Gen Z: Understanding The World’s First Digital Generation

by Caity Dalby, Figaro Digital, and Jaywing

Jaywing, a digital agency with its heritage in data science, undertook research in collaboration with YouGov to survey over 1,000 UK 16-21 year olds on brands, social media, and their priorities in life to further understand this increasingly significant segment of consumers. The result is a new report, summarised here, on youth marketing insight that answers the primary questions brands, and agencies alike, have about Gen Z.

Generation Z, Digital Natives, Centennials, the Nation Generation – few can agree on what to call the post-millennial generation born between 1995 and 2010. Everyone can agree, however, that they are the first truly digital generation, with barely any Gen Zs walking and talking before Wi-Fi was introduced to UK homes in 1997.

This has resulted in a generation and consumer base like no other and is an entirely new challenge for digital marketers. Research claims that Gen Z have an attention span of eight seconds, compared to 12 for millennials. Whilst attention spans might be shorter, their ability to hyperprocess information is faster than ever, with social platforms claiming that users only allow 1.2 seconds to disrupt their thumb swiping and capture their attention with brand content. The rule book has to be completely rewritten for this digital and mobile generation.

Which Channel Is The Most Important For Gen Z?

Mobile is undoubtedly the most important channel for Gen Z, with 97 per cent of 16-21 year olds glued to their smartphones and the average age of getting their first smartphones being as low as seven. With penetration nearly at absolute for mobile, it is important to remember that Gen Z is made up of millions of highly individualistic teens and tweens whose varying interests overlap and diverge at multiple touchpoints. There are hundreds of combinations of circumstances that influence how well brand content will penetrate at any of these touchpoints.

When using a fluid and changeable platform such as mobile to target an audience – context is key – as a well-placed and timed ad might pique interest and change purchasing patterns. It is key for brands to understand the volume and type of mobile interactions they are currently getting within their digital estate to really understand exactly what opportunity mobile can afford them. Additionally, there is little worth in brands diving head first into tailoring their marketing for Gen Z and mobile, without first defining their mobile ambitions. What approach is best for the brand (on device, on-site, or in-feed) and what do they hope to achieve?

 

What Are Gen Z’s Favourite Social Apps And What About Dark Social?

Considering the sheer volume of time Gen Z spend on their smartphones, it can only follow that their use of social applications is the highest ever seen. Three quarters of respondents to the survey use the Facebook app on a daily basis, closely followed by 73 per cent using YouTube and 71 per cent Snapchat.

In light of this, brands should remember to consolidate their media plan to focus on the channels that will afford them the greatest ROI. Rather than spreading themselves too thinly, a targeted impact and reach could potentially, and efficiently, be achieved by a single platform. Research what it is your youngest consumers want and regularly engage with on social and messaging apps, then going forward you can select which app/s are most appropriate for your brand and play to channel behaviour. Despite Gen Z’s increased online fluidity, consumers have rigid expectations of the content they will engage with on certain channels, so play to this and entertain on YouTube, inspire on Instagram, and inform on Facebook. Think natively and activate relevantly.

Don’t forget about dark social. What makes Gen Z’s digital engagement so different compared to previous generations – millennials and baby boomers – is the move from social to messaging apps, and in turn the significance of word of mouth and referral marketing. Facebook Messenger is by far the most popular messaging app for Gen Z with 87 per cent of respondents using it daily: 55 per cent of respondents in the survey agreed that they are “more likely to share content via a messaging app than on my newsfeed”.

This is an area where marketers have no concrete way of understanding how content is being shared or consumed on popular platforms such as Snapchat or encrypted messaging services like WhatsApp. When faced with this issue focus on improving measures you can see, as they are likely to be echoed on dark social and utilise your known metrics for share and brand noise to glean insight. And remember, don’t be scared of it. Dark social should be part of your earned reach ROI and will help inform decisions on how much organic content is worthy of investment.

 

How Important Is Online Privacy To Gen Z?

The introduction of GDPR is going to revolutionise how everyone manages their personal data online, however, Gen Z are already self-regulating their digital footprint. They are much savvier about the importance and value of their data and privacy online, with 87 per cent of respondents to the survey considering their data security more important than online popularity. Additionally, an overwhelming 60 per cent of respondents actively wouldn’t share their location with their favourite brands. Although, if the value exchange and proposition to Gen Z is right, then the willingness to share data is apparent.

Going forward, brands will need to consider the relevance of location and data to the experience they are able to offer digitally. Mutual benefit is the validator here and Gen Z are savvy as to how they can opt in and toggle out however they may wish. It’s not all doom and gloom as in the long run, GDPR is an opportunity to govern and protect the integrity of brand marketing, and the health of brand-consumer relationships.

 

What Really Influences Gen Z’s Decisions And Does Digital Etiquette Affect It?

Gen Z’s behaviour and opinions are both actively and passively influenced by brand activity especially as brand websites have become a critical part of Gen Z’s decision-making process, closely followed by the opinions of their family, peers, and influencers. Brands should consider spending more on their website and doing thorough research before working with potential influencers to ensure their main point of contact with their youngest audience is as good as it can be and that any content they produce is highly relevant.

Gen Z have been born into a world of instant technology gratification. The way in which they socially govern themselves and judge the social presence of brands continues to evolve as a new generation of attitudes gain influential power. It is paramount for brands to maintain good digital etiquette, by understanding what moments they can capitalise on for the biggest gain, as making content relevant in the moment is as important as the content’s relevancy in the feed. The key to targeted success is to accurately define the state of mind of your audience, their moment and their motivation to increase relevancy.

What’s The Next Big Thing For Gen Z?

The emergence of smart watches and VR headsets haven’t had as big of an impact on Gen Z as most would think, with 60 percent of respondents saying that they have no plan to ever purchase a smart watch. The penetration, purchasing intent and disposable income simply isn’t there yet for this maturing audience. At least for now, Gen Z seems to be perfectly content with high-quality smartphones that act as a key enabler of orchestrating collective digital and social experiences between themselves and brands.

The next big thing for Gen Z, whether they are vocalising their need for it or not, will most likely be Augmented Reality. With the inclusion of AR features within Android and Apple iOS, its newfound mainstream accessibility will give Gen Z a taste of this new technology from the comfort of their own devices.

For the remainder of Jaywing’s Gen Z report, you can download it for free at www.jaywing.com/genz.