How Gen Z Is Influencing the 2022 Holiday Shopping Season

This article is part 2 on the topic of Holiday Spending Insights 2022. Click HERE for part 1.

The holiday shopping season is already upon us, and it is poised to be the biggest one yet. Consumers are planning to spend 8% more this year on holiday gifts than last year, despite factors such as rising inflation and a potential looming recession.

Consumers are also shifting their spending this holiday season, a trend merchants and retailers should be aware of. Many consumers are buying earlier than ever due to concerns about supply chain disruptions as well as concerns about staying on budget.

Another trend to watch for is the massive adoption of alternative payments and how younger consumers, in particular, will leverage them. Many consumers are planning a mix of in-store and digital shopping, and a variety of different payment methods will be used.

Once again, gift cards are expected to be the most popular gift given, a distinction gift cards have held for 16 years in a row1. Gen Z are big spenders on gift cards, planning to increase their holiday gift card spend by 57% (from $185 last year to $290). 

To learn more about the unique trends that will shape the 2022 holiday gift shopping season, PaymentsJournal sat with Jay Jaffin, Global Chief Marketing Officer at Blackhawk Network, Sarah Kositzke, Senior Global Insights Manager at Blackhawk Network, and Jordan Hirschfield, Director of Prepaid Advisory Service at Mercator, for a two-part discussion about 2022 holiday insights. In part 1, they focused on why gift cards remain the most popular gift to give, the return of in-person gatherings and gifting, and the increasing popularity of alternative payment methods.


How Gen Z Is Influencing the 2022 Holiday Shopping Season – and Why They Love Gift Cards

PaymentsJournal How Gen Z Is Influencing the 2022 Holiday Shopping Season – and Why They Love Gift Cards

In part 2 below, we’ll cover the rise of the “hybrid consumer” and Gen Z holiday spending trends, using data and insights collected from Blackhawk Network’s 2022 Branded Pay Study.

Enter the Hybrid Consumer

The pandemic and related in-person restrictions helped create a growing breed of consumer who blends both in-person and digital shopping. Named “the hybrid consumer,” this type of shopper may purchase an item via a retailer’s app, then pick it up curbside or in-store, or browse and purchase items in a physical location before having them shipped to their home.

Hybrid shopping is a mix of digital and physical shopping,” explained Kostizke.

Kositzke said that while hybrid shopping spans all industries, home furnishings and groceries are among the most popular.

“We’re also seeing that the younger consumer is really embracing hybrid shopping,” she added.

Roughly 27% of all consumers consider themselves hybrid shoppers; however, that figure is higher among Gen Z, at 37%.

Kositzke added that 55% of consumers report that they shop both online and in-store, while 45% still prefer to shop in-store.

The Power of In-App Payments for Holiday Shopping

According to Mercator research, 63% of younger consumers and about half of older consumers are motivated to make an in-app purchase. This is also especially appealing for those who don’t want to deal with in-store holiday crowds and just pick up an item curbside, or send the item directly to its intended recipient.

The beauty of in-app payments boils down to convenience. For example, the Starbucks app has seen incredible success because consumers are able to pre-load a gift card within the app, enter a location and pay via their mobile device. During this process, they also garner loyalty points for every purchase they make, and are able to redeem them for a free beverage, food or merchandise item. And what has made the app successful is the fact that consumers don’t need to wait in long lines to get their purchase. They order ahead and pick-up their purchase at their convenience. This is an especially critical piece that retailers should keep in mind during the holiday season. “Personally, I don’t want to go anywhere near the inside of a store during the holidays,” Hirschfield added.

He also noted that in-app purchases are roughly equally made in-store as well as out of the store. For example, a consumer may want to browse items inside a store to judge the quality and then purchase digitally to be sent to someone else or to their home, especially if it is a large item such as a sofa or home appliance.

Gen Z Holiday Buying Habits

This holiday season will also see the rise of purchasing power among Gen Z.Gen Z—comprised of consumers born between 1996 and 2012—is currently the third-largest generational segment in the U.S., at 67 million people, and the most ethnically and culturally diverse. They are planning to spend much more this holiday season than in years past, and similar to their older cohorts, Gen Z appreciates the flexibility that hybrid shopping offers. Jaffin stated that they are also much more likely to be “conscious consumers.” That is, those who look for brands and products that are supportive of social causes.

“Studies show that brands that have a perceived positive sustainability impact have grown in brand value faster than those with a low perceived impact,” Jaffin added.

Gen Z especially “are looking for information about how their purchases will contribute to social and environmental responsibility.”

Jaffin noted that the desire for these consumers to put their money toward brands, products and gifts that make a difference in their community helped inspire Giving Good cards, Blackhawk Network’s line of charitable gift cards. A portion of the load-value on each card directly benefits charitable causes such as Habitat for Humanity, Wounded Warrior Project, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of younger consumers (as well as 51% of older consumers) say they plan to give back to causes they care about this holiday season.

As noted above, Gen Z are the biggest user segment of gift cards in general, with this cohort planning to increase their gift card spend by 57% this holiday season. Interestingly, these younger consumers are buying gift cards both as gifts, and for themselves.  

For younger members of Gen Z who may not yet have a credit or debit card, gift cards are increasingly used as a form of payment. 18% of Gen Z said they use their cash to buy gift cards so they can make purchases online. 11% said they use gift cards for purchases because they do not yet have a credit or debit card. Gen Z are also more likely to spend above the gift card amount, which makes gift cards “the gift that keeps on giving” for merchants, Jaffin said. He added, “More than other generations, they love shopping for fun, they love retail therapy.”

Younger consumers are also the most likely to begin shopping in November, with 46% of Gen Z and 40% of millennials saying they will shop early.

Kositzke, in part 1 of the podcast, noted that people in general are shopping earlier due to concern of out-of-stock items and to stay on budget.

This is backed up by Blackhawk research, which shows that the top reason for early holiday shopping is budgeting, coming in at 42%, followed by out-of-stock concerns at 38%, and seeking deals at 37%.


Overall, consumers this year are expected to be much more strategic with their holiday shopping, hunting judiciously for the best deals and promotions and trying to buy as early as possible to avoid items being out of stock, said Kositzke.

“Everybody is starting early, and they are keeping their eyes on the prize, looking for the best deals,” she added.

About Blackhawk Network:
Blackhawk Network delivers branded payment solutions through the prepaid products, technologies and network that connect brands and people. We collaborate with our partners to innovate, translating market trends in branded payments to increase reach, loyalty and revenue. We reliably execute security-minded solutions worldwide. Join us as we shape the future of global branded payments. Learn more at

All BHN data noted in this article can be sourced to:
Source: Blackhawk Network 2022 Holiday Branded Pay Study n=2,001, US, 18+, purchased gifts in the past 12 months, and plan to shop during holiday 2022, Aug 2022

  1. Source: NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics 2022 Consumer Holiday Survey