Millennials vs. Gen Z: Fashion – How Do They Shop?

Millennials vs. Gen Z: Fashion – How Do They Shop?

Mar 5, 2020 • 3 min

Consumer Shopper Trends: Gen Z vs. Millennials

It seems as if we’re in a retail apocalypse; the fashion retail landscape has changed with brick-and-mortar stores closing up shop to thriving e-commerce retail sites. With a swipe of our thumb, we instantly have access to more products than we would in a traditional shopping mall. With such easy access to so many products, brands have to fight tooth and nail to differentiate themselves for Millennials and Gen Zers — who can easily research and compare products.

As these two generations represent by far the largest chunk of today’s consumers, understanding Millennials and Gen Zers’ shopping trends, particularity in the fashion realm, is pivotal to the retail industry.

Core Values of Millennials and Gen Z Shoppers:

  • Sustainable & Ethical: There is a cultural perception amongst many young people that the fashion industry is unethical and environmentally harmful. A wave of straight-to-consumer ethically-minded sites like Reformation and Everlane and Patagonia have successfully emerged in recent years, engaging a target audience of affluent and socially/environmentally conscious consumers.

  • Individuality: These “always connected” generations have internalized that everybody is online, and they look to differentiate themselves in the most outwardly possible way: fashion.

  • Community: Large social platforms like Instagram and Facebook Marketplace have turned their platforms into a place where Millennials and Gen Zers are increasingly going to shop. The Instagram Shop feature alone has seen shoppable posts drive 130 million taps on Instagram, every month.

Differences Between Gen Z and Millennials

Remember, Gen Zers and Millennials are at different life stages. Gen Zers are still in school or are just beginning to enter the workforce. Millennials are settling into careers and starting to raise a family. Millennials are no longer “kids” by any definition, and Gen Z, while young, are entrepreneurial and opinionated!

While both generations share similar values, the way they act on them varies. Chalk it up to life stage or generational differences, the approach for marketers and brands needs to be in line with the audience:

  • Both generations have sustainability and ethics top of mind during their purchase decisions. However, Gen Zers are more willing to opt for thrifting and reselling whereas Millennials build brand loyalty with sustainable brands. In other words, sustainable brands must consider unit price and savings more heavily when targeting Gen Z.

  • Gen Zers are more willing to turn to thrifting and reselling through dedicated apps like Depop and Poshmark. Millennials tend to like to look for unique fashion products at consignment and specialty shops.

  • Millennials love word of mouth, relying on product reviews much more heavily than any other generation. In the same vein, Gen Z loves engagement. A trend, showcasing Gen Z’s entrepreneurial side, is the rise of small-scale reselling sites on social media platforms like Instagram. As a result, Gen Zers are becoming increasingly accustomed to personalized, one-to-one retail experiences.


Here at CDA, we strive to be experts in the Millennial and Gen Z market – because that’s who we are! In fact, we dedicated an entire study from our inZa Lab Program to understanding the media and cultural habits of Gen Z. Check out the results here.

If you’d like to see how we can lend our expertise to your brand, reach out to us at

problem to solve?
let us know how
we can help!