
For 68% of Gen Z, the brands they do choose to buy from, end up being the ones that reflect or share their same values and beliefs. So while this group is inherently not as brand loyal as past generations, they will show more loyalty to brands that don’t just make a great product but contribute to a shared cause.
This generation is not easily fooled by marketing, they remain skeptical, and they focus on a brand's authenticity, meaning brands have to work extra hard to earn their trust.
Still, values and authenticity aside, the number one factor when choosing which brands Gen Z buy from is the price - 60% of Gen Z say this is the first thing they consider.
What’s interesting about this generation's shopping habits, is that because they document their lives on social media, they feel more pressure to buy and be seen in new clothes - which means they need to be able to buy more with less.
Which Fashion Brands Are they Most Loyal To?
To help us uncover the top fashion brands this audience has the most loyalty to, or “interest” in, we used NOW Affinio, our audience insights platform. What we were able to collect using NOW Affinio, is the Gen Z audience on Twitter, and their top brand interests, as seen below:
American Eagle Outfitters
*The data above shows that this Gen Z audience is 23 times more likely to follow this fashion brand on social, as compared to the rest of Twitter
American Eagle Outfitters is an American lifestyle, clothing, and accessories brand for people ages 16-34. American Eagle and its sister brand, Aerie, outperformed a lot of other fashion giants during the pandemic, and have been a constant fan favorite of Gen Z ever since. Much of this success has been fueled by its comfortable clothing and positive brand message.
Aerie's Global Brand President and Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Foyle, claims that the company's research reveals one undeniable truth: Today's youth seek comfort in every meaning of the term.
“They want their clothes to be soft and comfortable, but they also want marketing campaigns to make them feel comfortable in their own skin,” she says. “This is now at the forefront of everything we do.”
Eighty percent of Gen Zers note it's important for brands to address diversity and inclusion. This is one of the reasons we think Aerie does so well with this audience because as part of its body positivity and self-love initiatives, American Eagle (and Aerie) use models of a variety of body types and ethnic origins in their retail locations and advertising campaigns.
All of this comes through on its website, and anyone from any background can find someone that looks like themselves wearing their clothes. This confirms that making Gen Z feel good in their clothes, and also in their own skin, matters when it comes to gaining this generation's brand loyalty.
*The data above shows that this Gen Z audience is 22 times more likely to follow this fashion brand on social, as compared to the rest of Twitter
Hollister is a brand that comes in as Top-Ranked for Gen Z. YPulse surveyed thousands of 13-20 years olds who stated that out of 400 fashion labels, Hollister was number 12 on their list. NOW Affinio also highlighted that the Gen Z Twitter audience is 22 times more likely to follow this brand on social, as compared to the rest of the general public. So what are they doing right?
Hollister’s “Gen Z” influencer collaborations have played a huge part in earning Gen Z wallet share. They have partnered with the D’Amelio sisters, even working with them to create a sub-brand called “Social Tourist” that sells gender-inclusive clothing, inspired by the sisters' style.
Additionally, they entered the gaming space, rolling out an esports strategy where they sponsored Fortnite World Cup Champion Kyle Giersfdorf, and co-launched a limited-edition hoodie and sweatpant set.
*The data above shows that this Gen Z audience is 3 times more likely to follow this fashion brand on social, as compared to the rest of Twitter, and Nike organically shows up in this audience's top interests
YBrands conducted a study where they surveyed over 80 thousand consumers between the ages of 13 to 36, and they asked respondents which fashion brand they considered most trustworthy - Nike came out as number one.
Through a beautiful combination of its affordable prices, innovative collaborations, stylish clothing, and footwear designs, and high-profile marketing campaigns addressing important social causes, Nike has won over this generation.
*The data above shows that this Gen Z audience is 3 times more likely to follow this fashion brand on social, as compared to the rest of Twitter, and H&M organically shows up in this audience's top interests
H&M has taken on two big initiatives to win over Gen Z, and it’s working. Firstly, the Global fast fashion retailer H&M has made some huge strides in terms of sustainability. Every spring since 2010, they have released a "Conscious Collection" that has included clothing made from recycled polyester, organic cotton, organic linen, organic silk, and TENCEL Lyocell.
H&M has also set a goal to reduce its carbon emissions by half by 2030 and is spending around $283.4 million annually toward reducing emissions throughout its value chain.
So although H&M is not 100% eco-friendly, Gen Z can feel a bit better when shopping at this fast fashion brand because of the initiatives they have undertaken - even if the real main reason they still buy from this brand is because of their low prices.
*The data above shows that this Gen Z audience is twice more likely to follow this fashion brand on social, as compared to the rest of Twitter, and Gucci organically shows up in this audience's top interests
A whopping 57% of Gen Z have stated they have never yet bought a luxury item, claiming the main reason is that they can’t afford to. But, when YPulse surveyed this consumer group, Gucci was ranked as the number one brand they wanted to own. How then, can a luxury brand like Gucci, have such a hold over a generation with such a tight budget?
For starters, this brand has done a great job creating buzz among Gen Z and keeping them interested. Gucci has a massive presence on TikTok, Vogue even called them “the most popular luxury brand” on the platform. It helped that it was one of the first luxury brands on TikTok, but it also gained lots of traction with its #accidentalinfluencer campaign, where it advertised its Gucci Tennis 1977 sneakers with films that featured custom choreography for TikTok, garnering 2.5 million views (and counting).
And that’s not all Gucci leaned into. It has also entered the gaming, metaverse, and crypto space. For example, it partnered with Feciet (a gaming platform) to create a “Gucci Gaming Academy”, it also created a virtual Gucci World in Web3, and it even began accepting Crypto as payment - talk about getting with the times.
Another major win has been the fact that Gucci’s campaigns highlight things like gender fluidity, self-expression, and individuality - all the stuff that we know heavily resonates with this generation.
So, what have we learned about Gen Z and brand loyalty when it comes to fashion? It seems that they go back to the brands that embrace the following: Use models of a variety of body types and ethnic origins, work with their top influencers towards a common cause, address important social issues, are working to become more sustainable, price within their budget, or highlight individuality.
Brands looking to win over this generation should have not one but two of these qualities above if they are looking to go head-to-head with the fashion giants listed above. If you’re curious to know what is most important to your audience demographic, sign up below to get started with NOW Affinio.