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Gen Z purchasing decisions put pragmatism over ethics

Billions of dollars could be at stake for brands on both sides of the Atlantic who are not aligning their values with the younger generation, new research suggests.

According to the 'Unidays Affdex Report 2019,' Gen Z consumers aged between 16 and 24 in both the US and UK are also more likely to purchase high-quality, fashion-forward apparel than garments that may be deemed more ethical or environmentally responsible.

The Affdex claims to be the only study that looks at the affinity that students feel for brands across multiple industries. It focuses on students alone, sampling 14,500 young people in the United States and 3,000 within the United Kingdom.

"Gen Z is boldly and enthusiastically embracing everything the newly connected world has to offer. However, through this study there runs a strong thread of pragmatism amongst Gen Z," the report states.

While it is widely reported that Gen Z consumers care strongly about how 'ethical' brands are, the report suggests this might not be the case across most industries. It is most pronounced in the US where, regardless of industry, Gen Z declare themselves almost uniformly unmoved by the 'ethical' notion.

In clothing specifically, 'stylish,' 'high quality,' 'subjective trust,' and 'great new ranges each season' were deemed among the top core drivers of purchasing factors. While 'does not harm animals' was ranked as the sixth most important driver, 'environmentally responsible,' 'ethical' and 'inclusive' all ranked from seventh to tenth place respectively.

Meanwhile, online fashion retailer Asos and Swedish apparel giant Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) were deemed among the most popular clothing companies for Gen Z consumers. Asos took ninth place in a ranking of the top 12 favoured brands in the UK, while H&M was voted seventh in the US benchmark.

US sporting goods giant Nike led the sportswear section and topped the Affdex overall, followed by rival Adidas in fifth place.

"Nike's performance is a remarkable testament to the timeless power of single-minded brand purpose driving affinity," says Unidays' chief strategy officer Alex Gallagher. "Nike's commitment to fresh sponsorships, partnerships, flagship retail experiences and advertising unafraid to polarise and spark reaction, has kept it constantly relevant."

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