Rounding the corner into adulthood, pursuing a college education in record numbers, and bursting onto the marketplace with an estimated annual spending power of $143 billion—Gen Z is ready for its moment.
These young citizens of the world (defined as being born between 1997 and 2012) have quickly become potent influencers on the consumer landscape. Gen Z is the first true digitally native generation with a sixth sense for brand insincerity and a passion for action over words. They are coming of age at a time of relentless technological innovation where round-the-clock internet access, on-demand information, streaming entertainment, and instantaneous communication are basic aspects of their everyday lives.
As they mature into entry-level employees and intelligent, demanding consumers, it is imperative for brands to understand what drives and motivates them. What channels are they on most? How do they approach spending? And what devices are they using? Here, we take a look at Gen Z’s technology and media use and how they are predicted to evolve over the coming years.
Smart Devices Central to Gen Z Media Consumption
More so than any other generation, Gen Z grew up with digital technology in their hands, so smart devices are naturally integrated into their day-to-day routines—they are their gateways to online content.
Quick Marketing Tips for Digital Advertisers:
- Ensure all your web pages are optimized with responsive page design so they render nicely on mobile devices and are set up to better engage mobile-first audiences.
- Gen Z is openly embracing futuristic technologies. If this generation is a target, you may benefit from adopting them into your marketing mix sooner rather than later (if you’re not doing so already). Examples include employing gamification strategies, building virtual spaces, implementing in-app AR filters, or hosting virtual events.
Gen Z is Ready for Legal Cannabis
With legalization spreading and major federal reforms on the horizon, consumer perceptions toward cannabis are evolving, and Gen Z is helping lead the charge.
Gen Z Driving a New Era of Financial Behavior
Having lived through both the Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoomers harbor great financial anxiety that makes them more cautious and risk averse. They are skeptical of traditional financial institutions, prefer managing their money with digital and mobile tools, and seek investments that align with their values and goals.
- Money-related concerns, including job and career prospects, their long-term financial health, and day-to-day finances make up three of the top four stress-inducing factors for Gen Z.
- As older members of this cohort reach financial autonomy, they are turning to digital and mobile tools to manage things. By 2025, there will be 45.4 million Gen Z digital banking users in the U.S., up from 31.7 million this year.
- More than half of Gen Z adults (52%) between the ages of 18 and 23 are already using fintech. This is only slightly more than the percentage of millennials (48%) but much higher than the percentages of Gen X (37%) and baby boomers (24%).
- 56% of Gen Z adults aged 18+ with retirement savings say they are including cryptocurrency as part of their retirement portfolio.
- 67% of Gen Z are interested in sustainable investing, with 35% willing to invest sustainably even if it means lower returns.
- By the end of this year, 44.1% of Gen Z digital buyers aged 14 and older will have used buy now, pay later (BNPL) services at least once, compared with only 37.2% of millennials.
Quick Marketing Tips for Financial Services Advertisers:
- Devise creative ways to incorporate BNPL options into your business model as a means to building loyalty and driving more sales among the Gen Z population.
- Leverage the CTA in your digital ads to direct to your apps. By doing so—and simultaneously using the ad to highlight the app’s top features—you can capture the interest (and imagination) of this digital-first generation.
- Zoomers are driven by a strong sense of individuality, so be sure to create ads that incorporate language and services that feel personal. You’re talking to someone who is potentially a lifelong client (and whose financial needs, along with their net worth, will hopefully grow over time). Don’t overwhelm them with the full breadth of your product portfolio. Instead, consider curating a targeted list of financial products suited to an individual’s needs based on transactional and behavioral data.
Streaming Video and Audio Media Dominates Heavily
Gen Z is a major consumer of all types of internet-based streaming media, with audio making up a growing piece of the pie.
- YouTube remains the dominant platform in terms of daily reach, with 84% of adult Gen Z users saying they visit the platform at least once per day.
- iPhone users aged 18-25 spend an average of 10.5 hours per week on TikTok compared to 6.9 hours on YouTube, 3.2 hours on Netflix, and 2.4 hours on Hulu.
- The numbers of Gen Z using connected TV will steadily increase year-over-year, moving from 49.6 million this year to 56.1 million in 2025. Of all digital consumer technologies, only smartphones are more widely adopted among Gen Z.
- In 2021, Spotify (25%) and Pandora (14%) were the top audio streaming services among U.S. teens, followed by Google Play All Access, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and iHeartRadio.
- In the next four years, 61.6% of Gen Z (42.6 million people) will listen to podcasts at least monthly, up from just 41% (27.8 million) this year.
- Nearly 70% of Zoomers in the U.S. said they feel “more centered and generally happier” listening to their favorite music every day.
Quick Marketing Tips for Audio Advertisers:
- Gen Z will look to skip streaming ads where possible, so it’s important to be native and non-disruptive. Formats like podcast host-reads and Spotify’s Sponsored Playlists represent effective potential options.
- Incentivize Zoomers to actually listen to your ad. Gen Z are protective of their time, so look to outlets like Spotify’s Sponsored Sessions that offer listeners 30 minutes of guaranteed uninterrupted listening after they watch a brand’s video.
- Be deliberate about who is voicing your ads. Gen Z is big on influencer culture—relatable, trusted, young voices will be key to capturing their attention.
Social Media Diversity is Part of the Gen Z Identity
Gen Z spends an enormous amount of time on social media platforms, utilizing them for everything from making connections and consuming media, to playing games and sharing their own content.
- The social networks with the most monthly Gen Z users are Snapchat (44.5 million), TikTok (41.4 million), and Instagram (37.3 million). Experts expect this order to remain the same through 2025, but each platform will grow at different rates.
- Facebook (31.8 million), Pinterest (20.9 million), Twitter (16.7 million), and Reddit (11.9 million) also all have large Gen Z followings.
- Zoomers are much more active on social media than other generations: nearly two-thirds (64%) use social media several times a day, compared with 47% overall.
- The majority of Gen Z (61%) follow brands they like on social media. Only 53% of millennials, 36% of Gen X, and 18% of Boomers do the same.
- 97% of Gen Z consumers say social media platforms act as their top source of shopping inspiration.
- Nearly half of Zoomers (44%) have made a purchase decision based on a recommendation from a social media influencer, as opposed to just over a quarter (26%) of the general population.
Quick Marketing Tips for Social Media Advertisers:
- Gen Z is the most ethnically and racially diverse generation yet. To connect with this cohort, be sure to champion diversity in your campaigns throughout development and production (visuals, language, etc.). Indeed, this is true for all your advertising efforts.
- Influencers are a central part of social media for Zoomers. Consider partnering with nano- and micro-influencers who can spread brand messages in a way that feels particularly authentic.
- There’s a reason Snapchat and TikTok are popular with Gen Z—they feel light-hearted and less polished than other social platforms. If you can do it in a way that feels genuine and true to your brand, try experimenting with content based on the latest memes or run branded hashtag challenges that actively encourage audience participation.
Gen Z by the Numbers—Wrapping Up
Gen Z is built differently than older generations, having been the first group of consumers to grow up wholly immersed in digital technology. They see the digital ecosystem as a seamless spectrum of experiences that all bleed into another for purposes of entertainment, commerce, and communication. Brands marketing to this group have their work cut out for them, but with Gen Z’s spending power and influence, it is essential that advertisers embrace the tools and strategies they’ll need to connect with this generation.
Want to learn more about how to approach advertising to younger audiences? Check out our blog post, Gen Z and the Future of Digital Advertising to get more tips and critical insights into what does (and does not!) make this generation tick. And if you’re looking for channel- or vertical-specific guidance, dive into our collection of in-depth guides that explore a range of subjects, including cannabis, audio, connected TV, video, and more.