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Gen Z & Millennials Inflection Point

Young shoppers representing the Millennial & Gen Z consumer
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Nine Cowen analysts and a 2,700 person survey highlight variance in preferences and habits between demograhpics.  Our survey and analysis suggest shifts to digital and direct-to-consumer (DTC)  channels as sustainability, wellness, and social commerce will have profound effects on growth and risk across retail, luxury, e-commerce, restaurants/food, beverage, cannabis, and travel.


Gen Z and Millennial consumers should grow to 70% of the population by 2028 vs. 60% today. Within the United States, they will inherit an estimated $60T of wealth into 2050 and have vastly different views on brands, channels of engagement, and consumption relative to older demographics, along with views on sustainability and ESG.


Cowen’s fifth annual Gen Z and Millennial survey is one of the most unique datasets regarding variance between younger and older demographic consumption patterns and attitudes. This survey also offers new data related to inflation impacts.

Our fifth annual proprietary dataset and work indicate post-COVID spending shifts while reinforcing category/channel dominance and rapid growth in preference for a select group of companies within younger demographics across multiple Consumer and E-commerce sectors.

See the fourth annual GenZ and Millennial survey here.


Megatrends within Gen Z and Millennials will dictate the durability of growth, financial returns, and free cash flow across consumer sectors. Our survey data shows Social Commerce trends remain elevated vs. pre-pandemic levels. Social media platforms are increasingly influential to consumer spending and are leading destinations for new brand discovery.

The growth in shopping channel preference among Gen Z and Millennials notably increased among those desiring to “Shop at a Retailer and Brand’s website.” Preference scores rose +36% y/y in 2022 for ages 18-24, and increased +18% y/y for ages 25-34. This which further highlights models that are rising above competition from other platforms. A shift To direct-to-consumer models is accelerating and has meaningful implications for future unit economics, margin profiles, and valuations.


Signs of top-line momentum or lack thereof, pricing power, and consistency of margins and returns on capital into 2023 will further highlight the bifurcated consumer environment that is characterized in our survey. Some retailers, brands, restaurants, platforms, and businesses will further solidify their competitive positions as well as their positions with Gen Z and Millennial consumers. Others will fail to improve their position and are at risk of further disruption. Strong brands across sectors are widening their competitive separation. We detail key themes in our full report.

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