Businesses don’t operate in a vacuum but in an ecosystem of which customers are the most critical component. Understanding the customer is the key to running any successful business and, after many years of studying how the tastes of Millennials influence overall consumer preferences, businesses are realizing that there’s a new set of consumers to contend with. As the following Generation Z statistics will show, both earning and dependent Gen Z-ers have a significant influence on consumption patterns. Read on to become more familiar with Generation Z’s internet and social media usage, as well as workplace expectations, consumer behavior, and just about anything that shapes this powerful consumer group.
The above is an important question that needs addressing before we dive into analyzing the stats. Generation Z is defined as the cohort born after Millennials. However, there is no widespread agreement on the exact line between the two generations. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, for instance, defines Generation Z as the generation of people born in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Pew Research Center considers people born from 1997 to 2012 as those belonging to Generation Z. MTV, the purveyor of many of our cultural milestones, as well as the US Census Bureau describe Generation Z as those born after December 2000. Therefore, depending on the exact definition chosen, the Generation Z age range in 2019 can vary quite a bit. For the same reason, the following statistics might not always refer to the exact same age group even though, broadly speaking, we are talking about post-Millennials.
Considering 2000/2001 as the dividing line between Millennials and Generation Z, in terms of population, the latter cohort will go past the former for the first time in 2019. Gen Z will comprise 32% of the global population of 7.7 billion while Millennials will account for a 31.5% share. For this comparison, Millennials were defined as those born between 1980 and 2000.
Understanding this generation will be critical for businesses interested in succeeding in the next decade and beyond. However, this understanding will have to be nuanced and go beyond the easy stereotypes like internet addiction and low attention span normally associated with the generation.
What is more, consumer behavior trends for Generation Z vs. Millennials show that the first are a very different kind of shoppers from Millennials, with some of their characteristics obviously arising from the fact that they are digital natives. Businesses need to make an effort to understand this cohort if they want a share of this sizeable pie.
While most members of Generation Z are only beginning to make a living and have limited spending power of their own, they do exert an inordinate amount of influence on how their families spend money. Gen Z is typically better informed of new trends and also more open to trying out new brands and products, which has a bearing on the purchase patterns of their parents or other earning members of the family. These Generation Z stats are reflected in another survey, carried out by IBM, in which over 70% of Gen Z-ers say they influence family decisions on buying furniture, household goods, as well as food and beverages.
Across different generations, the one that the largest number of US retailers were interested in targeting in 2018 was Generation Z; precisely, consumers aged between 13 and 19. This piece of Gen Z research indicates that businesses are aware of the immense potential of this cohort. On the other hand, the greatest decrease (27%) in marketing resource allocation was targeted toward consumers aged 71 or above.
Based on the above, this generation is the most ethnically diverse in US history. While any brand that is targeting a global audience needs to think of issues like equity and diversity, even US-centric brands now need to be conscious of how their products are presented to this diverse audience.
In a similar survey conducted between 2014 and 2015, less than a quarter (24%) of teenagers showed the same level of engagement with the internet. The 2018 Pew study also found that 44% of teens go online “several times a day.” Combining these two figures, nearly 9 out of 10 teenagers are online for long periods every day.
As digital natives, most Gen Z-ers spend at least 1 hour online every day, and this trend in Generation Z technology usage is expected. But it is incredible that across multiple screens—smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and TVs—more than half of them end up spending 10 or more hours online. This fact not only influences how they obtain information and form opinions but also aspects like emotional well-being and ability to stay unconnected.
The amount of time mentioned above is more than any other generation spends on their cellphones. According to Gen Z statistics 2017 by Criteo, members of the generation also spend more time streaming content (an average of 23 hours of video content a week) than any other generation.
While the youngest Gen Z users might obviously not be allowed to use smartphones of their own, members of this cohort do tend to begin using electronic devices earlier than previous generations did. This element of Generation Z statistics 2018 is a remarkable 22-percentage-point increase over the 73% of teens who stated this in 2014-15.
In fact, over a quarter (26%) use their phones for 10 or more hours! It’s not just that Gen Z has early access to smartphones, but this also creates a sort of dependence on these devices. 29% of Gen Z are on their phones after midnight every night, and 31% of Gen Z feel uncomfortable if they are without their phone for 30 minutes or less. These Gen Z trends that show extensive reliance on phones might be interpreted as unhealthy but also provide the surest way for businesses to target young customers.
This includes much of the time spent on social media. 59% primarily use their devices to access entertainment, 58% to play games, 36% to do schoolwork, 28% to learn new things, and only 17% for shopping and browsing. These numbers vary substantially between men and women, though, with far more male members indulging in gaming than female ones and many more female Generation Z consumers spending time on chatting and texting than male ones.
There are probably few other stronger indicators of the fact that shopping is becoming increasingly mobile than the comfort Gen Z consumers feel while making purchases online. Concerns like safety of mobile transactions or size of the screen are obviously not for them. It’s critical, then, that businesses get their mobile game right and overhaul the shopping experience they provide for this mobile-friendly audience.
As mentioned earlier, certain Generation Z facts and trends can upend generally held notions. One of these is that Generation Z isn’t exactly bringing about email’s demise. Less than 1% of Gen Z-ers never check their mail. Also, since almost 67% of Gen Z-ers receive 20 or less emails in a day, marketers face a lot less competition for their messages in this format than they do in some other channels. 64.9% Gen Z-ers use email for personal communication, proving that a majority prefer to use email even when they have other channels at disposal such as texting.
Gen Z-ers are even amenable to receiving brand communication through email as long as the frequency of such emails is within limits. According to Gen Z info from a survey regarding email marketing, 27.5% would be fine with hearing from brands once a day. Only 19% would prefer emails once a week, and 18.4% once a month.
Most Gen Z-ers have never experienced the dial-up internet connections Millennials and older generations first encountered on their internet journeys. They have been used to seamless movement between the physical and online worlds and are, therefore, less forgiving of technical issues like slow site loading of sites. 62% will also not use an app or website that is hard to navigate.
In 2014-15, 52% of teens in the 13-17 age group used Instagram and 41% were on Snapchat. This distribution underwent a notable shift in just about three years, with 72% now on Instagram, 69% on Snapchat, and 85% on YouTube. The split across networks is more balanced with older Gen Z members. Among the 16-24 Gen Z-ers, 55% are on Facebook, 52% on Instagram, and 52% on Snapchat. Facebook hasn’t lost its relevance completely, but newer social media like Instagram and Snapchat seem to appeal more to younger users. These Generation Z social media trends are also an indication of the generation’s preference for visual over written content.
Instagram’s visual format and easy scrolling make it a versatile platform for Gen Z. Instagram is also used for keeping up with influencers; getting ideas for things like fashion, food, and travel; and, increasingly, for curating an image to the world. In order to communicate best with Gen Z through social media, one needs to understand how members of this generation use each platform. Generation Z social media habits show that Snapchat is used to interact with a large number of friends and FaceTime to talk to close ones. Facebook is used mostly to share or create events and look for coupons and deals, while Twitter is the primary source for breaking news stories.
A strong social media presence is imperative for brands targeting Generation Z. 69% of Gen Z members will visit a store based on a retailer’s social media posts. Nearly 80% of Gen Z-ers get influenced to shop at a retailer they have never been to before through social media. Moreover, Generation Z online shopping statistics show that 83% of Gen Z-ers trust product information shared by other shoppers on social media more than they trust advertising.
While it is expected that social media is the channel of preference for Gen Z-ers to engage with brands, it is surprising that the two next most-preferred channels are email (19.2%) and in-person (18.4%). The former again belies the fear of marketers that Gen Z-ers don't use email while the latter goes against the generation’s reputation for preferring digital interactions to in-person ones. Based on these Gen Z stats, ads (16.1%), chats (14.7%), and company blogs (11.5%) are the other channels in order of preference.
For a large number of Gen-Z members, the internet has been an omnipresent entity. This fact, as well as their relative inexperience at life, tends to show up in the importance they give to their social media presence. The corresponding number for Millennials is 31% and even lower for Gen X and Baby Boomers. 42% of Generation Z also feel that social media affects how other people see them, which is remarkably high compared to just 28% for older generations.
A reflection of the trend in Generation Z psychographics seen in the previous point is the effect social media has on the feelings of self-worth of Gen Z members. 37% (twice that of Boomers) also feel that social media directly affects their happiness.
Decreasing data costs and the availability of a wide range of content has meant that while only 32% of Gen Z-ers were consuming even a single hour of video content on a daily basis in 2016, now, nearly three-fourths are doing it for more than 3 hours. YouTube is the go-to source for video content, but Facebook is fast catching up as a video hub, too. 71% of Gen Z-ers also have a Netflix subscription, more than any other generation.
Having witnessed the recent Great Recession and the ongoing college loan crisis, a surprisingly high number of Generation Z members don’t see college as a prerequisite to success in life. Many are choosing to go into the workforce right after school. No wonder then that 89% of them also say that they aren’t keen on taking on debt to cover the costs of higher education.
Many Generation Z facts show that this cohort’s attitudes towards work are also slightly different from those of their older counterparts. 70% of prospective Gen Z employees look at company reviews on sites such as Glassdoor, and 69% are more likely to apply to a company if it manages its brand well. Job fluidity is another aspect important to Generation Z, with 75% expressing interest in inhabiting numerous roles within a company.
This is in comparison to only 64% of older Americans who consider money a stressor. 77% of Gen Z-ers are also stressed out about work. This is an indication of the importance price is likely to play when Gen Z-ers go out shopping. If businesses can promise high perceived value for a nominal price, they are likely to win many Generation Z customers.
Given the large amount of time they spend online and their tech-savviness, it might come as a surprise that a majority of them shop in physical stores more often than in online ones. This could be partly due to the lack of access to credit cards for the younger members of the cohort. Online shopping is slightly more prevalent in the 19-21 age group than it is in the 13-15 age group. Using apps to make purchases is more common in growth markets like India, China, Brazil, and South Africa than it is in mature markets like the USA, Canada, Australia, and Western Europe.
Gen Z statistics indicate that fast internet speed, which brings the world to their tips, and multiple choices have led to a decline in the attention span of Gen Z-ers. Not long ago, Millennials, with their average attention span of 12 seconds were considered distracted. Leading social media platforms have developed advertising options for this audience: from Vine’s 6-second videos, Snapchat’s 10-second story limit, and YouTube’s 6-second pre-roll ads. At the same time, Gen Z-ers are also known for their ability to multitask, especially when using their electronic devices.
Compared to 31% in 2017, 51% of Gen Z-ers are supposed to have installed ad-blocking software in 2018. Generation Z technology statistics point toward a love-hate relationship that this cohort has with advertising, with less than 25% having a positive perception of four major ad categories (online search, online display, desktop video, and mobile video), but many also willing to engage with ads that are targeted properly.
Generation Z is looking for engaging conversations with brands and is interested in building brand relationships. Another sign of collaborative engagement is that 42% of Gen Z-ers would participate in an online game for a campaign. These Generation Z stats give rise to a challenge for retailers to create a personalized, interactive experience for their customers.
A preference for authenticity and a realistic narrative means that Generation Z has a soft corner for influencer marketing. While 63% of Gen Z-ers prefer to see social media influencers in ads, only 37% prefer celebrities. According to Forbes, in the top 10 list of influencers for this generation, only one—Jennifer Lawrence—is a traditional movie star. Generation Z statistics might cite some other celebrities like Kylie and Kendall Jenner, but most Gen Z-ers favor Snapchat and YouTube stars, and others of the like.
While the general image of Generation Z might be that they are a lot more comfortable living a public life through social media, these young users are also cautious when it comes to divulging information on health and wellness, location, personal life, or payments. Along with the constant presence of the internet, these users have also lived with widespread cybercrime around them from an early age, making them extra-cautious.
In spite of the high Generation Z reliance on technology, people in this group care more about retail basics than about the bells and whistles of shiny apps and capabilities. For two-thirds of Generation Z shoppers, the most important factors when choosing one brand over another are quality, product availability, and value. 65% want real value for their money, with discounts, coupons, and a rewards program from the brand they follow.
Establishing trust with Gen Z-ers is vital when brands try to engage them as future customers. If a brand does not demonstrate sufficient diligence and transparency in handling personal data, Gen Z-ers are unlikely to share information or buy products from it. Studies on Generation Z online shopping habits show that factors like clear terms and conditions in how information is used, what data is collected, and incentives in return for access to personal information are important to this cohort.
If marketers want to sell their brand to Gen Z, it’s even more critical to build a body of consistently positive online reviews than it would be when targeting other cohorts. Other ways to impress this generation is to use effective influencers and build an engaging social media presence. 46% of Gen Z currently follow more than 10 influencers on social media, while 73% follow at least one brand and 52% follow three or more.
Generation Z already exerts a significant direct or indirect influence on consumption, which will only increase in the next few years as more Gen Z-ers come into the workforce.
Much of Generation Z’s consumption behavior, including interest in brand engagement and concern for privacy, is dictated by the widespread fast internet availability it has always experienced.
However, there are certain non-tech aspects like value and quality that this generation considers the most important, which make Generation Z shopping habits similar to those of older generations.