Is Gen Z Poppin’ Your Tags?

teens_shopping_xlargeIf you don’t know what ‘poppin’ tags’ means, you don’t yet speak Gen Z, and until you do speak Gen Z, you’re going to have a hard time selling to this consumer segment.  Gen Z thinks, operates and shops very differently from Gen Y.

As the back to school shopping season heats up, many retailers are finding spending to be sluggish. What can you do to capture the attention of these skeptical youth that have a form of ADD?

Here are 4  insights into Gen Z that will get Gen Z Poppin’ Your Tags. 

 1. Gen Z Lives in the Moment, so Be in Their Moment

Sales in July were slow because retailers’ timing is off for Gen Z. What teen wants to buy clothes for back to school in July when they’re chillin’ out for summer vacation?  Connected since birth, Gen Z’s brains are wired to be in the moment. Gen Z can buy whatever they need online a couple days before school starts and might even get a discount.  So brands need to be present in Gen Z’s moment, when they are ready to buy, which will be down to the wire of back to school unless mom intervenes.

2. Gen Z has AADD, So Should Your Brand 

Gen Zs have very limited attention span since they’ve been connected since birth, and multi-task like crazy. According to John Ratey of Harvard Medical School, Gen Z has Acquired Attention Deficit Disorder meaning technology is rewiring the modern brain.  It will be hard for retailers and brands to get their attention because they are impatient and instant-minded.  Their fingers are bouncing back and forth to stores, blogs, and product reviews, back to stores, and uTube, within minutes and with two devices. Aside from being omnipresent, brands need to stand out to stop Gen Zs in their shopping tracks.  Popularity is a numbers game for Gen Z meaning they favor brands that have many likes, good reviews and shows an interest in them. Educate Gen Z on your brand over time before they decide to make the purchase.

3.  Gen Z is Skeptical, So Be a Good Brand

Gen Z has different expectations and requirements from a brand than any other generation. Because they were alive to experience 9/11, Gen Zs are frequently defined as cautious and skeptical. They also lived through the economic recession in 2008 and saw families lose jobs and even houses.  Like their parents, Gen Z is realistic and practical in what they buy, making them less brand loyal than Gen Y.  Shopping is an online scavenger hunt for Gen Z.  Show them that your prices are consistent and have a strong brand message at the mall and in all media.  Gen Z can crack anyone’s code of unethical conduct so start building their trust now.

4. They Dress to Express, So Push what’s Unique

Gen Zs are masters of creation and expression – ranging from posting selfies on Instagram to starring in a parkour video. With nearly every item available for sale at their fingertips, globally or locally, Gen Zs can hand pick their wardrobe to look as unique as they want.  For example, one Gen Z teen I interviewed would only wear T-shirts that show who he is so he expresses his passion for whales by wearing a T-shirt purchased from Sea Shepard Store. Plus, wearing unique items give them bragging power to show off their digital shopping excellence.  Anyone can pop tags from retailers like Macy’s and Costco but it says nothing about them.

So put aside everything you know about Gen Y and start getting to know Gen Z.  Poppin’ tags at the mall is just not adventurous enough for Gen Z. Make poppin’ tags exciting, even more exciting than a thrift shop with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.


  1. Nancy says:

    Thank you Alexandra, glad you love the exploration! Appreciate your tip, always so helpful to hear from the source, no less a brilliant writer like yourself!

  2. I love this exploration into Gen Z’s shopping habits – it has a lot of truth!
    Reading this as a member of this new “skeptical youth that have a form of ADD”, I was very taken back by the ‘accusations’ but stubbornly admitted to all of them.
    However, if I may add another tip as an inside source: Never blatantly pursue Gen Z customers. Remember, be cool. Always be cool. It’s led to the success of brands like American Apparel and HUF – which ultimately come across as being run by potheads. Don’t ever try too hard, or your brand will never be photographed with a film camera and put on an artsy-hipster Tumblr blog 😉


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