What Are The Subtle Differences Between Gen-Z And Millennials Offline Brands Need To Know?

Among other things, Despite becoming a young adult in today’s era of mindful eating, a Foursquare study finds Gen Z is actually more likely than other generations to visit major fast food and casual dining chains.

Considering that Gen-Z will command roughly $143 billion in direct spending by 2020 — and $44 billion a year now — it makes sense for marketers to pay closer attention to this group as opposed to lumping them in with their slightly older Millennial siblings.

A report by Foursquare and media agency Carat  that looks at the location shopping patterns of both groups finds some subtle, but important, differences in the way the two sets of young people choose what and where to buy.

While still in their formative years as independent and influential consumers, Foursquare also notes that there are three shopping myths about Gen-Z it wishes to debunk:

  • Myth #1: Gen Z is completely obsessed with healthy and organic food:


    In fact, Gen Z is actually more likely than other generations to visit some of America’s most beloved fast food and casual dining chains. Nevertheless, Gen-Z does tend to prefer the higher-end model of QSRs, with west coast chain In-N-Out Burger and its east coast counterpart Shake Shack each commanding 3-digit percentages (111 percent and 103 percent, respectively) higher favorability when compared to “average consumers.”

    In addition, 7 percent of Gen-Z consumers state that they regularly visit fast food restaurants — 35 percent higher than the average consumer. Meanwhile, 16 percent say they’re “passionate about going to fast food restaurants,” which is a significant 41 percent higher average than the general consumer.

    What does that mean for QSRs? Foursquare advises “tapping into trends to identify Gen Z’s affinities—like indulgent cheeseburgers or tacos—creating programs that cater to their tastes.”

  • Myth #2: As digital natives, Gen Z prefers to shop online: Shopping to, Gen-Z consumers, isn’t just about getting something quick and cheap — they go to a store for the “experience,” Foursquare finds.
    • 53 percent check online to see if there is anything else they’d prefer to buy that is not currently available in-store
    • 47 percent use their smartphones while shopping at brick-and-mortar locations to enhance the in-store experience; that same percentage also lets family and friends know where t hey are shopping
    • 51 percent search the web for a coupon, discount or promotion
    • The mall isn’t dead for Gen-Z either: Perhaps motivated by discount prices, a variety of sales, or more places to hang out Gen Z-ers are 38 percent more likely to visit Outlet Malls, and 23 percent more likely to visit shopping malls than the average US consumer.

Foursquare’s take for retailers: Develop engaging, tech-enabled brick-and-mortar retail experiences to close the gap between the digital and physical worlds, creating an unparalleled shopping experience.

Myth #3: Gen Z spends all of their free time sitting at home on their phones: While probably not directly relevant for most marketers, but one factoid that jumped out at us from the Foursquare study, was that Gen-Z consumers are 25 percent more likely than average consumers to visit an opera house.

The point there is that this cohort is attracted to cultural experiences found in bookstores and museums. Movie theaters, however, are last on the list when compared with theme parks, aquariums, and bowling/mini golf.

“To ensure your brand is manifesting a meaningful connection, consider aligning with the diverse leisure interests of Gen Z that go beyond the screen,” says Foursquare.

As for Foursquare’s research partner, Carat, the agency has this to add: “Crowdsourcing is hugely popular among this age group. Include opportunities for Gen Z to gather feedback from friends, which not only allows those customers to shop in a way that feels natural, but also broadens your brand reach.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.