By: Mark McCrindle

In a cultural transformation, young Australians are increasingly adopting the role of ‘identity consumers,’ using their purchasing choices to express personal values and identity.

This shift in consumer behaviour emphasises the growing significance of values in shopping decisions.

The influence of identity shopping

Younger generations, particularly Generation Y and Generation Z, are at the forefront of using their shopping decisions to convey what they value in life. Almost three in four Gen Y (72%) and 68% of Gen Z consumers view their purchases as statements of their identity and values. In contrast, older generations engage in this practice to a lesser extent, with 52% of Gen X and 46% of Baby Boomers considering their purchases in terms of personal values.

This evolution in consumer behaviour highlights the changing dynamics of how younger generations approach consumption. Their purchases are a direct reflection of their values, enabling them to make a statement about their identity through the products they choose.

Willing to invest in values

While there’s a strong desire among younger consumers to align their purchases with their values, it’s important to note that socially responsible products often come with a higher price tag. Gen Y, now entering their key earning years, emerges as the cohort most willing and financially capable of spending more on ethically sound products, with 61% of them expressing this inclination. Gen Z follows closely with 58%, while Gen X (44%) and Baby Boomers (35%) exhibit a lower willingness to pay extra for ethically aligned products.

Gen Y’s willingness to pay a higher price for products that resonate with their values reflects their commitment to social responsibility. As they prioritise products that align with their beliefs, they are exerting influence on market trends and encouraging businesses to adopt ethical practices.

Interestingly, a fraction of Gen Z (16%) acknowledges present financial incapability to act on their willingness to invest in socially responsible products. This indicates a potential surge in the importance of such products as Gen Z’s wealth and purchasing power increase in the future.

In contrast, older generations, particularly Baby Boomers, exhibit both unwillingness and financial incapability to spend more on socially responsible items (42% Baby Boomers vs. 16% Gen Z).

The contrast between Gen Z’s aspiration to invest in socially responsible products and their current financial capacity illustrates their potential to shape market dynamics as they mature. This paves the way for businesses to anticipate and adapt to the evolving preferences of this generation.

The shift towards ‘identity consumption’

Investing in priorities highlights an evolving consumer landscape where values are taking centre stage in purchasing decisions. As younger generations continue to amplify their economic influence, businesses that embrace these values could potentially experience substantial growth, not only in terms of revenue but also in making a positive impact on societal and environmental fronts.

This shift in consumer behaviour represents a unique opportunity for businesses to align their offerings with the values of Gen Y and Gen Z. Brands that can effectively resonate with these generations’ convictions are likely to secure not just sales but also foster a loyal customer base that supports their commitment to a better world.

This shift towards ‘identity consumption’ is shaping a brighter future not just for shoppers but for businesses and society as a whole.


Article supplied with thanks to McCrindle.

About the Author: McCrindle are a team of researchers and communications specialists who discover insights, and tell the story of Australians – what we do, and who we are.

Feature image: Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash