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How to understand the new generation of buyers

In recent years, Gen Z  has ousted millennials from the limelight and attracted everyone’s attention, demonstrating notable differences in consumer behavior. This generational cohort has become the object of multiple surveys and studies for one obvious reason: as more and more Gen Zers come of age and build careers, they start shaping the global market. Today, this cohort already represents about $143 billion in spending power, and in the course of the next decade, it will only grow in spending power and market presence [1].

How to understand the new generation of buyers

According to eMarketer data [2], half of Gen Zers are already online buyers (though preferring social commerce). Tapping into this audience is a significant opportunity for eBay sellers. If you want to meet the needs of this generation, you need to know who they are, where they start their shopping journey, and what the key drivers of their consumer behavior are. Understanding this cohort will help you prepare for major shifts in buyer needs and priorities that are already underway.

Who are Gen Z buyers?

The term “Generation Z” refers to those who were born between 1997 and 2012 [1]. The oldest of them have already graduated from college and entered the workforce, while the youngest members of this cohort are still in their teens. These consumers are growing up in the aftermath of September 11 attacks and the Iraq War. Their childhood and youth are affected by the global financial crisis, the global pandemic, and the extreme political polarization in the US. All these factors are shaping Gen Z values, outlook on brands and spending habits.

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Gen Zers:

  • typically live with friends or family
  • value constant social connection
  • think of their devices as their own version of home
  • are highly aware of social and environmental issues
  • are looking for jobs that create impact
  • prefer casual communication, private messaging and visual messaging
  • value authenticity, being “true to oneself”

Meet Gen Z consumers

The majority of Gen Zers are too young to have their own home, so they usually live with parents or friends. But they have a special attitude to their devices: growing up as digital natives, Gen Zers perceive smartphones as their own version of home [1].

It is also remarkable that young people of this generation are highly driven by social values. They take to heart social and environmental issues, such as global inequality, climate changes, and pollution. And they are ready to speak up: according to the 2023 EY Gen Z Segmentation Study [3], almost half* of Gen Zers have posted messages on social media about causes they support or agree with. These young people are often called “vocal generation”: mobile devices, digital platforms and constant Internet access have given them a voice that the world can’t ignore. When it comes to career choices, Gen Z consumers are looking for jobs that not only bring money but also create impact. With all this awareness about social and environmental issues, they want to have a sense of purpose and make a difference. 

Being immersed into technology since early childhood, Gen Zers don’t know what life is like without a mobile device or a computer. They can’t imagine how people used to live without any digital identity in the past. However, this young generation is well aware of scandals caused by data breaches in recent years. That’s why Gen Zers prefer private communication via encrypted channels. They understand that even the best technology can have hidden vulnerabilities [1].

Environmental issues and recommerce

According to Forrester’s research, Gen Z consumers expect brands to take a stand on climate change, and 47% of them say this affects their purchase decisions. A large share of US online Gen Z adults (44%) admit that they regularly purchase goods made of sustainable materials, and 52% of them want to know how the products they buy are made [1].

Gen Zers actively engage in buying and selling pre-loved items, considering it a valid way to give them a new life and keep them out of landfills. According to eBay Recommerce Report 2022 [4], 80% of surveyed Gen Zers bought pre-owned goods, and about one third of them sold such items. What’s more, almost one third of new eBay sellers (32%) belong to Gen Z, who are eager to contribute to sustainability efforts [5]. The report states that for sellers from this cohort, a circular economy is not only a way to earn extra cash, but also a way to create a greener future.

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Racial and ethnic diversity

It’s important to note that Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse, compared to all the previous generations. In the US, only about half of them are considered Causasian (52%), while 25% are Hispanic, 14% are black, and 6% Asian [6]. For this cohort, the idea of diversity and inclusion matters a lot, because they have the smallest share of white population among all the generations in the US.

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It should be also noted that every fifth Gen Zer in the US (20%) identifies as LGBTQ+ [7]. That’s almost twice as many as the share of Millennials (11%). In addition to this, 58% of Gen Z see challenging traditional stereotypes related to gender, age, ethnicity, and social class as either very or extremely important — while only 44% of millennials believe so [8]. This helps to explain why individuality is so important to this cohort.

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Spending habits

The consumer behavior of Gen Z will most likely change over the years, because most of them are very young. But at the moment their spending habits are heavily affected by the following factors revealed by the Forrester study [1]: 

  • Less is more. Over a half of Gen Zers (51%) say that they get overwhelmed by too many product options when shopping
  • Relying on recommendations. Nearly half (49%) of US Gen Z online adults say that they make purchases based on recommendations from friends and family. That’s on the same level with Millennials (50%) but much more than Gen X (30%) and Boomers (18%)
  • Open to experiments. 59% of US Gen Z online adults are ready to try new products or brands
  • Continue to adopt digital payments. Gen Zers are the least cash-reliant of all generations. 37% of U.S online Gen Z adults consider digital payments to be more convenient than cash or credit cards [9]

In addition to this, Gen Z are still studying or early in their careers, so they don’t have the

same budgets as other generations do. For this reason, they are actively seeking value:

  • 48% shop most frequently at discount/off-price retailers [10] 
  • 52% frequently considered “previously owned” products as opposed to new [8]

Gen Z on eBay

On eBay, Generation Z buyers are the second most active generation, topped only by Millennials. In 2022, Forrester and eBay surveyed nearly 12,000 online Gen Z adults in the US, and 31% of them said they had purchased from eBay in the past 3 months. It’s only 2 points down compared to millennials (33%). The survey also revealed that among online marketplaces, eBay is ranked number one in usage by Gen Z shoppers [11].

Compared to other generations shopping on eBay, Gen Z buyers are:

  • more likely to shop on eBay for a hobby, collection, or just a personal splurge
  • looking for something rare and unique
  • more frequent visitors on eBay
  • likely to browse the marketplace just for fun

Main drivers of Gen Z shoppers

In general, there are four factors that can help you reach Gen Z consumers. Take them into consideration when creating your marketing content and shaping your tone to reach this buyer cohort.

1. Uniqueness

On the one hand, Gen Zers often resist labels and constructs, striving to be individual and unique. On the other hand, they still jump on the bandwagon of trends and create subcultures, and TikTok provides numerous proofs of that. The point is that young people from this cohort join popular trends only to put a unique spin on them. Gen Z greatly values creativity, self-expression, and an opportunity to show their individual voice. That’s why they often choose small or young brands over large companies. It’s also the reason why TikTok has gained momentum so quickly: this platform invites users not only to follow certain trends, but also to get creative around them. 

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2. Authenticity

Gen Z consumers are highly aware of fake news and deepfake videos. Actually, they are quite skeptical when it comes to their trust in business, authorities, and institutions. These young people are deeply attracted to brands that earn consumer trust by being authentic. That’s why Gen Z consumers expect brands to take a stand on social and environmental problems: climate change, diversity, and inclusion. This cohort wants businesses to be transparent and authentic about their values, so that consumers could follow through on the values that they care about. If a brand makes a mistake (such as sending a wrong product or delayed shipping), Gen Zers believe that acknowledging those mistakes is an honest and authentic thing to do.

According to the Forrester survey, 54% of US Gen Z youth say they have stopped using a brand because of its perceived ethics. Over 50 percent of Gen Z consumers also have chosen brands specifically because of the values that the brand stands for [1].

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3. Community

Gen Z consumers are among the most socially isolated generational cohorts, so they turn to brands as the sort of catalyst for the sense of community and connection. For example, they are most likely to turn to their fellow consumers when choosing what to buy. Around half of Gen Z consumers regularly read peer reviews before making a purchase. Compare that to the average share of US consumers: only about 30%. Gen Z buyers also look to influencers and their online communities to identify which products and brands to trust, to discover new brands and products. In addition to this, Gen Z are much more likely to engage in recommerce than the average US consumer, and more likely to use sharing services than Gen X, Boomers or Golden Generation [1].

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Gen Zers are known to be among the most active users of social media. Over a half of them (54%) spend at least four hours a day on social platforms. It means that you need presence on those platforms if you want to reach this cohort. The recent statistical data reveals that the vast majority of Gen Z (88%) use YouTube, but 43% of them prefer TikTok for starting product searches [8].

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4. Optionality

Gen Z consumers truly value the opportunity to customize and personalize what they buy. And they use the same approach when living their life. This cohort is the least likely of all generations to be working from their desk in their employer's office. They're more likely to choose working from home or a variety of other locations. Gen Z consumers are looking for this variety and novelty throughout their life [1].

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How to win the wallets of Gen Z

Now that you know the preferences and drivers of the new generation of buyers, it’s time to develop a consistent approach to appeal to this cohort. Here’re the key recommendations that will help you win the attention and loyalty of Gen Z shoppers.

Offer them a chance to feel unique and creative

  • Invite consumers to get creative with you by offering customization and personalization options
  • Make space for shoppers to be creative with your products on social media channels
  • Demonstrate a sense of variety and novelty

Avoid stereotypes in your marketing efforts

  • Embrace inclusivity in your marketing content and tone
  • Connect at the individual level by telling your own entrepreneurial story
  • Avoid showing women using products stereotypically associated with them such as cleaning products or makeup
  • If your clothing can be worn by all genders consider using the term “unisex” in the title
  • Consider sharing your pronouns via your bio on your profile page
  • Use people with a range of body types to showcase your products on eBay and social media

Be honest and authentic

  • Add pictures of real people and products to your listings and marketing banners
  • Clearly express your values in item descriptions or the About section of your Store
  • Own up to mistakes (such as delayed shipping) to show accountability and honesty

Promote on their favorite platforms

  • Create Tiktoks promoting your items
  • Post shoppable stories on Instagram and link them to your eBay listings
  • Share valuable content on YouTube: guides, tips, and tricks

Fuel Gen Zers’ passions and interests

  • Use Terapeak to find items that will fuel a wide range of interests and hobbies
  • Curate your Store to create specialized categories reflecting your expertise and passion
  • Share your own background and interests on your bio: what motivates you to sell your inventory

Help them find the best value for their money

  • Sell items at discounted prices and showcase your best deals in Store’s Featured items 
  • Offer alternative value options such as pre-loved and refurbished items as well as parts and tools for repairing
  • Include free local pickup in your shipping options and offer volume discounts for multi-item purchases

Offer them sustainable choice aligning with their values

  • Ship orders in eco-friendly packaging
  • Offer them a chance to give pre-loved items new life
  • Sell long-lasting and reusable products of high quality

Key takeaways

  1. Give Gen Z an opportunity to feel unique and creative.
  2. Be authentic and own up your mistakes.
  3. Be inclusive and avoid stereotypes.
  4. Share your items on social media popular with Gen Z.
  5. Offer products they need for their passions and hobbies.
  6. Offer them smart ways to save and maximize their budgets.
  7. Use eco-friendly packaging and sell long-lasting reusable items.


  1. Lai, Anjali. "Advanced Training Session: Get To Know Gen Z with Forrester". YouTube, uploaded by eBay for Business, Sep 22. 2022. URL: Accessed Jan 16, 2024.
  2. Lebow, Sarah. “Half of younger consumers buy products on social media”. Insider Intelligence | eMarketer,  Oct 26, 2022. URL: Accessed Jan 16, 2024
  3. “How can understanding the influence of Gen Z today empower your tomorrow? 2023 EY Gen Z Segmentation Study”. Ernst & Young LLP. URL: Accessed Jan 16, 2024.
  4. “Recommerce Report 2022”. eBay, Inc. URL: Accessed Jan 16, 2024.
  5. “New eBay Study Finds Gen Z is Driving the Demand for Recommerce”. eBay, Inc. Apr 6, 2022. URL: Accessed Jan 16, 2024.
  6. Parker K. and Igielnik R. “On the Cusp of Adulthood and Facing an Uncertain Future: What We Know About Gen Z So Far”. Pew Research Center. May 14, 2020. URL: Accessed Jan 16, 2024.
  7. Jones, J.M. “U.S. LGBT Identification Steady at 7.2%”. Feb 22, 2023. Gallup, Inc. URL: Accessed Jan 16, 2024. 
  8. Harland, Effie. “How to win with Gen Z”. YouTube, uploaded by eBay for Business, Sep 30, 2023. URL: Accessed Jan 16, 2024.
  9. “eBay x Forrester | Gen Z and digital payments”. YouTube, uploaded by eBay for Business, Mar 22, 2023. URL: Accessed Jan 16, 2024.
  10. “The Rise of the Gen Z Consumer”. International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). June 7, 2023. URL: Accessed Jan 16, 2024.
  11. “eBay x Forrester | Gen Z’s marketplace of choice”. YouTube, uploaded by eBay for Business, Mar 22, 2023. URL: Accessed Jan 16, 2024.