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By 2020, today's 14-19 year olds will be the largest group of consumers worldwide and their current behaviour patterns will be carried forward into early adult-hood, requiring marketers to fundamentally reconsider their propositions, according to a study by global design consultancy Fitch, which has identified a five-point 'path to purchase' for the valuable yet culturally diverse Generation Z. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

The company's international study of 14-19 year olds from Europe, Russia and China found that, as credit-shy digital consumers, Generation Z tends to favour innovation, upgrades and updates, being happy to accept a 'buggy beta product' in order to get their hands on it, instead of having the patience to wait for a better product later on that takes customer feedback into account.

In contrast to Generations X and Y, there is a marked gap between seeing and buying for the Generation Z shoppers, so brands and retailers must adapt and connect with them during what Fitch calls their "aspirational browsing period".

As a result of the study, Fitch uncovered several insights about Generation Z, leading to the compilation of what the company has nicknamed "the five-point path to purchase" for these sometimes-elusive and fickle consumers:

  1. Finding out
    Generation Z consumers identify potential purchases while in their seemingly natural state of 'seamless multi-tasking' across multimedia channels and social media scanning.
  2. Browsing
    They begin with a search engine such as Google before doing anything else. They then happily remix style trends, make a digital scrapbook and conducting price-checks across different web sites.
  3. Decision-making
    They will usually seek approval from their peers, delaying gratification in case something better comes along, while constantly tracking prices using apps and the web.
  4. Buying
    There is no shame in using bargain web sites such as eBay, or in picking up a good deal second-hand. They will take advantage of every lower-cost buying opportunity.
  5. Show-and-Tell
    Having made their purchase, Gen Z immediately want to connect with their peers, creating, watching and responding to 'haul' videos (a video recording posted online, displaying items recently purchased, including product details and often the price paid).

Perhaps surprisingly, the more product-focused among Generation Z are also quite happy to browse the real world of retail, but it's important that they can touch and have access to the products (a clear wake-up call for mobile phone and tablet retailers that display only dummy units, or put all the devices behind glass). Clear product pricing is also essential for Generation Z.

According to the study, in many ways Generation Z is just like the teens of previous generations, but they have new tools to help them express their identities, discover new information, and influence their peers. If brands and retailers are to capture the hearts, minds and wallets of a generation of aspirational browsers, they must adapt their approach first.