Who are Gen Z and what do they mean to market reserach?

Published by: Ciara Reilly


We have just about come to terms with the Millennials, those born between 1980 and the late 1990s whose forthrightness and self-assurance meant that brands and researchers were switching tact to be listening, understanding and acting to their needs.  But now we have Gen Z, typified as being born after Millennials and sometimes referred to as “Millennials on Steroids”.


The fundamental difference with this younger generation and their predecessors is the fact that they have literally grown up with technology at their fingertips.  Born in the late nineties, this generation were exposed to technology from when they entered school.  They had smartphones before they reached adolescence and never had to wait more than a moment to look up anything.


But it is not only technology that has shaped this generation.  The rise of global terrorism, world-wide recession, changing gender roles and global accessibility has made this generation into confident go-getters that don’t take no for an answer!  They are not happy accepting things as they always were.  Nothing is taken as being the “norm”, there is no “norm” anymore.


The impact of this on brands is endless, and for market researchers, how do we continue to measure success and failure, when the goal posts keep moving?  Over the coming paragraphs, I have highlighted two key features that shape Gen Z and what market researchers need to do to ensure we hear from this vital demographic.


Always On Social

As a consequence of growing up with technology, Gen Z do not operate 9-5.  They look at their mobile first thing in the morning and last thing at night and social media is central to their lives.  It is where they meet their friends, interact with brands and conduct their everyday business.  And we are not just talking Twitter and Facebook.  Gen Z are moving away from these more ‘traditional’ streams and into Snap Chat and Yik Yak.  But as researchers, we are still somewhat stuck in the rut of evaluating experience of consumers who connect in-person, on the telephone or via the website.  If we are going to speak to this generation, we need to be in their space, measuring brands through their eyes.


Share, Share, Share

For years, we have been talking about brand equity, but to ensure our brands engage with this generation, Ken Hughes, a world leading Consumer & Shopper behaviouralist, tells us that we need to move towards measuring Shareable Experiential Equity (SEE).  SEE measures a brands ability to be relevant, talked about and shared.  For Gen Z, if they are not talking and sharing experiences with your brand, you are not relevant.


Cut to the Chase

According to Forbes, Generation Z are even more impatient than their Millennial predecessors.  Their always on attitude means they are used to and expect instant gratification.  They are not willing to wait in long lines to buy a sandwich nor are they willing to listen to lengthy automated voice systems talking you through 10 different options, the last being what you are looking for.  According to the US National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average attention span of a Generation Z is eight seconds, down from 12 seconds for their Millennial counterparts. To put this into perspective, a goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds!

The impact of this on researchers is massive.  We think a 10 minute survey is short, but for a Gen Z, this is far too long.  Surveys need to be shorter and snappier.  They need to provide new and different ways of getting Gen Z to tell us about themselves, their experiences and their beliefs.  In-survey vlogging, gamification, Snap Chat picture uploads and telescope groups will have to become the norm if we are ever going to reach our quotas on this younger generation.


While many may think that Gen Z are still too young to worry about right now, we need to future proof our strategies to ensure we do not lose sight of how to speak to consumers.  One thing is for sure, Generation Z are not going to change to suit us, we are the ones that need to find a way to speak to this generation.



Ciara Reilly is a Director at RED C Research & Marketing Ltd.