New survey research from business applications, enterprise learning and outsourcing firm CGS reveals new insights into where U.S. consumers are shopping, what they are purchasing, what the motivations are by generation, and how they feel about American-made goods.
“As pandemic-related fears dissipate with the continued rollout of the vaccine, new trends in consumer shopping habits have emerged,” said Phil Friedman, president and CEO at CGS, in a news release. “As the shopping experience continues to evolve, brands and retailers need to take notice of the preferences of younger consumers. Generation Z and Millennials have different shopping habits and motivations for buying that continue to affect the post-pandemic retail industry.”
Key findings include:
The purchasing power of Generation Z is altering shopping trends
Shifts in buying habits in 2021 could be a result of one group in particular, the up-and-coming Generation Z, with rising buying power, estimated to be as high as $323 billion. Born between 1997 and 2012, these consumers are carving out new trends in the e-commerce landscape, eschewing the likes of online marketplaces such as Amazon, for shopping destinations with eco-friendly and sustainable values.
While 67 percent of older generations, Generation X and Baby Boomers, are relying on the online marketplaces as their destination for non-essential goods, only 37 percent of Generation Z respondents said the same. Meanwhile, they are putting their dollars into more sustainable shopping destinations. Generation Z consumers are five times more likely than Baby Boomers to use second-hand sites like eBay or ThredUp for non-essential items.
Motivations for purchasing are also vastly different for Generation Z versus other age groups—only 18 percent cited cost as a motivation for shopping. Instead, they are largely motivated by quality (27 percent), followed by influencer endorsements (21 percent). Among the 81 percent of U.S. consumers who shopped for apparel in 2021, each age demographic had different reasons for purchasing: Generation Z cited concerns their wardrobe was outdated (35 percent), Millennials are trying to spruce up their return-to-work attire and Baby Boomers are purchasing footwear, or they are choosing not to shop at all.
A recent phenomenon, revenge shopping, defined as consumers making up for lost time with increased spending, is being driven by a younger set. Baby Boomers are not indulging in “revenge shopping”—in fact, 64 percent said they have not splurged recently or plan to splurge on an upcoming purchase. On the other hand, 82 percent of Millennials and Generation Z plan to splurge or have already splurged on a purchase in 2021.
Consumers define a desire for American-made children’s apparel, cosmetics and furniture
When polled on their interest in purchasing products that were made in America, several interesting trends emerged. Of the 1,000 respondents, seven in ten consumers (71 percent) felt that children’s items and apparel should be made in America, citing concerns about materials used in manufacturing (42 percent) and desire to support local businesses (54 percent) as the main reasons for this sentiment. When browsing children’s items and apparel, consumers claimed durability (43 percent) as their top priority, exceeding cost (22 percent) and comfort (22 percent).
A majority of respondents (63 percent) felt that cosmetics and hygiene products should be made within the country. They cited materials used in manufacturing (52 percent) of paramount concern when shopping for cosmetics, preferring cosmetics and hygiene products made in America.
While materials used in manufacturing of furniture were not a significant cause for concern, 62 percent of consumers stated that they do want their furniture made domestically, with one-third of respondents citing faster delivery times as the reason. Issues related to delivery of furniture have soared as supply chain disruptions, short-staffed factories and heightened demand from consumers eager to upgrade their spaces occurred during the pandemic.
According to U.S. Department of Commerce, Americans spent an estimated $11.3 billion at furniture and home furnishing stores in February 2021, but many are experiencing weeks to months in delivery delays. With this confluence of disruptions in mind, 42 percent of respondents noted the importance of shopping locally. And 18 percent of respondents highlighted purchasing American-made furniture to lessen carbon emissions. A continued trend among consumers valuing sustainable and ethical practices.
“The pandemic, naturally, had a lasting impact on consumer habits and shopping behaviors,” said Paul Magel, president of Business Applications division at CGS, in the release. “Brands, retailers and their customers experienced the scarcity and delay of goods over the last year. Now consumers have had a chance to take a step back and identify how and where they wish to spend. For some generations, we are witnessing a gravitation toward sustainable and locally made goods, others it is secondhand marketplaces, while other age groups are going back to what they know, whether that be department stores or the large online marketplaces.”
The pandemic defined purchasing trends, and unveiled new priorities
The survey identified where consumers were shopping for non-essential items, beyond food, medicine and hygiene products. In Spring 2020, nearly 70 percent of shoppers were reliant on online marketplaces such as Amazon. When polled in June 2021, consumers are clearly beginning to add variety back into their shopping habits, although online marketplaces still rank as the primary shopping destination with 61 percent claiming they are heading there for non-essential items.
The only other destination, among local, small businesses, brand websites, second-hand sites and rental subscriptions that captured significant consumer interest in 2021 is department stores—with nearly one in five claiming they most frequent department stores such as Macy’s.
Dynata, a leading market research tool, conducted this survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers in June 2021.