Our recent poll of generation Z revealed that 68% of today’s teenagers are as comfortable purchasing online as they are offline.

Today’s teenagers are the most digitally adept generation of adolescents in history. But if retailers think this means they can reach generation Z with an all-digital, all-the-time approach to purchasing, they need to think again.

Our recent poll of generation Z—a survey of 12- to 19-year-olds by SONAR™, J. Walter Thompson’s proprietary research unit—revealed that 68% of today’s teenagers are generally as comfortable purchasing online as they are purchasing offline. However, an almost identical 67% of respondents said they preferred to shop in physical stores. And only 53% agree that they are comfortable making purchases on their phones.

Generation Z Retail

In other words, just because young people embrace e-commerce doesn’t mean they necessarily prefer online shopping to shopping in stores. And for all the hype about the rise of mobile commerce, nearly half of generation Z consumers are still uncomfortable making purchases on smartphones.

Overall, our UK sample was significantly more likely to shop online than our US sample. UK respondents were more likely than US respondents to use online channels to buy electronic devices (57% vs. 44%), books (55% vs. 33%), sports equipment (48% vs. 21%), and clothes (36% vs. 28%). One exception was beauty products, which 17% of UK respondents bought online, compared to 22% of US respondents.

Our UK sample was also less likely than our US sample to prefer shopping in physical stores (64% vs. 70%), suggesting that greater use of e-commerce may be associated with a lower preference for physical stores among this age group. But large majorities in both countries still favor physical stores.

For more on the retail brands and purchasing behaviors favored by generation Z, purchase our full 79-page report.