Gen Z have been exposed to technology their whole lives. It’s no surprise they navigate online platforms like it’s second nature. This generation’s age bracket includes anyone born between 1997-2012; the oldest among them are now entering adulthood. They are the first true generation of digital natives, growing up in the age of smartphones and constant connectivity.

What Content is Gen Z Consuming? 

The social networks with the most monthly Gen Z users are Snapchat (42.0 million), TikTok (37.3 million), and Instagram (33.3 million). – eMarketer

Nearly all (95%) American teenagers ages 13 to 17 report using TikTok, with 16% saying they use it almost constantly. — Pew Research Center

Three-quarters tend to spend their free time online, primarily texting and chatting. Twenty-five percent spend more than five hours on their mobile phones every day. They expect frictionless, fast interactions; 62% will not use an app or website that is hard to navigate, and 60% will not use an app or website that is too slow to load. IBM Institute for Business Value

They make heavy use of social networks to create connections, consume multimedia, play games, and share content. Gen Z spends an average of four hours on apps each days (excluding games), and 98% of them own a smartphone. – Business of Apps

“The unique thing about Gen Z is that while millennials have grown up with social media, Gen Z has grown up with video-first social media.” – Digiday 

With entertainment drawing in this younger generation, Gen Z tends to consume a lot of music, online videos and games. They still watch TV and movies, but not as frequently as millennials. They primarily seek out music, humor, memes, gaming, and food/dining content. Six in 10 Gen Zers say that video games allow them to fantasize about things that are outside their grasp, and the same percentage use a second digital device while watching/streaming shows or movies. – Vice + Ontario Creates

Related: Millennial Consumption Fact Sheet

Shopping and Purchasing Habits

In today’s digital, subscription-based economy, access often trumps ownership. What does Gen Z value enough to pay for? 61% would pay for better quality, 56% for a better experience, and 50% for convenience. – Vice + Ontario Creates

This generation is used to transacting within a social platform, without necessarily visiting a retailer’s website. “Gen Z has moved beyond the e-commerce favored by millennials and has become at home with social commerce — the practice of purchasing wholly within a social media platform. And for good reason: the algorithm can learn their preferences to suggest relevant recommendations, provide a personalized shopping experience (which also reduces the risk of abandoned carts), reduce the friction between purchase desire and checkout, and is more engaging with the use of in-app filters, augmented reality features and live streams.” – Forbes

Brands can increase their appeal to Generation Z by offering personalized experiences, limited-edition merchandise, unique products, good-looking retail stores, and authentic brand stories. – Criteo 

Gen Z shoppers expect businesses to use their data to create a level of familiarity that mimics the in-person shopping experience without being invasive or overbearing. 64% expect a more personalized experience on social media based on previous interactions. – Sprout Social

That said, Gen Zers are cautious about sharing sensitive personal information online. Less than 30% are willing to share health and wellness, location, or payment information. – IBM Institute for Business Value

Topics of Concern for Gen Z

Social change is a priority for Gen Z, who are often stereotyped as social justice warriors. – Nonprofit Pro 

Climate change is becoming an increasingly important topic, with 30% of Gen Z consumers citing climate change as the most pressing issue facing us. – Deloitte

Self-expression and identity are central to their beliefs/values. Gen Zers are unlikely to buy brands because they help them become a part of a group or a tribe and are more likely to buy brands as individual preference. They are constantly seeking out brands that match their values or help them express themselves better or become a better version of themselves. – YourStory

Diversity and inclusion is also important to Gen Z consumers; 76% of Gen Zers feel diversity and inclusion is an important topic for brands to address. And 51% would like to see brands include more diverse casting and imagery in their advertising and branding – Quantilope

Gen Zers are radically inclusive, not defining themselves through one stereotype but freely experimenting with different identities over time. In fact, 48 percent of Gen Zers value brands that don’t classify items as male or female. For most brands, that is truly new territory. – McKinsey

Additional Factors Influencing Gen Z 

Gen Z is said to be more racially and ethnically diverse than any previous generation, as well as the most well educated. – Pew Research Centre

Companies should be attuned to three implications for this generation: consumption as access rather than possession, consumption as an expression of individual identity, and consumption as a matter of ethical concern. – McKinsey

Gen Zers are always looking for new content or the ‘next wave’. They have control over the media they consume, but also have more platforms and options available to them. – Campaign Monitor

Media consumption by Generation Z is driven by the need to stay up to date to voice an opinion, either to be seen as an influencer or to contribute meaningfully in discussions. – Think With Google

Gen Z tend to follow individual content creators/influencers more than Millennials do. And they most often share content on an individual level – in person or by shooting a text message to their friends and family.  Personal recommendations from family and friends remain the most trusted source of discovery for cultural content. But media publishers have become an important channel for discovery among Gen Z. Because of Gen Z’s passion for music, they are discovering cultural content through music streaming services as well. – Vice + Ontario Creates

Gen Z are more pragmatic and analytical about their decisions than members of previous generations were. 65% particularly value knowing what is going on around them and being in control. This generation of self-learners is also more comfortable absorbing knowledge online than in traditional institutions of learning. – McKinsey

Gen Z tend to be comfortable with collating and cross-referencing various sources of information. According to Google, 74% of Gen Z search for information online and 47% of those are looking to verify specific information. 

“Gen Zers want nuances in a world of bite-sized information. With so many people expressing opinions online and a pervasive cancel culture, Gen Z consults multiple sources to find out where online publications or platforms are getting their facts, as well as search for multiple perspectives to form their own opinion and be able to back it up.” – Think With Google

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Gen Z is focused on individual expression and identity in their content consumption. They are more likely to advocate for specific causes that they have researched through online media platforms. And they are more open to discussion with others of differing values and belief systems. 

Their habits will evolve as the generation ages, but for now, it’s safe to say that social media, music, and video games remain key ways to reach Gen Z.  As much as they want to stay current on local and global events, it’s equally important to them to keep up to date with their own lighthearted passions

The Author

Content Science partners with the world’s leading organizations to close the content gap in digital business. We bring together the complete capabilities you need to transform or scale your content approach. Through proprietary data, smart strategy, expert consulting, creative production, and one-of-a-kind products like ContentWRX and Content Science Academy, we turn insight into impact. Don’t simply compete on content. Win.

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