Why it’s time you got to know Generation Z

In 2020, 3.2bn people will be under 25. This is an audience too important to ignore. Facebook offers an instant guide to what you need to know about the consumers of the future…

Why it’s time you got to know Generation Z

No generation has been studied or spoken about more than Gen Z – Google Trends shows searches around Gen Z-ers are almost five times greater than searches related to any other generation. 

September’s Facebook Insights Live webinar took an in-depth look at Gen Zers and revealed the insights in their latest research piece Meet the Future. The report* explores the company’s evolution through the lenses of identity, community, commerce, resilience and activism. It aims to uncover how this generation is actively shaping what comes next. 

The new shopper
Born roughly between 1995-2010, Gen Z is set to become one of the fastest growing consumer markets and represent a huge opportunity to brands.

‘What’s really interesting about this audience is the key elements that have shaped their behaviour. Every generation has them, whether it’s Baby Boomers shaped by post-WWII optimism, or Gen X and the rise of computers… Gen Z has been shaped by the smartphone. They have grown up with a level of connectivity and information that other generations just haven't,” said Zehra Chatoo, a Facebook strategic planning partner, during September’s Facebook Insights Live webinar.

A Gen Zer receives a smartphone aged 10 on average, compared with 16 for millennials and 20 for Gen Xers. This is how this audience consumes information. The smartphone has shaped their behaviour. And crucially, Chattoo adds, it shapes “what they expect of brands, what they expect of themselves and shapes their identity”.

1. Identity 

When this audience were asked to describe themselves, the three key words used were: introvert, fast learner and driven.

And it’s a surprising finding that UK Gen Zers are three times more likely to describe themselves as introverts than extroverts. Perhaps this is because there’s more of an opportunity to thrive as an introvert thanks to powerful communication tools – an opportunity previous generations hadn’t grown up with.

Gen Zers do recognise the power that comes with having access to so much information. Sometimes they find it overwhelming but mostly this translates into a drive to learn constantly – then an obligation to transform what they learn into meaningful action. The vast majority of Gen Zers globally believe it’s important to develop new skills throughout life (79%) and stay well-informed about things (77%). 

This is a proactive group of young people empowered to stand up for beliefs, causes and campaigns.

Interestingly, the number one influencer for this audience is Grace Beverley, and is very telling as to what and who inspires this audience. An Oxford University graduate, Beverley became a household name among young British women under the moniker GraceFit – sharing content that was mostly lifestyle-y but with a regular focus on fitness. And she is now the owner, founder, and chief executive of three different, highly popular fitness businesses.

She has far less cut-through to older generations – not that this matters.

“Beverley’s popularity represents a significant shift in what Gen Zers are looking for when it comes to influencers. Influencer-branded content is set to hit $15bn by 2022 – it’s important that we are identifying the right influencers and role models for this audience,’ said Chatoo.

Campaign’s key insights:

  • Explore the role of brand as teacher
  • Consider the growth mindset
  • Communicate brand through shared values

2. Activism

Many Gen Zers share a powerful belief that they can and will change the world for the better – whether that means taking on social injustice, sustainability or another cause.

“This audience has been through two brutal recessions and a huge amount of social and political unrest, but the prevailing theme is one of hope… And so the language of activism for this audience is interesting as they don’t associate activism as a behaviour, more just a natural way of being,” said Chatoo. 

The pandemic has also heightened this generation's passion for sustainability: globally, they’re 1.2 times more likely than average to say it’s become more important to reduce their environmental impact. And in the UK, 72% of Gen Zers say they’ve become more interested in activism and social causes since the pandemic began.

This passion for sustainability was highlighted pretty spectacularly recently when David Attenborough’s debut on Instagram saw him smash the record for the fastest time to reach 1m followers. It took the broadcaster and naturalist just four hours and 44 minutes to obliterate the record (previously held by Jennifer Aniston). 

Gen Zers surveyed globally were also more likely than any other generations to have made their first charitable donation since the pandemic began. 

Yet, Gen Zers don’t plan on bettering the world alone: they expect brands to play their part too. Among Gen Zers surveyed in Europe, more than half – and up to 69% in the UK – expect brands to make their stances on social and political issues known publicly. And Gen Zers globally agree, with 79% saying it’s become more important for companies to behave sustainably.

And when it comes to activism, representation and diversity plays a really important role. Gen Zers embrace their individuality and complexity, seeing their diversity as an asset that the media surrounding them needs to reflect. In fact, nearly three-quarters of Gen Zers globally want to see more diversity in advertising – with only 12% feeling represented in the ads they see.

Diversity, purpose and transparency on politics and ethics: that’s what Gen Zers respond to in brands.

Campaign’s key insights:

  • Neutrality is no longer an option for brands
  • Performance based activity is not popular
  • Invite the audience inside the campaign

3. Commerce
Gen Zers see shopping as an expression of their values. They care about whether they’re buying from a brand they can be proud of. But they also prize efficiency and convenience. In fact, they expect brands to show up where they are, and they like the right products to find them.

Cost isn't the only concern for many Gen Zers. Gen Zers in the UK are less likely to be focused on price and 1.4 times more likely to say they'd pay a premium for eco-friendly products.

Choice is a challenge to this digital-first generation face, with a strong majority feeling there are too many options. Brands need to make choosing products easier.

“For this audience in particular, the shift from people finding products to products finding people is so important – moving from e-commerce to discovery commerce. And the key for brands is now to optimise for discovery,” said Chatoo.

There are three things to remember: use machine learning to find new customers; find new customers where they are, not where you expect them to be; let the creative find the audience. 

That last point means going broad with your creative rather than having a predetermined idea what the audience might like. 

And one final killer detail: when a Gen Zer finds a brand make sure they can buy it in five or fewer taps.

Campaign’s key insights:

  • Predictive is the new personalisation
  • Optimise the digital experience to build desire and generate demand
  • Explore immersive shop fronts on people’s feeds and stories

*Three main sources created the report: in-depth YouGov research speaking to 10,000 respondents, in-depth interviews with creators and audience focus groups.

Facebook Insights Live webinars take place on the last Wednesday of every month and provide clear and actionable insights to help brands and businesses adjust to the new normal.

See here to catch up on this webinar and here to sign up for future episodes.

Upcoming episodes include:

Episode 5: Olympics – Wednesday 28th October 2020, 2:00pm - 2:30pm

Episode 6: 2021 with special guest Benedict Evans – Wednesday 25th November 2020, 2:00pm - 2:30pm

Discover more key insights from Facebook on Campaign