From Hearts to Carts: What Sways Gen Z’s Purchase Decisions?


    By: NCS Marketing 

    New tastes. New beliefs. New preferences.

    A new generation of consumers has arrived. With more than $360 billion in spending power, Gen Z is capturing the attention of marketers everywhere.

    The zoomers (born between 1997 and 2012) are starting to enter adulthood, and this 72 million-strong generation will hold sway over marketing plans for decades to come. Already, they are a force to be reckoned with: Gen Z households spend 12% more than non-Gen Z households, according to NCS purchase data analyzed in February 2023.

    You may have preconceptions about this generation, but how much do you know about what drives their consumer purchase decisions? 

    For instance, did you know Gen Z is:

    • The first generation to be fully digital native?
    • Unable to be tucked neatly into a box?
    • Both an opportunity and a risk for brands?

    Their beliefs help drive brand loyalty. They may be young, but zoomers are also well-informed. Information is just a tap away, after all, and having grown up with the internet, they know how to find answers. Social media shapes their worldview and sparks activism. As a result, they have a social and environmental mindset that plays a major role in whether they decide to align with a brand. Unlike every generation before them, zoomers aren’t put off by social messaging in their advertising. More than one in five (22%) say they’re loyal to brands that have missions in step with their own beliefs.

    They prefer ads to be unobtrusive – and more like content. Growing up with social media and the internet has made zoomers more discerning when it comes to advertising. They favor authentic content from trusted influencers, and so they prefer advertising to be relevant and embedded in their content feed. Almost six in 10 (58%) say they don’t like ads that interrupt their content consumption, compared to 38% of baby boomers. Brands can win a place in zoomers’ hearts with entertaining and humorous beliefs advertising that…wait for it…doesn’t feel like advertising since it is more relevant, it actually feels more like content.

    They’re a generation of contrasts. On the one hand, zoomers are drawn to brands that are more socially and environmentally conscious, with nearly one-third (30%) preferring brands that prioritize the environment. They have an affinity for plant-based products and meat substitutes, and 12% of them buy foods free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  More than one-fourth (27%) are drawn to brands that use sustainable packaging.

    You might expect Gen Z’s focus on environmental health to carry over into their own diet, but that’s not always the case. While nearly half (46%) consider themselves to be foodies, almost the same percentage (45%) have a sweet tooth – so overall nutrition may not be the top priority for this food-loving generation.

    In fact, more than half of zoomers are big snackers and like to enjoy soft drinks at home. A larger portion (31%) eat on the go, as compared to only 20% who plan their meals in advance, making convenience key. In other words, Gen Z is something of a contradiction, putting the planet’s health ahead of their own.

    And since they’re willing to speak their minds, there’s a risk for CPG brands. Marketers slow to align with the Gen Z “heart” may miss a sizeable opportunity to build loyalty with this new generation. 


    Without a doubt, the impact of zoomers on marketing plans will be game-changing. They’re a much different generation than those that came before them. But marketers don’t have to start from scratch. They already have a set of tried and tested tools they can use to identify the right strategies for connecting with this generation. Marketers can test new ideas, measure the effectiveness and learn what messaging, platforms and creative work best to build relationships with Gen Z. 

    Learn more about how you can win the hearts (and digital wallets) of Gen Z. Download our e-book, How CPG Brands Can Build Brand Loyalty with the First Generation of Digital Natives.



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