Impulse shopping could soon be a thing of the past, according to research by Iris Worldwide, which found that 0% of Generation Y and Z shoppers surveyed admitted to making spontaneous purchases while shopping in a store.
They appear to be so caught up in both gaining approval and exerting influence on social media that every purchase comes in the context of a whole cycle of posts, likes and tags.
Peter Wilson, planning director at Iris London, said, "It's claimed behavior. But the important thing is that it's true in their eyes. It even applies to relatively disposable, trivial purchases like choosing KFC over McDonald's – everything needs to be pre-validated. The attitude was, 'No. I don't do that at all.' And why would you? They are wary of making a purchase that doesn't meet the standards of their peer group or is culturally out of step. It's too big a risk. And it's easy to mitigate that."
Iris Worldwide London carried out quantitative online research among 900 respondents in the U.S., the U.K. and Brazil, backed up by a six-week qualitative study of 45 respondents. This was combined with social intelligence listening to around 1.1 million interactions, covering Gen Y and Gen Z, two groups born roughly in the years between 1980 and the mid 2000s. Four retail categories were included: consumer tech, fashion, food and leisure.
Attitudes were similar across the three countries surveyed, although social media use varied widely. Americans favored Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, Brits chose Snapchat and Instagram, and Brazilians preferred WhatsApp and email.
Despite all the pre-validation, the anxiety loop extends beyond the act of buying. Qualitative research found that Gen Z consumers were reluctant to share purchases once they had made them, because this is the time when the need for validation reaches its peak. One young woman surveyed in Brazil said she spent $1,000 on a SLR camera but didn't want to share it on social media because she hadn't figured out how to use it and still wasn't sure she'd made the right choice.
Generation Y more frequently display their spoils on social media, although this is likely to be done carefully, in context, like wearing a new dress to an event.