As Millennials enter the next stage of their lives, marketers are beginning to think they finally understand this much-discussed audience. But now there's a new group of consumers for them to worry about who are coming along with their own set of attitudes and behaviours - the so-called 'Gen Zers'. Putting thousands of consumers into generational archetypes will undoubtedly create some generalisations, but how different are Generation Z (defined here as 16-20s) from their 21-34-year-old Millennial counterparts? Here we outline four key areas that merit attention.
Millennials might be tech-savvy but Gen Zers are tech innate. Raised in the era of smartphones, Generation Z will not remember a time before the internet. Millennials, on the other hand, will probably recall the days of dial-up internet and, although they were the first adopters of smartphones, their first internet devices will often have been PCs or laptops. So, while smartphones form the core of both generations' online lives, usage of more traditional devices remains ingrained for Millennials. In fact, our research shows that Millennials continue to devote significant online time to their PCs and laptops each day. The picture is different for Generation Z: they're the first generation to be spending longer online on their mobiles each day than on all other devices combined.
Similarly, Millennials will recall the arrival of Facebook, whereas Gen Z were born social and have always had an array of platforms at their disposal. There's often talk that 10 years on Facebook is losing its relevance among younger consumers, but it remains the clear hub that underpins social activities for Generation Z just as it does for Millennials - with over 80% of both groups visiting or using the platform each month. Facebook-owned Instagram has been a huge hit among both generations too, but notably so for Gen Z. Photo- and video-centric platforms clearly appeal to these young consumers, with photo-sharing competitor Snapchat long being synonymous with the youngest consumers. In fact, the percentage of Gen Zers who are visiting/using Snapchat each month is 10-points ahead of the figure for Millennials.
Our research shows that both groups are comfortable with multi-networking - each tapping into an average of 7 different social networks/services - but it would be dangerous to assume that they are using them in the same ways. 10-15 years ago when Millennials were first using Facebook, it was a platform for keeping in touch with friends, updating statuses and sharing photos or opinions. Fast-forward to the current day and social networks are now multi-media platforms - the go-to for video entertainment, reading news, and even buying or selling products. As a result, the reasons people use these platforms have evolved slightly with this new generation: Gen Zers are more likely than Millennials to be using them for more passive reasons like entertainment and filling up spare time. And according to our social media segmentation, it's 33% of Gen Zers who can be classed as 'Passive Networkers' vs 27% of Millennials.
At least in their expressed attitudes, Gen Z are also less brand loyal. According to our data, 63% of Millennials say they tend to stick to the brands they like, and 53% state they are 'brand-conscious'. Among Gen Z, the proportion who say they are 'brand-conscious' is 10 percentage-points lower, and they're about a third more likely than Millennials to fall within our 'Economical' segment (encompassing those who value the price more than brand name). It seems that brands can't rely on their brand name or reputation in quite the same way that they can with Millennials, then.
Marketers also need to be mindful with where they place their advertising dollars. For Millennials, TV ads are the most impactful, with broadcast TV forming a crucial part of their media portfolios. But Generation Z are at the forefront of changes in TV behaviours; although linear TV captures a fair share of daily time, they're considerably less enthusiastic about it than other groups (just 6 in 10 Gen Zers are watching broadcast TV each week, for example, which compares to over 70% of Millennials). Instead, it's their love of online TV which really stands out: in our research, they show a preference for watching TV on-demand rather than as it is broadcast - perhaps little surprise for a generation who have come to age in a time when it's normal for content and services to be available on-demand. And it's pretty noteworthy here that Gen Zers are more likely to say they discover new brands via an ad seen online than one on a TV screen.
With such an abundance of platforms and content vying for their (limited) attention, relevant and snackable content is key for Gen Z; they are the generation adept at quickly filtering through what's on offer and determining what matters to them. Non-invasive and relevant advertising is something to which all generations will respond, but in light of these trends it's not hard to see why it's coming to have special importance for Gen Z.