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The Shopping Experiences European Gen Z & Millennials Are Interested In

Gen Z and Millennials are shopping online more than ever before and brick-and-mortars are opening back up. Young consumers want both shopping styles to be an experience…


The way young consumers have shopped during the era of COVID has changed significantly. As we speak, they’re creating the future of shopping—and it’s mostly online. In YPulse’s recent Shopping and Retail report, over half of young European consumers say they prefer to shop online, and the vast majority are regularly shopping via a site, app, social platform, and/or livestream compared to regularly shopping in a physical store. But while the convenience—and safety—of shopping online are big draws for European Gen Z and Millennials, nearly two in five say wanting to see/try products in person is an issue they come across when shopping online. Among those who prefer to shop in-person, wanting to see/try on products is the top reason they cite for their preference—followed by the statement “shopping in-store is entertaining.” Indeed, 70% of young European consumers tell us that shopping should be an experience. 

That applies to both in-store and online retail experiences. With COVID vaccines available and brands reopening physical retail locations to full capacity, drawing young consumers in-store will be all about creating real-life experiences. YPulse has long tracked the experiencification of retail, which includes letting customers loiter in-store and at creative activations, which has quickly become a popular tactic for building future sales leads—and racking up social media impressions in the process. But with three in five young European consumers agreeing with the statement, “No matter what stores do to make visiting more interesting, I am still going to shop online for many things,” online shopping needs to up its entertainment game, too. 

In YPulse’s recent Shopping and Retail report, we asked young European consumers to tell us exactly what shopping experiences—both on- and off-line—they’re most interested in seeing. Here’s what they had to say:


Let’s quickly start at the top: everyone loves free samples, and young European consumers are especially motivated by these little freebies. But free samples are nothing new. More interesting is what comes next: contactless payments. Unlike in the U.S., contactless payment has been slow to catch on in Western Europe, which has long had a strong cash culture, as well as mobile money security concerns. But last year changed all that. In an effort to slow the spread of COVID, consumers warmed up to contactless payments, with 87% of 13-39-year-olds in the region telling YPulse they’re interested in swapping cash for something cleaner. In 2020, the number of mobile payment users in Western Europe increased by 18.7% 59.3 million users, a figure that is expected to grow to 70.6 million by 2023. Brands have started to jump on board: Amazon opened the first completely cashier-less grocery store in London earlier this year and German discount grocer Lidl is piloting a “scan as you shop” contactless system.

Young European consumers are also interested in product customization, which is a trend YPulse has been tracking in the U.S. for some time now—we said years ago that the days of one-size-fits-all are numbered. Our Customization Nation trend report found that 72% of 13-34-year-olds agree that products that are personalized for each individual are superior to mass-produced products, and 74% are interested in buying products that are customized to their taste/made specifically for them. According to Dassault Systèmes and CITE Research, customers are willing to pay an average of 25% more for a personalized product or service. French luxury footwear brand Daniel Essa is getting in on the personalization game with what they’re calling “the world’s first” customizable luxury sneaker. Meanwhile, Dutch beauty startup Routinely is helping young consumers devise their optimal skincare routine with personalized products, and French luxury haircare line Kérastase offers products personalized to specific needs.

The majority of young consumers are also interested in some kind of experimental retail experience, whether branded cafes/restaurants, in-store grooming services, pop-ups or demos. After all, 59% of 13-39-year-olds tell YPulse that stores are places for them and their friends to hang out, and brands are answering the call. French luxury brand Dior opened three exclusive pop-up stores in remote locations throughout Italy, Oslo-based fashion house Holzweiler launched a pop-up in London’s high-end department store Selfridges, and Amazon opened a hair salon in London, which paired IRL grooming services with another shopping experience young consumers are interested in—augmented reality try-ons. 

Livestream shopping comes in last on this list, but YPulse believes it’s a trend to watch. As social media increasingly becomes a marketplace, retailers are leaning into livestream shopping more than ever. Amazon helped boost livestreaming last year, and others followed suit: Instagram influencers are now allowed to sell products on livestreams, and this summer Facebook launched Live Shopping Fridays with makeup and apparel brands. The U.K. also just saw the launch of its first livestream entertainment shopping platform, OOOOO, which promises shoppable programs from top online influencers.

YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the full WE shopping and retail behavioral report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Western Europe Business account? Find out more here.