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Improving H&M Shopping Experience

Focus Group to Identify Gen Z Shopping Priorities


  • 1/5 of research team

  • 1/3 notetakers during focus group


Focus group with 11 womxn Gen Z students from Elon University


Conduct a focus group to help identify improvements for H&M's shopping experience by understanding Gen Z's shopping preferences


As a team of researchers from Elon University, we focused our research on Generation Z’s (Gen Z) views on the shopping experience and the weight placed on brand importance to find out what they value most about their retail providers and gain a deeper understanding of consumer habits.

With new brands and stores coming out constantly, it is important to find out what Gen Z actually wants.

We used the research to assess Gen Z’s impression of H&M based on their perception of the store’s appearance, online experience, brand identity and overall shopping habits.


  • Use participants feedback on H&M's stores and website to suggest improvements regarding aesthetic and functionality

  • Understand the importance of brand names to Gen Z

  • Refine the overall “vibe” of H&M

Why We Conducted a Focus Group

Focus groups allow for direct insight into specific consumers and what they want. The focus group also ensured that that we could have two moderators, and then have notetakers behind a one-way mirror, to ensure that the moderators could stay engaged with the participants.

We kept in mind the limitations of focus groups, that by having the researchers and other participants in the room, it could lead to observer interference, and affect the answers participants choose to give. We also note the small sample size, and note that it could be hard to generalize the results.


Gen Z

Gen Z are individuals loosley born after 1996, are the most ethnically and racially diverse population.

Research found that they love the shopping experience, almost as much as the product itself.

They make up more than 40% of US consumers, despite only accounting for 32% of the world's population.


H&M is a Swedish retail supplier founded in 1947 by Erling Persson that specializes in fast fashion for men, women, and children.

Today, H&M operates in 62 countries with over 4,500 stores. It is the second largest clothing retailer globally and offers online shopping in 33 countries.

Shopping Experience

New generations have high expectations for retailers to provide them with a seamless shopping experience both online and in store as well as offering brands that represent them as a person.

As online shopping grows in popularity and people’s shopping habits evolve, we set out to explore Gen Z's shopping preferences and attitudes.

This moodboard helped align the group to get a better understanding of Gen Z's vibe, popular fashion choices, their diversity, and the ideal shopping experience.

This moodboard helped align the group to get a better understanding of Gen Z's vibe, popular fashion choices, their diversity, and the ideal shopping experience.

Improving H&M Shopping Experience


We had two main goals entering our focus group, to better understand Gen Z's priorities. H&M was our target brand, being a popular brand that Gen Z frequents.

Improving H&M Shopping Experience

Research Questions

As a team of researchers, we wanted to identify the entire shopping experience on a broader scheme.


On April 5, 2017, our research group conducted a focus group at Elon University's School of Communications.

The participants were recruited via convenience sampling through group chats and social media.

The final group consisted of 11 womxn in total (four sophomores and seven juniors) attending Elon University.

While we were aware of the bias that could result from convenience sampling, we ensured that the participants had a variety of interests and backgrounds to obtain a variety of opinions and feedback.


●  Warm Up to get participants comfortable. Explain favorite piece of clothing and how they got it.

●  Explain shopping habits (if they enjoy shopping and why or why not, where they like to shop, and favorite trends).

●  Describe ideal shopping experience and explain how typical experience could be improved.

●  Discuss brand importance, favorite brands, which brands understand them, and how important brand names are to them.

●  Opinion on online vs. offline shopping experiences (include competitor Forever 21 so users don't think it is solely about H&M).

Compare pictures from two storefronts and two different online sites. Have participants choose the more appealing option and explain their decision.

Moderator Guide
Analysis of Focus Group Data
Improving H&M Shopping Experience

Method - Constant Comparative

We analyzed the data from the focus group through the Constant Comparative technique.

  • Identified individual statements from participants.

  • Group statements by themes (buckets).

  • The buckets identified included: bang for buck, variety of options, uniqueness, social aspect, look good feel good, convenience, and vibe.

  • We applied this process to each statement and refined the categories as we searched for relationships and themes to ensure cohesiveness.

Improving H&M Shopping Experience

Bang for Buck

The participants want to feel good wearing quality items, while spending as little money as possible.

For something that is “trendy”, they want to pay a lower price, and are willing to overlook “cheap” quality, with stores like Forever 21, H&M, and TJ Maxx.

Some of the participants’ favorite items were bought on sale, because it made them feel like they got a steal. One participant bought a jean jacket from the Gap because it was on sale, despite not usually shopping there.

Other participants who did not like shopping and were more frugal with their money, would only spend money if the item fit their body well.

Participants were more likely to spend their money on frequently used items (shoes, jewelry, purses) and name-brand shoes and sunglasses.

Improving H&M Shopping Experience

Variety of Options

Online shopping was appealing for the amount of options they contained, despite not having the ability to try an item on.

Variety was important with items like dresses, and the options of sizes. Some of the participants explained that as students, they were generally very busy, and when shopping online wanted to know they could find a multitude of options at one time and place.

With in-person shopping, one participant explained that at H&M, you have to dig through a lot, but you can find a lot of options and variety.

Improving H&M Shopping Experience


Now that companies and brands are becoming more global, Gen Z wants to have more “unique” and “one-of-a-kind” clothing in order to express themselves. This relates to the later “look good, feel good” category, as students want to feel special in what they are wearing.

Additionally, participants felt special if they knew that the brand they were wearing, represented the values they too held, as expressed in the vibes category.

Many of the participants in the focus group had studied abroad. One participant’s favorite item that she got was a jumpsuit from Zara, which she had gotten while on her study abroad. She liked that many other at Elon would not have the item, and there was a story behind it.

Improving H&M Shopping Experience

Social Aspect

Shopping is seen as a social event for many of the participants, something to make a day out of.

Participants like to have fun with their shopping experience and spend it with friends or family. As explained through many of the categories, a major aspect of shopping is building self-esteem and confidence, especially when integrated with loved ones.

Research shows Gen Z values their relationships with others and uses shopping as a way to express this, something brands could capitalize on to create a well-rounded, targeted shopping experience.

Improving H&M Shopping Experience

Look Good, Feel Good

The better participants felt in the dressing room, the more likely they were to purchase the item.

Many voiced that if the fitting room had flattering lighting, they would likely buy an item. The more consumers feel comfortable and positive about their body image when trying on an item of clothing, the better they felt about a brand.

Gen Z likes to feel confident in what they are wearing and expressing themselves in. Brands should prioritize this experience by variety of sizing options to better fit diverse bodies, or by adjusting the lighting in dressing rooms.

Improving H&M Shopping Experience


Many of the participants either stated they don't want to shop when it becomes too much of a hassle. Some expressed that their ideal experience would be to be able to see what the clothes looked like on without having to try them out, because of the time commitment.

Despite shipping costs and time, participants were more likely to say that they preferred to shop alone, due to convenience.

Brands should advertise the convenience of the shopping experience to accommodate Gen Z's need for convenience.

Improving H&M Shopping Experience


If a storefront seemed simple and organized, participants said they were more likely to go inside and shop. Many also expressed that their favorite brands aligned with their own personal values, especially if they were vocal on certain social and political issues.

When participants were shown two images of online stores, unknowingly, they said that the Forever 21 website was tacky, had too much color, and probably wouldn't shop there. However, they all previously stated that they shopped at Forever 21 frequently.

Participants were more likely to shop with the H&M website, and when they unknowingly came across the image of the website, due to the extra white space and basic images.


The implications of this focus group apply both to H&M as a brand but also to other similar brands that Gen Z shoppers frequent.

With a clean aesthetic, convenient shopping experience, good lighting, a tailored shopping experience, unique items, plenty of options with styles and sizes, and reduced prices, H&M can tailor its shopping experience to its target audience even more.