LONDON — Gen Z has many faces, habits and attitudes and new data by Sunshine, a brand and entertainment consultancy, seeks to reflect that diversity in its new report on the mass luxury consumer, in partnership with Walpole and Lucid.
The report, conducted in North America and U.K. with 7,000 participants, identifies 10 key insights into the luxury Gen Z consumer. Instead of looking at Gen Z as a singular group, his team clustered its findings around different sub-groups.
“It’s about trying to get beyond that one level that’s just straightforward demographics, and to segment consumers around cultural attitudes and behaviors which are universal, and ageless, to avoid biases based on age,” he said.
According to MacCuish, it’s important to look deeper into different Gen Z attitudes and collate data based on varying attitudes in the one generational segment. For example, 27 percent of Gen Z consumers surveyed prefer heritage brands, while 54 percent say they prefer new and contemporary brands. At the same time, the report said a large group of Gen Zers are motivated by how brands can help them express their identity.
In the report, MacCuish has identified three main Gen Z groups, the Aspirational Admirers, the largest group that do not have the means yet to buy luxury but have the desire to, the Experimentalists, the second largest group who actively engage with brands, and the Sustainable Idealists, who have a lower interest in luxury as a whole.
While these three groups differ in their relationships to luxury brands, consumer attitudes toward the luxury market and brands share similarities such as placing high value in engagement.
“About 30 percent of mass luxury consumers are actively looking to brands to build a relationship and directly access culture. A great example is the Prada Mode pop-up at Frieze Art fair last year,” he said, referring to the installation by the American artist Theaster Gates and a live performance in collaboration with the Vinyl Factory in London.
“There are too many things competing for the finite attention of an audience and brands can become a very powerful navigator and help audiences access things that have the most emotional value to them,” MacCuish said.
One of the challenges that brands and retailers alike face is sustaining consumer loyalty. MacCuish remains positive, and said that as long retailers remain innovate, they have a bright future ahead.
On this note, MacCuish touches upon a key insight made in the report, that there are no trends because of the sheer volume of different interests, and confluent movements compared with the definitive trends there were 10 years ago. With regard to retail experiences and products, he noted that for every great trend, there is a brilliant counter trend.
“Mecca beauty in Australia is an incredible example that is completely ahead of the curve. They have a fantastic loyalty program called ‘In the Loop’ for their highest value customer all the way down to people who are just beginning. There are a lot of examples in the beauty space of innovation driving loyalty, but you can also link it to retail experiences like Dover Street Market — really uplifting, immersive and full of surprise and delight,” MacCuish added.
Brands have been investing in experiential and immersive experiences, and MacCuish emphasized that these need to be authentic. Sustainability — an important issue for the Gen Z shopper — should already be entrenched in the brand, and should not be a headline reason for engagement.
“What these insights show is that there is a lot of precedent for brands recognizing the value to add to the culture that they are a part of. It also asks questions around the economic model: To build and run experiential-led retail is a capex investment, and requires sustainable support. If there is a demand for it, I think it is a very viable and powerful way for a brand to build an ongoing relationship with their customers beyond the transaction or goods,” MacCuish said.