The Covid-19 pandemic is a defining moment in all of our lives, but for young people – who had been expecting to enter adulthood and the workforce at a time of general economic prosperity – its impact is even more pronounced, with their planned futures now likely to take a very different turn.
It is surprising then that in a new report by Facebook, titled ‘Meet Your Gen Z Community’, it was found that rather than being daunted by this new reality, Gen Z is emerging feeling transformed, stronger and more energised than ever.
Looking at how Gen Z is evolving through identity, community, commerce, resilience and activism, the report – which launched last month – considers how young people are shaping the future. It also examines how brands can meet their high expectations.
Born between 1995 and 2010, Gen Zs are at a formative time in their lives. The pandemic has disrupted their education, career opportunities and early working lives. Still, they are the workforce of tomorrow and remain one of the fastest-growing consumer markets.
Gen Z will be the next generation to make its mark on the consumer journey and as such, represent a significant opportunity for all brands. Understanding how this new audience thinks and consumes now will give brands a head start – particularly as it is already proving to be quite different from what has gone before.
According to Facebook's report, these digital natives, who have never known a world without the internet or smartphones, are already showing heightened independence and practicality. They care about whether the brand they're buying from is one they can be proud of.
In fact, Gen Zs in the UK care so much that they are less price focussed than previous generations. They are 1.4 times more likely to pay a premium for eco-friendly products, according to Kantar's Micro-Shifts Monthly Tracker from May 2020.
Tech innovation and socio-cultural movements have also shaped their shopping habits and brand expectations. The line between online and offline has always been blurred for Gen Z – a generation that is ‘always-on’. Looking at WhatsApp or Instagram every few minutes is second nature to them.
This is not because they are detached. On the contrary, Gen Zs are keen to engage both with their immediate and broader networks. They use social media as a window into the lives of friends and family, but they also use it to reach out to like-minded creators and communities for entertainment, education and inspiration.
Brands must connect with Gen Zs in this space by optimising their digital experience on social platforms. Facebook’s suite of Discovery Commerce tools can power these experiences, helping brands to meet consumers where they are.
Many brands, including fitness apparel brand Gymshark, are already connecting with Gen Zs using Instagram Shopping to create immersive shopfronts. Appearing on consumer feeds and in Stories, these brands offer Gen Zs products they want, when they want them. It is a level of convenience and efficiency that they prize.
According to YouGov’s ‘Meet the Future’ research carried out in August, Gen Z’s perception of a brand improves by 42% for those engaging via Instagram. Alongside feeds and Stories, Reels now offers a new way for brands to create short video content to connect with consumers.
Discovery Commerce tools can also be used to solve Gen Z’s dislikes about shopping. For example, they often feel overwhelmed by choice. According to GlobalWebIndex research from last September, 67% of Gen Zs globally say there is too much choice online.
Gen Zs want to make informed decisions about the brands and products that they choose. They want to feel proud of their selections, but – according to that YouGov report – in today’s attention economy, brands can be out of mind in just eight seconds. So instead, they turn to their personal network of family and friends for product recommendations.
To replicate that same level of trust with Gen Zs, brands must see them as individuals who are proud of their values, not a homogenous consumer group with predetermined shopping habits. They respond to brands that engage with them and seek to win their trust, rather than those that rely on the big names or creative excellence alone.
According to research commissioned by Facebook, the UK’s young people are 3.7 times more likely to say they are introverts. It is probably why 76% of them use Instagram to watch other people’s stories, while just 35% create their own.
Gen Zs are comfortable taking on a more passive role and are happy for brands to become the creators, but content should serve to highlight a brand’s values. Young people expect there to be an affinity with their own set of values. Instagram Stories and Reels are natural homes for this kind of content.
Gymshark has led by example during the Covid-19 outbreak, it beginning by posting home workouts on Instagram to motivate its young audience. At the same time, it created the ‘Sweat for your NHS’ campaign to raise money for local hospitals through the 35,000 ‘NHSweatySelfies’ it received across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Gymshark understands the needs and values of its customers, which allowed it to react quickly to the changing situation and still meet their expectations. It also understood the right platforms to find its audience and get its content noticed.
The climate crisis and conscious consumerism is top of mind for today’s young people. According to YouGov’s ‘Meet The Future’ report, 45% of Gen Zs are planning to prioritise sustainability over price. Brands should respond with more purposeful content about how they are doing their bit for the planet, and less on promotional activity.
After all, the actions brands and consumers take now will have a direct impact on not only Generation Z, but all generations to come. If our young people are willing to do better, brands should be set to do the same. See the insights here.