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Do Gen Z’s store visits align with their values?

February 11 2020

Ubimo’s Data Reveals which Woke and Slept Brands Gen Z is Frequenting and Avoiding.

This article is part of our contributor series and originally ran here

Gen Zers have strong opinions on brands they love and are willing to support and brands they will boycott. Recent research shows that 90% of Gen Zers think companies have an obligation to address social and environmental issues, and 82% said that their favorite brand embraced social responsibility. Brands that are conscious of current issues and take a stance on social justice and environmentalism, like Nike or Patagonia, are deemed “woke” brands. We set out to discover if Gen Zers put their money where their mouth is. Do they visit stores deem woke and avoid “slept” brands that don’t champion and promote a cause?

Using Ubimo’s Polaris, we found Gen Z seems to be penalizing slept brands with less foot traffic to their stores, with one surprising exception. Gen Z is actively avoiding Forever 21, which got in trouble for body shaming, and Victoria's Secret, which has not promoted inclusion in the past. Forever 21 has 56.3% fewer visits from Gen Z than their share of the population, and Victoria’s Secret has 13.6% less visits from Gen Z. These are significantly less visits from Gen Z and suggest that they are avoiding these slept brands. Surprisingly, some slept brands are attracting Gen Z in droves.

Victoria's Secret, Forever 21

When it comes to Chick-fil-A, a brand notorious for its anti gay marriage stance, Gen Z’s store visits do not align with their proclaimed values. We discovered that the fast food chain is wildly popular among the Gen Z population, with their share of visits 26.9% higher than their share of population. Gen Z avoids clothing brands Forever 21 and Victoria's Secret, which they deem slept, but when it comes to food, they visit Chick-fil-A regardless of their controversial political stances.

Ubimo data shows that, overall, Gen Z is not visiting woke brand stores at higher rates. Apple is the only brand that sees a significant lift, or higher share of visitors compared to share of population. In our analysis the Gen Z audience is overrepresented in Apple stores by 17.4%. On the other hand, Gen Z does not particularly frequent Chipotle, a brand that toutes sustainability and environmentalism. The lack of visits from the Gen Z population to woke clothing retailers like Levi, Patagonia, and H&M does not necessarily mean they do not buy these brands; they could be shopping online instead of going into stores. Brands that stake their marketing and brand image on their political stances, including those we studied, are not necessarily converting Gen Z into brick and mortar store visitors. 

Apple, Nike, H&M

Securing the loyalty of Gen Z shoppers is critical to the future of brands, since they represent the new generation of consumers with significant spending power. Many brands are trying to tap into social consciousness and be “woke” in the way that the Gen Z audience demands. However, visit patterns show a mixed picture on where Gen Z is actually shopping. Of the brands we analyzed, there is a higher percentage of the Gen Z population visiting “slept” Chick-fil-A than any of the “woke” brands, including Gen Z darling Apple and Chick-fil-A rival Chipotle. This seems counterintuitive, since Gen Zers proclaim investment in social issues, but their actual foot traffic does not always mirror their stated beliefs.  

Methodology 

  • We analyzed visitors to Nike, Apple, Patagonia, Levi, Uniqlo, H&M, Athleta, Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, Forever 21, and Victoria’s Secret 
  • We calculated lift for the Gen Z demographic, defined in the panel as aged 18-24 
    • Lift is the percent difference compared to the control group (national average for each demographic in the panel)

Disclaimer: This independent analysis is based on Ubimo’s location intelligence platform. As such, Ubimo does not have any relationship with the brands featured in this report, nor should the independent analysis be construed in any way to suggest otherwise. Ubimo data is always anonymized and aggregated.

About Author

Greer Bingham

Greer Bingham is a Strategy & Insights Manager at Ubimo, a Quotient Brand. Passionate about the intersection of data and storytelling, Greer applies analytical methods to produce consumer and location insights. Her work includes market research, white papers, and blogs, and has been published in Adweek and Forbes. When not busy crunching numbers, Greer can be found running in Central Park or cooking new recipes in her tiny NYC kitchen.

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