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Who is Gen Z and what do they want? Meet the world's first truly global generation.

The first thing that comes to mind about Gen Z is that they're in the habit of picking up nicknames. Marketers have already begun labeling them the iGen, Centennials and – of course – Gen Zers. But however you choose to address these youngsters, they're already beginning to make their voices (and consumer tastes) known at colleges and universities from coast to coast - and continent to continent.

Defining an entire generation (in one paragraph) 

Born between 1995 and 2010, Generation Z counted for 26 percent of America's population in 2017, according to findings by Nielsen. It already packs a sizable impact on the American economy, with an estimated $44 billion in personal purchasing power, as reported by a joint study from IBM and the National Retail Federation. And its share of the population only continues to grow. By 2020, Gen Zers will constitute 40 percent of all Americans.

That's nice...but what does Generation Z want?

That's a great question and we're glad you asked. Gen Zers are a diverse lot with an incalculable array of personalized interests that are difficult to categorize, but broader patterns are already emerging.

1. They want value for every dollar they spend

Generation Z is willing to part with its $44 billion in market-share, but there's a twist: They want maximum value for every dollar they part with – and their purchasing behavior already reflects it. For instance, a recent Cassandra Report found that fully "90 percent [of Gen Zers] will make sure their parents feel a planned purchase is affordable before going ahead with it."

2. They like their mobile, but it's mostly for socializing

Gen Zers are – by a wide margin – on track to becoming a mobile-savvier generation than even millennials. 75 percent of college-age Gen Zers say that smartphones are their device of choice, with laptops coming in a distant second at 45 percent. More than anything, members of Generation Z use their mobile phones for texting and social media messaging with their friends. 

3. Did we mention they use mobile to socialize?

As a rule, members of the "iGen" tend to gravitate towards social media platforms so they can catch up with friends and news of the day. Part of that social-media fluency can be seen in the way they tend to communicate: More than any prior generation, Gen Zers rely on images rather than words to convey their thoughts. 

4. They hate – hate – "traditional" digital advertising

For Gen Z, the internet wasn't born yesterday. They grew up alongside it. That means they've had to deal with pop-up ads and pre-roll videos their entire lives – and they're not exactly thrilled about it. In fact, 52 percent of them apply ad blockers when browsing the internet. 

5. They watch way less TV than you probably did

That doesn't mean they don't love videos – far from it. It's just that traditional TV platforms and cable subscriptions don't always cut it for them. In fact, a recent study by Vision Critical found that while 71 percent of Gen Zers subscribe to Netflix, only 45 percent watch cable on television. 

6. They're more influenced by their friends and family than by celebs or reality stars 

With their overwhelming appetite for social media, this shouldn't come as any surprise. A recent JWT Intelligence report shows that 43% of Generation Z cites family members as being the main influencers on their purchasing habits. Friends come in second at 35 percent, while friends of friends influence 33 percent of them. Most notably, only 10 percent of Gen Zers report being influenced by celebrities.

7. They’re the world’s first truly “global” generation

Because of the internet’s uncanny ability to reduce cultural barriers by virtue of a click, Gen Zers from different countries often have more in common with each other. According to a Ford Motor study from 2015, fully 58 percent of adults across multiple continents believe that “kids today have more in common with their global peers than they do with adults in their own country.” That’s a lot to predict of a generation that’s only in its teens and early twenties. That said, there’s the real possibility and there’s data to support it: We might be on the cusp of witnessing a generation that’s able to change the world - without it being simply a platitude or catchphrase.

John Wheeler
John Wheeler
Managing Editor, Gen Z Insights

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