5 Things You Should Understand About Generation Z

Justin Daab
Customer & Market Insights

Meet the largest generational population. Now market to them.

At 26% of the overall population, Generation Z is poised to wield massive influence on markets for the foreseeable future. While there is still much unknown about how this group will behave once they enter the workforce, en masse, there are already some interesting behavioral differences emerging that all marketers should understand.

1. Mobile isn’t cool. It’s life.

A study showed that while only 4% of Millennials and older believe 13 is an appropriate age for owning a smartphone, 18% of Generation Z members think it is. One might attribute this to youthful hubris, but the fact is that this generation has really never known a time without “iDevices.” They see mobile handsets and constant connectivity as integral to life, resulting in 98% owning smartphones and devoting an average of 3.5 hours per day to its use.

2. It’s not an 8-second attention span, it’s instant prioritization.

Much ado has been made about the declining attention span of Generation Z. Reports cite research that claims that since 2000, teenaged attention spans have decreased from somewhere around the MIllennials’ 11 seconds to Generation Z’s 8 seconds. But I think using that number as any indication of a decline in cognitive ability is misleading.

When viewed in the context of the exponential acceleration of data being created, posted and shared, combined with a proliferation of screens, it would seem that there would be an increasing need to be able to instantaneously evaluate individual data points and summarily dismiss or elevate their importance to “full attention.” It’s not that they cannot pay attention, necessarily, but that having any meaningful interactions with incoming stimuli requires an unflinching ability to triage in real time.

As a marketer, be forewarned. This emerging consumer juggernaut hates anything perceived as an ad and has an amazing ability to filter out any marketing less than 100% relevant to them.

3. Optimism is baked right in.

A 2016 survey conducted by Lincoln Financial Group paints a picture of a generation far more optimistic than the preceding generation of Millennials. Further, they are more aware of and focused on planning for their financial futures. Of course, only 33 of Generation Z have even reached college age, so that could change. But as of today, 50% of Zs think America is headed in the right direction, versus 42% of Millennials or 34% of Gen Xers. And 51% of Zs believe that the American Dream “still holds true.”

64% of Gen Zs have already started researching or talking to others about their financial futures and on average, they begin those conversations by age 13. And after starting those conversations, 95% of those Gen Z planners feel optimistic about their future in general, and 93% feel optimistic about their financial futures, specifically.

An extension of that thinking, Generation Z have attitudes toward savings that rival even the Depression-era Traditionalists. More than 71% think savings are important.

4. Social influencers are the new celebrities.

Gen Z are more likely to watch hours of YouTube than television. In fact, 63% of them say they prefer to see real people than celebs in their ads. Though, to be fair, they consider the Kardashians among those “real” people. It’s a fact that should point marketers inclined to use spokespeople toward having a stable of niche promoters rather than placing all of their marketing eggs into a single celebrity basket.

5. They prefer convenience over brands.

This research from Accenture about the purchasing behaviors of Zs is likely to excite Silicon Valley venture capitalists and terrify traditional e-retailers. It points to a near universal desire for technology driven, cutting edge shopping experiences like “instant” 1-hour delivery, in-store kiosks and voice activated shopping. And they have a commensurate appetite for switching retailers based on which provide the greater of those experiences.

Further, they make shopping social. They consult family and friends for insights and opinions on products in real time while shopping. They leave reviews and can be unapologetic about giving retailers feedback. And, following that, they are twice as likely to consult YouTube before making a purchase (see item #4, above). Worse yet for traditional retailers, raised in the sharing economy, Zs have little issue renting fashion items, furnishings, home goods, even appliances.

This is not the last word.

It’s a good bet that anyone over the age of 25 can tell you how differently they view their world, their careers and their social groups today versus how they may have in their mid or late teens. So, it’s yet to be seen how this growing and increasingly influential population group we are calling Generation Z will shake out emotionally, professionally or as consumers. In any case, their influence is sure to be massive and it’s time for all marketers to start paying attention.

Want to learn more about Gen Z?

Magnani conducted proprietary research in order to help inform the innovation process for products, services, and technologies targeting this up-and-coming generation, as well as to gain a better understanding of the customer experiences they’ll demand and their communication preferences. Check out our full Gen Z report or our other posts:

The Coming of Age of Generation Z: Full Report

Gen Z Revealed: Part 1 Device Usage

Gen Z Revealed: Part 2 Milestones

Gen Z Revealed: Part 3 Threats, Opportunities, and Careers

Gen Z Revealed: Part 4 Social Media and News Sources


Magnani is an experience design and strategy firm that crafts transformational digital experiences to delight users and deliver sustainable competitive market advantages for our clients.


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