With Gen Z becoming a force to be reckoned with among consumers, brands must rise up to their expectations. And let me tell you, they are pretty high, which is no surprise since we’re talking about the first digital native generation of consumers.
To help brands decide what communication channels to use and craft promotional messages that make an impact, the ad design platform Creatopy surveyed over 1,100 Gen Zers between the ages of 18 and 26 living in the U.S. on their shopping and online habits and preferences. The goal was to understand Gen Z better and come up with concrete facts that brands can take advantage of when they want to market their products to them. Curious what they discovered?
Table of contents
General Gen Z characteristics & stats
Before getting into the survey findings, let’s go over some basic information about Gen Z.
1. They’re the most diverse generation in American history
As you might know, Gen Zers are individuals born between 1996 and 2012. What might not be as well known is that they’re the most diverse generation in American history in terms of ethnicity and race, predicted to become majority nonwhite by 2026.
2. They aren’t lazy
Although the media often portrays them as not enthusiastic about work, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that around 7.3 million Gen Z individuals work full time in the U.S. annually, plus 6.3 million are part-time employees.
3. They make up 40% of the global consumer population
Gen Z shopping habits
With Gen Z having such enormous spending power, one might ask how exactly this generation shops. Do they have a tendency to spend more or less than millennials? What makes them want to purchase something? Here are some answers.
4. They have stable sources of income
When asked whether they have a stable source of income, over 70% of respondents answered yes. This is not to say the rest have no income at all. Just think about it: many Gen Zers are still students, so they rely on side hustles (small business ideas here) like reselling items, influencer work, or walking dogs to earn money. A lot of that income also goes into savings, whether investing in crypto or wiring the money into retirement accounts.
5. They’re not impulsive buyers
So, how does Gen Z spend their dollars? Well, it might come as a surprise, but they are not impulsive buyers. Even though around 50% shop online monthly, the same percentage make a purchase when they need something, and 33% look for good deals and buy when there are sales.
One explanation for this could be the 2008 financial crisis, during which Gen Zers witnessed their parents and families facing economic uncertainty, which eventually shaped their perception of money and protecting their income as they grew up. It goes to show that just because Gen Z found many smart ways to earn money, that doesn’t mean they are quick to spend it on temporary joy.
6. They care about social responsibility
So, Gen Z is a diverse crowd with strong opinions on various social issues. Naturally, they want to purchase from brands that get involved in improving society. Whether that means encouraging recycling, protecting the environment, or taking a stand on equality and racial justice, it’s up to each brand. The important thing is to be genuine about it and commit to it wholeheartedly because if there’s one thing that Gen Z can easily spot, it’s fake activism and virtue signaling.
Gen Z social media usage & preferences
This tech-savvy generation of consumers is used to being connected to the internet from an early age. It’s obvious when looking at how they relate to social media.
7. They spend between 1-5 hours on social media per day
Most of the survey respondents spend 1- 5 hours per day on their feeds. Only around 11% of them spend less than one hour on social media.
8. They use social media to research and buy
But keep in mind they don’t just use social media to communicate and stay up to date with the latest news; they also use it to do research on products or brands and make purchase decisions. Countless studies have shown this, like this one depicted by Marketing Charts.
The downside of this is that their attention span is also shorter, meaning that your brand has a mere few seconds to make a lasting impression. You have to find extra creative ways to use that very small window of time.
9. They favor YouTube, TikTok & IG
YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram are the most popular social media platforms among Gen Z. It might be because they dabble in content creating themselves or because they consume twice as much video content as Millennials, and this is where they find it.
That said, your business may want to look into YouTube ads or organic YouTube content (lots of YouTube video ideas here).
10. Facebook & Snapchat are less popular
Snapchat and Facebook are less popular with Generation Z—they still get used, but not as much as the frontrunners. These figures alone prove that, especially when it comes to Gen Z, investing time, money, and effort into social media advertising should be a top priority for brands in 2022 and beyond. After all, the first step to reaching your target audience is to be at the same place they are at.
Marketing to Gen Z: What works & what flops
Being online all the time, Gen Z is easily accessible, but that doesn’t mean any type of advertisement easily sways them. Your business needs to put genuine effort into understanding their preferences.
11. Wokevertising flops 👎🏾
Stiff branded content and “wokevertising” have zero chances of winning over Gen Z. They want brands to speak their language and will reject any performative action. Being the first digital native generation of consumers, they’ve learned how to spot inauthenticity and will not hesitate to dismiss whatever comes across as fake, irrelevant, misleading, or disingenuous.
12. UGC works 👍🏾
Instead, what does work, and what your business should have a go at, is user-generated content, including that of influencers, as Gen Zers are more likely to form authentic connections with them.
An Instagram repost of a repost of a repost…the ultimate UGC.
13. Visually captivating ads work 👍🏻
It’s all about trust with Gen Z, so they appreciate ads that are true to a brand’s core values. However, creative and visually captivating ads will also spark their interest.
14. Clickbaity ads flop 👎🏻
On the flip side, Gen Zers dislike clickbaity ads or ads that are too long because they lack the patience to watch them. Disruptive ads are just as bad an idea and should be replaced by ads with a native feel.
15. Video AND static ads work 👍🏽
When asked to choose between static and video ads, the responses were almost equally divided, which goes to show that both of these advertising channels can work wonders if used right. Gen Z might consume more video content on social media, but they don’t necessarily prefer video ads to static ones.
16. TV & print work too 👍🏽
Still, the biggest surprise came when they revealed they still trust traditional advertising above other forms. TV and print are alive and kicking.
17. Personal data flops 👎
Gen Z does not appreciate ads that rely on personal data. Let’s be real, most of us don’t, but the digital native consumers care more about their privacy than other generations. 60% of respondents would not give personal data for a more personalized experience, and 75% believe ads that rely on personal data are invasive.
18. Transparency works 👍
This goes back to the importance of trust. If brands want Gen Z to trust them, they have to ease up on the use of personal data, or at the very least, commit to being completely transparent about it.
How to market to Gen Z: Key takeaways
- Trust, trust, trust. Gen Z can recognize inauthenticity when they see it. If brands want to appeal to Gen Z, they need to start building a relationship based on trust.
- Inclusivity and relatability. To establish trust, brands must speak Gen Z’s language and understand its values. It’s time to focus on more inclusive advertising and work with people (whether they are influencers from outside or employees of the company) that are part of Gen Z.
- In-person connections. As much as Gen Z knows about technology and is immersed in the online world, they still value in-person communication. Brands should focus on providing hybrid experiences through customer-first cross-channel marketing.
- Never underestimate the power of a good deal. Gen Z knows how to search for a great discount and isn’t a big fan of retail prices, so brands need to tailor their sale strategies accordingly.
Want more Generation Z characteristics & stats?
Gen Z represents a large part of today’s consumers. If they’re in your target market and if you want them to buy your products or services, you need to listen to them.
Gen Z is the first digitally native generation that spends the majority of their time online and has a stable income. But they also care about society and are willing to support brands whose values align with their own.
Brands who understand what makes them unique from millennials and adjust their marketing strategies accordingly are those who will succeed in the long run.
About the author
Monica Aldea is a Content Marketing Specialist with a deep love for writing. Monica started as an SEO copywriter working on landing pages for apartments for rent. She now writes educational blog articles and guides about advertising and marketing trends as part of the team at Creatopy.