Eric Briones, founder of consultancy company Darkplanneur, released his new book “The Gen Z choc” right after the new year. Written together with students from the Paris School of Luxury and Nicolas André, digital and social media expert, the book dives into Gen Z* shopping motivations and how they are reshaping the luxury industry.

1. Who is the Gen Z and what sets them apart from Millennials?

As a generation, I like to think of Gen Z as an archipelago of many tribes bound together by very strong common values. In other words, they are multi-faceted and furtive. One Gen Zer may belong to the “body positivists” tribe, jump to the “hypebeasts” group and be concerned with environment issues at the same time!

We have identified 3 crucial differentiators from the millennial generation worth considering by brands and retailers alike. First of all, their idea of “the collective” or relationship to a group, is very different. If millennials** rejected the idea of having leaders and are geared towards a society where we are all equals, Gen Zers are much more narcissists.

Their attitude towards luxury is also very different. Unlike their older peers, they are not fascinated by luxury, nor by exclusive brand collaborations or product drops. Rather, they enjoy challenging the quality of luxury products as exemplified by many YouTube videos and are much more pragmatic when it comes to paying full price. It is for this reason that second-hand fashion is big with this generation.

Finally, Gen Z displays very progressive ideas regarding the state of the world which shows itself in how and what they buy. Their purchasing decisions are fully directed towards how it will change the world for the better.

2. How are Gen Zers changing the retail industry?

They are completely shaking the retail industry, from the design of a product to the way it is marketed or promoted. Indeed, right from the beginning, they were raised by the very best companies from the digital era, such as Amazon or Alibaba. They have been accustomed to a purchasing journey which is seamless and ultra-convenient.

This is why old marketing schemes do not work on them anymore. Rather, retailers need to switch to a model which is much more agile, shorter and capable of listening to its consumers. The success of Digital Native Vertical Brands (DNVBs), such as make-up mastodons Glossier, fashion house Everlane or even Netflix, rely on this model. Faced with a “control-freak” generation who needs to feel acknowledged and listened to, these born-out-of-the-digital-sphere-brands have rightly located the client at the heart of their strategies.

3. How should retailers adapt to generation Z?

According to a McKinsey & Company report, Gen Zers will represent 40% of global consumers this year; and retailers need to completely review their strategies if they want to have a slice of this growing market.

But Gen Zers are difficult to connect with, rendering retailers’ marketing tools, whether tech, data, or marketing-driven, completely obsolete. My advice would be for brands to dare to have real life contact and to transition from a method which simply observes consumers and imposes its vision in favour of a method which is much more collaborative. In this scheme, the exclusive insights produced are the results of several generations working together.

A great example of this is Louis Vuitton’s partnership with 18 years old YouTube superstar Emma Chamberlain. Instead of asking a fashion expert to comment on the luxury brand’s latest fashion show, the fashion house enlisted the help of the teenager to give her impression of what was happening on the runway.


*Individuals born between 1997 and 2012

**Individuals born between 1981 and 1996