How Social Values can explain Holiday Shopping

Gifting approaches amongst the sought after Generation Z

As the holidays approach, brands are rolling out the promotions and flash deals that they hope will make the season merry and profitable. While carefully timed campaigns and smart digital strategies can go a long way toward boosting sales volumes, in the end there’s no substitute for understanding – and knowing how to communicate with – distinct audiences, especially at a time when so many brands are clamoring for attention.

For brands looking for a coveted share of Gen Z’s wallet and mind, Environics’ Social Values segmentation of Generation Z can be a valuable resource – mapping out the distinct perspectives of seven distinct values groups within this large, diverse cohort.


As Gen Zers ourselves and in the spirit of Santa’s list (customized to every child’s wishes!) we thought it would be fun to speak to our Gen Z colleagues and see how well their holiday wishes and shopping habits align with what we’d expect based on the social values segments they belong to, according to our abbreviated Social Values Quiz.


Egalitarian Idealists | The Gift of Experiences

Egalitarian Idealists score high on values like Ecological Concern, Social Responsibility and Ethical Consumerism. Guided by a strong moral compass, they’re unlikely to engage in a frenzy of consumption because others say they should. Within Environics, Sustainability is a key motivator for holiday gifting. Our Egalitarian Idealist colleagues tend to identify as global citizens and feel connected to – and responsible for doing their part in – challenges everywhere, including reducing waste.

Further, these members of our team also expressed an interest in understanding different holiday traditions across cultures connecting to the value of Multiculturalism. Their excitement for the Holidays revolved around a curiosity of embracing how different cultures and traditions are celebrated by different people and being gracious of the opportunity to have a share of that experience with their peers.

This year, our Egalitarian Idealist colleagues are planning to buy or create fun and memorable experiences for friends and family members including concert tickets to their favourite artists and group activities like a cooking class.


Dutiful Accomplishers | The Gift of Productivity

Dutiful Accomplishers Canadians want to earn the respect and affection of others – and make their families proud – by doing what’s expected of them (working hard at school, succeeding professionally, fulfilling responsibilities). When it comes to holiday shopping, these Gen Zers will want to make others happy with gifts and gestures – but the pressure can be intense for this segment who sometimes feel overwhelmed by complexity. With Enthusiasm for New Technology and its possibilities, members of this “chronically online” segment are likely to look to trusted online experts and influencers to guide their gift choices.

Dutiful Accomplishers at Environics say they’ll be keeping an eye out in particular for leading-edge tech and gift gadgets aiming to increase productivity and make life easier!


Earnest Strivers | The Special Treat and Intentional Splurging

Gen Zers in this segment are motivated by stability and security. They work hard both to increase their own financial well-being and to earn respect – both from themselves and from others. Although they’re not always optimistic about their ability to achieve their goals, they hope that through diligent effort and by maintaining an even keel emotionally, they’ll make progress. At the holidays, our Earnest Striver colleague reflected the un-frivolous (and financially cautious) values of her segment when she explained that both as a giver and recipient of gifts, she’d favour practical items that offer a meaningful benefit; the idea of buying something just to buy something is a non-starter. At the same time, the value Need for Status Recognition was an important consideration when shopping.

When asked to compile their wish list of items to receive for the Holidays, they would prefer to ask for a special treat that they wouldn’t typically purchase themselves, referring to a picnic basket Kate Spade purse that they were fond of and now hold sentimental value towards.


Optimistic Observers | The Gift of Simplicity and Comfort

These Canadians are happy homebodies: they’re happy in their own “spaces” (physical, social and professional) and tend not to worry much about exploring the world either in pursuit of new experiences or to understand global challenges. These individualistic Gen Zers believe in working hard, but their pursuit of success is less about gaining status and esteem from others and more about increasing their own freedom and autonomy.

True to their segment’s high scores on Aversion to Complexity, the Optimistic Observers at Environics planned to keep holiday shopping simple, maybe buying multiples of the same broadly appealing gift and distributing them to everyone on the list.


These segments are the four (of seven total Gen Z segments) most strongly represented on the Environics team.

Members of the four segments agreed that their social values were indeed shaping their orientations to holiday consumption (or their caution about participating). Despite their differences, most colleagues embraced priorities that are widely shared across Gen Z – such as a preference for authentic brands, a desire to exercise social responsibility in their shopping choices and a strong tendency to shop (or at least explore their options) online.

In a busy holiday season filled with noise both online and in physical retail spaces, having deeper insights into the values of the consumers they’re trying to connect with can help brands hit the sweet spot – landing the right message with the right person at the right time.

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