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Decoding the enigma of Gen Z consumers: transparency, authenticity and honesty


By Amit Bapna, Editor-at-large

April 28, 2021 | 5 min read

The pandemic has radically changed the way in which consumers across age groups move ahead, and their consumption patterns have been a complex minefield for brands. One such cohort has been gen Z, whose evolving consumer behaviours and purchasing decisions are key for modern-day marketers.


Unraveling the new gen Z consumer

A recent research study, ‘Decoding the gen Z mind in a post-Covid Singapore’, from DeVries Global states that “close to 96% of respondents surveyed indicated that they ‘are willing to pay a premium for brands they deem transparent’”.

The study tries to decode what goes into the gen Z mind in a post-Covid Singapore and attempts to find answers to some key questions surrounding the generation’s purchase influencers, the appeal of social media stars, and ‘cancel culture’ that can push them to boycott a brand. The fact is that as this generation comes of age, it will be the one to exert a sizable influence on the future of retail – and hence is a critical market.

What matters to Gen Z?

  • Like its predecessors, Gen Z wants transparency, authenticity and honesty from its brands. In addition, the study finds that this generation does not hesitate to boycott companies over unethical business practices and false advertising, as has been shown over the last few years.
  • This smart and informed generation values and demands transparency, but at the same time is aware that businesses aren’t perfect. Brand owners need to figure out what transparency means to their business – and how they can best commit to it and communicate it in a way that builds trust and credibility and does not get into the ‘big claims’ zone.
  • Reviews have never been so important as they are now to this generation of consumers. This study finds that peer reviews are the key to Gen Z’s wallet. In fact, reviews from other consumers are twice as important as recommendations from social media and even friends or family.
  • Even though Gen Z is known to be possibly the most environmentally-conscious generation, surprisingly only 7% of Singaporean Gen Z consumers surveyed put environmental impact as an essential factor when making a purchase decision when compared to other considerations like reviews and price. In a way, this also reiterates the fact that different markets are in varying stages of evolution, and that consumers have different priorities.

What it means for the marketers

  • Li Ting Ng, director of innovation and client experience at DeVries Global Singapore, the leading consumer communications agency with an Asian lens, says: “It is important for brands to first identify what the Gen Z’s idea of transparency means to their business and truly commit to it, or else they will run the risk of hypocrisy and getting called out by this bold and outspoken generation.”
  • This generation, born and bred on the internet, often has an overload of information and can be stuck with the challenge of discerning what is real and what is not. Li Ting Ng adds: “This is a practical generation that seeks authenticity, who trust real reviews from other consumers (unfiltered pictures and personal experience) rather than over-curated and edited visuals typically expected from brands and influencers.”
  • An interesting point according to Li Ting Ng is that “while gen Z may follow social stars for entertainment and content, they, unfortunately, do not influence how they spend their money”. This means that it is time for brands to rethink their next influencer strategy and consider investing in nurturing a community of their most influential advocates – their consumers.

The big lesson for brands is that marketing will need to be constantly contextualized and localized, keeping the stage of market evolution in mind.

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