With Gen Z, millennials now the biggest ‘dupe’ shoppers, online culture has ‘flipped the script,’ analyst says

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So-called girl math is not the only trend spurred by users on the short-form video app TikTok. “Dupes,” short for “duplicate,” are cheaper alternatives to premium or luxury consumer products, and they are increasingly popular among Gen Z and millennial shoppers and app users.

While nearly one-third of adults, 31%, have intentionally purchased a dupe of a premium product at some point, Gen Z and millennials have higher participation rates: roughly 49% and 44%, respectively, according to Morning Consult. The business intelligence company polled 2,216 U.S. adults in early October.

“The online culture of dupe shopping, accelerated by TikTok especially in the last few years, has flipped the script,” said Ellyn Briggs, brands analyst at Morning Consult.

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Instead of being an indicator of lower status or considered “shameful,” dupe shopping is now “something that’s actually a prideful thing for consumers,” she added.

While shoppers may miss out on the experience luxury products provide, dupes are less expensive versions that help consumers save money and test an item before splurging on the real thing.

“Yes, a dupe can give you this sense of gaming the system,'” said New York-based writer Marisa Meltzer, “but it’s not going to be the same feeling you get with an expensive product.”

Meltzer has been covering the fashion industry as a freelance writer for more than a decade and recently published her book titled “Glossy: Ambition, Beauty, and the Inside Story of Emily Weiss’s Glossier.”

A way to ‘partake in that product experience’

Unlike a counterfeit product, which tends to carry an unauthorized trademark or logo of a patented brand, dupes simply mimic certain features of more expensive products.

They also help consumers determine whether the replica is as good as the real version, said Briggs.

When shoppers were polled on the reasons they buy dupes instead of brand-name products, “money was the top answer,” said Briggs — especially for a group whose income level is relatively low.

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To wit, 49% of respondents reported a household income below $50,000. Additionally, 67% of polled consumers said saving money is a major deciding factor, the report from Morning Consult found.

“It’s a way for [consumers] to partake in that product experience without having to spend a high amount of money,” Briggs said.

TikTok videos with the #dupe hashtag have racked up nearly six billion views to date, and 70% of intentional dupe shoppers have a TikTok account, the report found.

However, while discourse about dupes is strongly associated with TikTok and the shopping tendency remains prevalent for now among younger retailers, shopping for dupes could become a mainstream tendency across generations as the information becomes more accessible, Meltzer said.

In the end, it’s a personal decision for consumers, who should make an assessment of what is best or financially feasible for them, Briggs said.

“It depends how much you want it and why you want it,” added Meltzer. “I think everyone needs to find their splurge where it makes the most sense for them.”

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