It’s easy to assume that if you’re the same age as someone, you’ve had similar life experiences. That holds up to some extent; people start and end school at roughly the same time, for example. But while life’s milestones represent moments of relatability, they neglect the unique experiences that shaped who we were as individuals at that time. And this is why looking beyond demographic consumer data is so crucial to really knowing your audience.
By digging deeper into psychographics, we can explore how consumers really feel, and where key differences in their views, habits, lifestyles, and preferences lie. So when it comes to Gen Z, one of the most diverse audiences around, what’s fact and what’s fiction? We’re here to set the record straight.
Who are Generation Z?
They’re the first generation of “digital natives”, never knowing a world without the internet. This, coupled with the fact they had a worldwide pandemic and a cost of living crisis to contend with during their formative years, has profoundly impacted their personality and values, making them a fascinating audience to get to grips with. Here are 8 Gen Z characteristics worth knowing – according to real consumer data.
Key characteristics of Generation Z
- They’re growing up
- They’re prioritizing saving money
- They love to travel
- They’re prone to anxiety
- They see gaming as more than a hobby
- Their environmental attitudes aren’t as strong as you think
- They might define AI adoption
- They shape culture through social media
1) They’re growing up
You might think of Gen Z as young consumers who are glued to their phones. But in reality, they’re climbing the corporate ladder, buying their own homes, getting married, and starting families; and by default, coming into contact with new products and services for the first time. Think of some of the more routine things in life, like home insurance, mortgages, and dishwashers.
11% of Gen Z expect to get engaged or married in the next six months
While this speaks to older Gen Zs, the youngest in this generation are only just entering higher education. These formative years highlight the differences between Gen Z on each side of the age spectrum, with some saving for a wedding, and others saving for textbooks. It’s true they might share some characteristics, but shows why you need to look beyond age alone.
2) They’re prioritizing saving money
In 2022 we saw stories published surrounding Gen Z’s luxury spending habits. Some benefitted from time living at home during the pandemic, meaning they could save their hard-earned money rather than spending it on rent.
They’re the generation most likely to say they save as much money as they want to each month, but also the most likely to say their priority for 2024 is saving more money. So why are these young consumers so cash-conscious?
40% of Gen Z households are in the low-income bracket – and 25% more likely to be so than the average consumer
While life moves on, and this generation grows up, rising costs are putting pressure on and curbing their ambitions. Brands need to keep this in mind as future Gen Z consumers behave differently down the line.
3) They love to travel
Gen Z’s standout priorities for 2024 are centered around self-enrichment: things like starting new jobs, learning new skills, reading more, or finding love. And while they aren’t as likely as their older counterparts to say traveling more is a priority, 38% of Generation Z are still looking to explore more this year – at home and abroad.
Since Q2 2022, the number of Gen Z who’ve purchased domestic vacation tickets in the last 3-6 months has grown 15%
While only 1 in 10 are buying vacations abroad, 1 in 4 have been buying domestic vacations in the last 3-6 months – a figure that’s rising. We’re seeing ambition balanced by budget constraints, and Gen Z are taking advantage of domestic vacation planning for cost and convenience.
4) They’re prone to anxiety
Of all generations, Gen Z are most likely to say they’re prone to anxiety. This is especially the case among those in Austria (2.15x more likely than all consumers), Taiwan (1.98x), and Germany (1.98x). To make matters worse, the number who say this is on the rise.
29% of Gen Z say they’re prone to anxiety
There’s a lot of context for why this might be. Climate change no doubt will affect them most, home ownership feels like a distant prospect for many, and Covid hit their studies hard. The worry here is that it’s a growing issue, with the number of Gen Z prone to anxiety increasing in 31/51 markets we’ve tracked since Q3 2022.
As more Gen Z enter the workplace, it’s a big factor for employers to consider. Workers who say their employer offers mental health support have a better work-life balance, better overall workplace culture, and a better salary/compensation. These workers are typically more engaged and satisfied, and benefits like these have become a necessity for attracting and retaining top talent.
5) They see gaming as more than a hobby
Which of these do you think is the least off-putting conversation topic for Gen Z singletons on a date: sports, pop culture, or gaming? As it turns out they’re the most likely of all generations to play games, and even as they grow older and take on more responsibility, they’re still finding time for serious button mashing.
75% of Gen Z gamers have played online in the last month, rising to 81% for Gen Z with children
Gaming is ingrained in Gen Z’s culture. Brands looking to hook this generation should dip into psychographic data to capture the unique way Gen Z interacts with this activity, as this will better inform accurate depictions of gamers in their marketing campaigns.
6) Their environmental attitudes aren’t as strong as you think
Many see Gen Z as the environmental generation, taking to social media to voice their concern about climate change. But for all the posts or the protests you might see, it’s not so black and white.
Gen Z are as likely as any other generation to say helping the environment is important to them
There’s nothing distinctive about their environmental views, so we can look at other generational attitudes to give a more rounded perspective. Gen Z are the least likely generation to say they always try to recycle, while millennials are more likely to pay extra for an eco-friendly version of a product, and baby boomers are more likely to want brands to be eco-friendly.
So while there’s some truth to what you hear about Gen Z, it’s important to have a 360-degree view of their attitudes. Eco-consciousness is something all brands should have in mind by now, as it impacts consumers beyond Gen Z alone.
7) They might define AI adoption
AI took the world by storm in 2023, and there’s no doubt people have a mix of excitement and concern about the technology. Many don’t trust AI tools, and some aren’t comfortable using them – but surprisingly, the same can’t be said for Gen Z.
In 12 markets, 68% of Gen Z say they’ve used an AI tool in the past month, with ChatGPT their preferred platform, followed by Google Bard and Bing AI Chat. They’re using these tools frequently but, more than that, are confident with their output too.
59% of Gen Z say they trust AI-generated information a lot/completely, compared to just 33% of baby boomers
As AI becomes a mainstay, how Gen Z use the technology could be looked at as an advantage for employers. By putting the right systems in place for testing and security, and making training and upskilling a focal point, AI adoption might pick up very quickly.
8) They shape culture through social media
Social media is central to Gen Z’s life. 86% say they’ve brought it up in their conversations in the last week, compared to 47% of baby boomers. The platforms they use shape the culture they consume, but this is where some new perspectives come in.
Outside China, Gen Z are the generation most likely to use TikTok (no surprise there), but they aren’t the generation who say they spend most of their time on it, or believe it has the most influence in shaping culture trends – that honor sits with baby boomers. Who knew?
For Gen Z, Instagram is the app that’s really shaping their imagination. They’re the generation that’s most likely to use the platform to find content, and least likely to use it to keep in touch with friends or family. For brands, it’s not just about being on the platforms consumers are spending the most time on, but understanding the apps that shape their culture.
The bottom line
There’s far more to Gen Z than stereotypes may suggest. They’re carving their path in a very uncertain world, juggling their desire to seek adventure wherever they can with their need for stability by saving for a rainy day.
While they may be young, they’re due to overtake millennials as the largest generation, so if brands want to stay relevant, they really need to pay attention to today’s “it” consumer, and the unique pockets of diversity within this audience pool.