July, 17, 2019

Generations Y and Z Enter New Era of Shopping as a Live Event

Brands Need To Step Up Their Innovation Game Without Gimmicks; Cassandra’s Retail Research On 14 To 34 Demo

June 17, 2019 (New York, NY)– Cassandra released its latest research on youth aged 14 to 34, focusing on retail trends.



In the era of online shopping, sales are happening 24/7, so brands need a new way to get customers excited about their offerings.

Live events serve as a new way to shop, in that they create an experiential sale: they offer unique experiences, exclusive products, and collaborations that draw customers in and create a stronger relationship with the brand.

More than previous generations, young consumers don’t just see shopping as a means to an end—this is especially true of women in the U.S. who appreciate browsing even more than men (47% vs. 37%). Those numbers are considerably higher for Trendsetters (innovators and early adopters who are always in discovery mode, influence the people in their communities, and create waves to help evolve culture at large).

Because of this, Cassandra recommends retailers use existing infrastructure to create a unique experience for customers, so that browsing becomes an experiential event in and of itself; live shopping events don’t need a new venue to be successful.

Gen Ys and Zs crave the social nature of shopping, and value unique experiences that deepen their relationship to the brand and their peers. This shift is underscored by the explosion of pop-up shops and popularity of retail shops like the Brooklyn Flea and Renegade Craft Fair.

The last few years have seen a slew of adult-themed “museums” that offer visitors the opportunity to produce content for social platforms, such as A. Human, Color Factory, and Candytopia.

69% of young consumers have attended or would like to attend a themed event/festival, jumping to 87% for Trendsetters, indicating that sentiment will grow among the general population.

NEXT PHASE OF EXPERIENTIAL SHOPPING: A blend of these trends – live events where shopping itself is one of the key drivers, and where the lines blur between art and retail, music and commerce.

Cassandra sees experiential shopping potentially serving as exclusive retail opportunities. Using these events as forums to sell exclusive products or releases can create must-buy moments for customers.



Technology has had such a positive effect on their shopping habits that Gen Ys and Zs are practically demanding that brands accelerate their innovations to keep up with expectations.

Moreover, modern youth can spot tech that’s used as a gimmick, so in order for retail experimentation to be effective, it has to be a genuine step forward.

Ys and Zs have come to expect personalization in every aspect of their lives and feel better about themselves if they buy customized products. Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a big role in this space, as virtual shopping assistants offer personalized recommendations, targeted ads serve up relevant content, and stores are more tailored to customer preferences.

  • Nearly one in five youth in the U.S. would like to see more smart mirrors in stores, as would 38% of Trendsetters.
  • There are lots of opportunities to improve tech for online shopping as well: 26% of U.S. youth want to see more virtual try-ons when shopping online, as do 43% of Trendsetters.
  • As A.I. ramps up in the retail space, it could have a positive impact on sustainability, since machine learning can help predict what’s going to sell well over a particular season, potentially eliminating mountains of wasted inventory.


Young consumers like to be strategic about purchases before they open their wallets, which means knowing how an item is going to fit or if it will complement something they already own. AR slips nicely into this space, since it dramatically expands the shopping experience, particularly online.

  • 47% of American youth say they’d rather shop online than in-store.
  • 18% would like to see more augmented reality when shopping online, as would 28% of Trendsetters.
  • 13% would like to see more AR in stores themselves, and this rises to 21% with Trendsetters.
  • Interestingly, there’s a noticeable gender divide: far more men than women would like AR options when shopping in-store.

Young consumers want to know the backstory of a brand before they buy, and they appreciate a behind-the-scenes look at where their products come from. The vast majority think it’s just as important for a brand to be transparent as it is for it to be socially conscious.

While VR offers a way for brands to tap into this desire, it historically has been gimmicky at best and glitchy at worst. Many brands have optimized VR’s potential to tell a story or educate consumers rather than sell a product.

Yet VR headsets are isolating, which is in direct contrast to what young consumers gravitate toward: social, dynamic shopping experiences.

Major brands have lagged in this technology in the past year, so it remains to be seen whether this technology is a viable marketing tool.



Cassandra’s research was generated through a quantitative online survey fielded in the U.S., UK, France, Nigeria, China, Australia, and Brazil. We interviewed a sample of 1,007 U.S. youth aged 14 to 34, nationally representative based on age, gender, ethnicity, and region, and 603 UK youth in the same age range, also nationally representative based on age, gender, and region. To capture perspective across each additional country, we included a sample of 400 young people aged 14 to 34. Additionally, we surveyed 500 Trendsetters between the ages of 14 and 34 across the U.S. and UK. These Trendsetter respondents were selected based on their answers to a series of questions that gauged their degree of progressive and experimental thinking and behaviors surrounding the latest trends and culture.

Cassandra also conducts in-depth qualitative focus groups in person among respondents aged 14 to 34 across the U.S., sourced from our private online community, the Cassandra Collective, which is comprised of members who are hand-selected for their creative, expressive, and forward-thinking mindsets, with supplemental Trendsetter recruitment. The in-person qualitative focus groups were held in New York City and Columbus, OH.


For almost 20 years, Cassandra has been the leading company for modern youth insights through its ongoing study of emerging trends in youth behavior. Cassandra identifies developing movements in popular culture and translates data into insights for top companies, brands, and institutions. Cassandra works with Fortune 500 companies including Google, Target, and American Eagle. From rich quantitative insights to robust qualitative learning, Cassandra is a must-have resource for marketers, consumer researchers, content creators, and product managers looking to the future and identifying Millennials
 and Gen Z as audiences to win. For more information, visit


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