Widest geographical study of Gen Z reveals an emerging borderless tribe

Monday 21 January 2019 | Press release

Widest geographical study of Gen Z reveals an emerging borderless tribe who are hungry for uniqueness

  • A study of Gen Z spanning nine countries reveals distinct consumption patterns of this youngest generation that in little over a decade will account for one third of all consumers worldwide
  • An increasingly global group, under more influence but with a desire to be unique – these characteristics set Generation Z apart from previous generations
  • Study highlights actions brands must consider when targeting this distinct group of new consumers

As the oldest member of Gen Z turns 21 this year, global strategy consulting firm OC&C has conducted an in-depth survey of 15,500 respondents spanning four generations and nine countries to help businesses and retailers understand this new and ever-changing generation. Broadly defined as those born in 1998 and after, Gen Z already makes up 30% of the global population and almost 50% in parts of Africa.

OC&C’s research, on one hand, demonstrates that Gen Z carries forward certain trends established by the Millennials, suggesting the socially conscious, experience-led consumer is here to stay for a while.

On the other hand, it identifies several key trends particular to this demographic. Gen Zers across the globe are resembling each other more than any other generation, from attitudes to spending to their outlook on the future. This generation is also subject to higher level of influence from celebrities and friends, but at the same time, they want to stand out as individuals. Driving these seemingly contradictory forces is, most likely, the irrefutable influence of social media.

Will Hayllar, Partner at OC&C, commented:

“Gen Z is a complicated but vitally important set of consumers for brands and retailers to understand as they will make up a huge proportion of the global consumers in just over 10 years. Gen Z is changing the face of consumer industries with distinct behaviour patterns and now is the time for businesses to start thinking about how they can shape their products and services to cater for this younger generation and their needs.

“As our research shows, Gen Zers are different to Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers; their social network is informing decisions and shaping exposure to brands, posing evolving issues for retailers and brands seeking to access Gen Zers. Businesses should take note of their increased consciousness both when supplying products and services but also their ethical standards to attract Gen Zers to their workforce. Reviewing the supply chain, CSR initiatives and company values should be at the forefront of business marketing.” 

A generation without borders

Compared with older generations, there are greatest similarities in behaviours and attitudes in the Gen Z respondents of all nine countries surveyed. This suggests a homogenising effect that is almost certainly being driven by technology – the internet and social channels make it ever easier for this online Generation to share ideas and access the same information and media. Brands providing access to the same products and services across markets and the power of truly global celebrities and influencers appear to be playing their part in this trend too.

As a result of this trend, retailers and brands should look to target these cross-border tribes and segment their customer base by similar attitudes rather than – or as well as – traditional demographics.

Under the influence vs. the need to stand out

Influence plays a pivotal role in the life of Gen Z. They report higher levels of influence on their life choices than older generations, and are more likely to be influenced by friends and celebrities too.

This online sphere of influence is directly disrupting traditional purchasing journeys – Gen Zers are more likely to purchase through mobile apps, social media, and bloggers than Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers. This younger generation diverges from traditional sources of brand discovery too. Just 8% of Gen Z selected seeing new brands when out shopping compared to 17% of Gen X and 24% of Baby Boomers.

Despite it seeming that Gen Z find inspiration and identity through friends and celebrities, a core group of Gen Zers (25%) believe it is important to have a unique view on style, hobbies and creativity. Retailers should look to provide more personalisation and customisation services to satisfy this generation’s appetite for exclusivity. Limited edition mainstream ranges are another tactic that businesses can employ to reach this generation.

Conscious consumption

We saw conscious consumption go mainstream with Millennials, and Gen Z appear to be continuing the trend. While issues surrounding animal welfare, equality, diversity and human rights are most important to Gen Z overall, the data reveals national differences that appear to directly reflect the political climate of the country.  In China, Gen Z are more concerned by human rights issues, while American Gen Zers (the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in the US) are most committed to solving diversity issues.

One quarter of Gen Z say they consciously buy products that can be used repeatedly and more than a third try to buy and keep what they truly need. Sustainably sourced products are also high on the agenda for Gen Z with 13% ‘selecting products on the basis of sustainability’ compared to just 9% of Gen X.

This consciousness will also translate into the workforce as Gen Zers are likely to battle with their internal consciousness and desire to ‘do something meaningful’. This is the time for retailers to develop their ethical stances to engage this generation.

For the full report please see here. 

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