Gen Z shopping

Influencers propel Gen Z to shop in-store

Social media creators and short-form videos encourage Gen Zers to visit new stores and even reduce returns.
Elizabeth Christenson
Editor, Retail Leader
Elizabeth Christenson profile picture

What this means: Social media has evolved from a purely marketing tool in the retail industry to a true shopping platform that is as important as e-commerce, particularly for younger consumers. Beyond social selling, social media creators and influencers hold a lot of power with Gen Z shoppers and many are driving the adoption of retail trends. Retailers and brands need to think differently about these channels and marketing strategies as they’re likely to be a future mainstay of retail.


Creators are driving a majority of Gen Z’s shopping decisions online and in stores. Three-quarters of Gen Z made purchases online from creator recommendations — 21% higher than the general population — and 77% are now shopping in-store following creator recommendations, according to a study from LTK

Creators drive Gen Zers to the physical store more so than the general population — 77% versus 63%. Gen Z’s top product categories purchased in-store from creator recommendations are CPGs, gaming/electronics, fashion and home. The study also revealed the top summer shopping trends for Gen Z include shoes, makeup, jewelry, skin care, shorts and swimsuits. 

Additionally, 42% of Gen Z have shopped at a new retail store because of a creator recommendation. 

“Gen Zers rely on creators' guidance, curation and recommendations,” Rodney Mason, head of marketing, brand partnerships at LTK, told Retail Leader Pro. “We are also seeing an increase in creator and brand collaborations, pop up shops and more, which is driving more Gen Z shoppers in-store. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated creator-guided shopping as shoppers spent more time on social media and shopping from their phones. Post-pandemic, Gen Z shoppers are taking that behavior in-store by shopping specific creator posts and searching creators’ recommendations while in-store.”

According to LTK’s survey, Gen Z’s favorite shopping destinations include:

While Gen Z is made up of many demographics, their online behavior is consistent. What consumers from LTK’s national study said:

  • 100% buy online.
  • 79% originated shopping on social media.
  • 73% watch creator videos.
  • 75% purchase from creators.
  • 99% use social media.

Of the social media channels, Gen Z uses Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, with the latter ranked as their favorite.

Social commerce is playing a massive role in Gen Z’s shopping behaviors and shows no signs of slowing down,” Mason said. “Not only is Gen Z following their favorite creators’ everyday lifestyle, but they are turning to them for product recommendations to help with purchase decisions. Creators are driving more and more purchases online and in-store than ever.” 

Gen Z said that they follow creators because of their authenticity, personality and relatability, the study reported. When asked why they turn to creators for style and shopping recommendations, the top reasons include: authenticity for style and product quality, discovery of new products and brands, and authentic opinions on fit.


The study also found that creators are the most trusted on social media by Gen Z, with the overwhelming majority saying they trust creators more than social media ads and celebrities. In fact, creators are three times more influential to Gen Z consumers than social media ads.

“Now more than ever, audiences are selective about the content they consume and authenticity has become increasingly important,” Mason said. “...Creators want to maintain the relationship with their audiences — they put in the work to find the best products and give real reviews and advice to help their followers. They don’t want to jeopardize their relationships with their followers by recommending or promoting a product they don’t use or value themselves. Their authenticity is key and something ads can’t achieve.”

Gen Z also has a higher favorable opinion of creator content, commissionable links and creator gifting over other generations.

“Gen Z has grown up in the digital era and finds they can relate and trust in the creators they follow,” Mason  said. “The relationship between the creator and follower is genuine, relatable and honest. Gen Z looks to creators for style and product quality, discovery of new products and brands and genuine opinions on fit. Gen Z is shopping creators’ full lifestyles – not just one specific category. They look beyond one specific category and connect with creators who they know value the products they are promoting.”

Leveraging creators also offer other potential opportunities for retailers: 47% of Gen Zers said they were less likely to return something after seeing a creator describe it in video.

“Creator videos allow consumers to get an authentic opinion on fit, see the item from many angles, quality of the material and get more context from the creator to help make a purchase decision,” Mason said. “Ultimately, video content helps instill confidence in what Gen Zers are buying.”

The rise of short-form video in the last year is set to accelerate throughout 2023 because of Gen Z.

“LTK found that across its creator posts, shoppable videos had the strongest sales figures year-over-year, driving three times the sales growth over still images,” Mason said. “With 66% of consumers preferring video content over still images on social media, and 73% of Gen Z watching creator videos, creators and brands will lean into this trend and offer more bite-sized educational and information product reviews and demonstrations.” 

What’s next: As retailers and brands look to harness the power of social selling, they must ensure the shopping experience mirrors physical and digital channels. Consumers expect the same experience no matter where they are transacting, but with social platforms operated by third parties, it becomes more difficult to maintain control.