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Reaching Gen Z in the time of COVID-19

There is no single Gen Z, as the variety of nicknames this demographic has acquired globally vividly demonstrates. In the UK, they are 'Generation Sensible'. In America, they are are 'iGen', 'Zoomers' and the 'Homeland Generation'. In Russia, they are 'Centennials'. In India, they are 'Digizens'. They are also more generally known as the 'empowered generation' and the 'green generation'.

of Generation Z consumers would rather lose their wallet rather than their smartphone

For every fact about Gen Z there is a contradictory one. One in three want to be the first to use new technology. At the same time, more than one in eight have scaled down or discontinued their use of social media in the past year. No wonder this cohort – born between 1997 and 2010 – is sometimes referred to as 'the identity shifters.'


Uncertain, unpredictable – and unavoidable

Many of the life events that were predictable for Gen X and Baby Boomers have been disrupted for Gen Z by COVID-19. Where they live, how they connect to others, whether they enter higher education, where and how they work – all these are up in the air.

In Europe and North America, Gen Z has already experienced exceptional economic, social, and political turbulence. This demographic has experienced volatility in Asia Pacific too – that is where COVID-19 struck first – but in China they account for 13 percent of household spend1 and their fondness for late night impulse shopping online has earned them the nickname the 'Moonlight Club'.

of Generation Z consumers worry about paying the bills

It's time for organizations to take Gen Z seriously. Estimated to account for 40 percent of the world's consumers, they have a global buying power of US$150bn and influence $600bn of consumer spend2. Yet how freely will they use that spending power? KPMG International's research shows that COVID-19 has left more than half of this demographic worried about their finances and prompted 48 percent to save more and spend less.


What makes Gen Z happy?

In a rapidly changing landscape, there are some things that Gen Z does have in common: their present feeling of vulnerability, their expertise as the first digitally native generation, their fascination with new technology, their quest for the personal touch and their heightened concern about the environment: 61 percent are perturbed by climate change and 56 percent worry about natural disasters, higher than for any other generation3.

of Generation Z consumers say they buy into brands that align with their values

Gen Z has also used social media to express their individualism, define their own digital identity and create – and share – content that reflects their exact values and passions. They have been described as 'mainstream but exiled' because they are less likely to care about fashion, music and entertainment trends and are more focused on family, friends, their job and their wellbeing – in one survey of Gen Z in 20 countries, 94 percent define feeling mentally and physically healthy as key to happiness4.

Social media has helped Gen Z decide which organizations they empathize with and/or empathize with them. They identify with young, tech-savvy organizations offering services such as meal delivery, ride-hailing and music streaming which make their lives easier and saves them money. They also connect with businesses they believe defend their values. Their motivations may vary but 72 percent of Gen Z consumers rated empathy as 'important' or 'very important'.

of Generation Z consumers want to be the first to use new technology

Many current changes in this generation's behavior will be a sensible, temporary response to extraordinary circumstances. To label Gen Z 'the COVID generation', as some of the media has started to do, is an overstatement but certainly, as the demographic group coming of age during this crisis, there is a possibility that the present imperative for frugality, caution (especially about health), handwashing, lack of physical contact and social distancing will significantly influence the rest of their lives.

of Generation Z consumers regard frictionless purchasing as 'cool' – and 33 percent expect it

As Mark Twain observed, history may not repeat itself but it often rhymes. The events shaping Gen Z's outlook – war, epidemic, recession – are not dissimilar to those experienced by their great-grandparents in the 1920s and 1930s. A century ago, the most potent expression of personal freedom was buying a first car. For Gen Z, it is probably receiving their first smartphone. The way individuals express themselves may have changed, their need to do so has not. To forge a strong, durable connection with Gen Z, organizations need to convince them they are being treated as an individual, not a revenue stream.


1 OC&C
2 WP Engine Gen Z 2020 survey, https://wpengine. com/resources/gen-z-2020-full-report/
3 KPMG International consumer research, July 2020
4 European Travel Commission report, 2020