generation z as online shoppers: exactly how engaged are they?

generation z as online shoppers: exactly how engaged are they?

It is commonly believed that young people, especially those of Generation Z, are more attached to the online world than those in other age groups because they were born in an era of unparalleled technological progress. While there is a grain of truth in this, when you consider their overall behaviour that conclusion is rather simplistic.

Depending on the nature of the online activity, the level of engagement varies widely. For example when it comes to discussing their experiences or socializing, Generation Z is heavily engaged in various kinds of social media around the clock. However, with online shopping they tend to drag the chain.

How exactly does the internet serve Generation Z? Nielsen Hong Kong’s latest study shows that most treat it as an aid in searching for information, the majority relying on social media to obtain brand and product information. It is also commonly used as a medium for comparing notes with others, half the respondents saying they discuss their shopping experience in social media, no matter the product category. However, fewer than half were less likely to talk about buying personal care products, (45%) than they were to talk about packaged food and beverages (52%) and health and beauty products (50%). 

In general, Generation Z said they talked with friends in social media about their shopping because of the pleasure it gave them. This was noticeable in all categories, especially packaged food and beverages (53%). The functionality of newly purchased personal care (39%) and health and beauty products (36%) also prompted people to discuss them online. For Generation Z the shopping experience extends far beyond simply buying products and services; it stretches to after-sales service and talking about their shopping experiences, good and bad, online.

Even if Generation Z seems to be highly engaged in the online world, their purchasing behaviour is out of sync with this: Most of their buying, in no matter what category, continues to be done in the traditional way – offline. Nevertheless, among those who shop online the spending is substantial, accounting for 30% of their total spend. Within product categories, online spending on health and beauty products has the biggest portion of overall spending (41%), followed by packaged food and beverage (37%) and personal care products (32%). 

For Generation Z the motives and planning related to buying products in different categories also varies widely. Buying of packaged food and beverages is more likely to be driven by impulse; more planning goes into buying personal care and health and beauty products. Among those who planned their purchase for personal care and health and beauty products, about 45% said they would not search for any information for personal care product in advance, and 33% would not do so for health and beauty products.

In all, it seems the growth of online shopping among Generation Z is inevitable, as they grow older and e-commerce becomes more mature.


It covered Generation Z shoppers in Hong Kong (N=537, 15-27 years old who bought products in any two of the following categories: food and beverages or personal care or health and beauty products in the past year). This age group has increasing spending power and is thus of great and growing importance to retailers. In this syndicated study, deeper research on Generation Z was done covering various aspects from the differences in behavior and personal values within subsidiary age groups, to Generation Z’s shopping outings. Based on their personal values and shopping attitudes, five Generation Z segments were derived in each of which they behave differently as they look for promotions and buy new products and in the way they use the media.


Nielsen Holdings plc (NYSE: NLSN) is a global measurement and data analytics company that provides the most complete and trusted view available of consumers and markets worldwide. Our approach marries proprietary Nielsen data with other data sources to help clients around the world understand what’s happening now, what’s happening next, and how to best act on this knowledge. For more than 90 years Nielsen has provided data and analytics based on scientific rigor and innovation, continually developing new ways to answer the most important questions facing the media, advertising, retail and fast-moving consumer goods industries. An S&P 500 company, Nielsen has operations in over 100 countries, covering more than 90% of the world’s population. For more information, visit