Misunderstood Generation Z – Don’t Underestimate Them

New research by Foursquare and Carat give businesses and brands a greater understanding of the demographic.

A new study looking at Generation Z (those born between 1997 and 2015) says that this youngest generation will be responsible for an estimated $145 billion in direct spending by 2020.

So, whether you love these youngsters, or can’t stand to be around them, it has never been more important for businesses and brands to learn all they can about this somewhat misunderstood age group.

The study, conducted by Foursquare and Carat, called “Generation Z…IRL,” (In Real Life) uncovered the top three labels that Gen Z has been saddled with, that may not be entirely accurate. The research was primarily conducted using Foursquare’s geo-data to analyze the foot traffic patterns of millions of Americans, and regardless of what you may think about Gen Z, the numbers don’t lie.

Myth one: Gen Z only eats healthy

Yes, despite their Instagram Stories and posts of natural, or even vegan foods, Gen Z is actually more likely than other generations to visit fast food and fast casual dining restaurants. In fact, they’re more likely than the average U.S. consumer to visit In-N-Out Burger, Shake Shack and Chipotle. According to the study, frozen yogurt shops are actually topping the food category for this young demographic. Watch out Z friends, belly fat is a real thing … just ask a Millennial.

Multiracial group of best friends laughing and having fun outdoors - Multiethnic young teenagers looking down at computer tablet

But while they may wolf down a quick burger and some T.C.B.Y. working off those calories seems equally important. Research found that while cycling and yoga studios remain popular with Gen Z, they are nine percent more likely to visit soccer fields and basketball courts instead of paying for fitness.

There is a geographic skew, however. Urban Gen Z-ers are making healthier choices than their rural counterparts, who indulge more in fast food and visit the gym less.

Myth two: Born as digital natives, Gen Z only shops online

There might not be a whole lot of truth in all this talk about the death of brick and mortar. The generation is 139 percent more likely than the average U.S. consumer to visit an Urban Outfitters store. In fact, this is the most popular brand for Generation Z. Followed by Forever 21, Zara, Sephora, Victoria’s Secret and ULTA Beauty.

What is clear about the Gen Z mindset is that they tend to treat shopping as an experience. They are 53 percent more likely than other shoppers to check online to see if there’s anything else they’d prefer to buy that is not currently available in-store. And 47 percent more likely to use their smartphones to look online while shopping, to enhance their in-store experience.

The report found that Gen Z is drawn more to outlet malls than regular malls, motivated by a variety of sales and discounts.

Myth three: Gen Z spends all of their free time staring at their phones

Nope. They are definitely a generation that is glued to their screens, but they’re actually more likely than other U.S. consumers to take part in leisure activities outside of the home. Theme parks, aquariums and bowling alleys are all popular among the demographic, according to the research.

Part of the report reads: “With a taste for real world experiences that go far beyond digital screens, Gen Z is also intellectually and culturally curious, confirming the stereotype that they are more ambitious and entrepreneurial than Millennials. They they do spend time participating in digital leisure, they’re super into hyper-engaged activities like gaming.”

So what should you take from this study?

The findings suggest that while digital and social behaviors are important, when it comes to targeting Gen Z, real world behavior matters. Engaging with Gen Z means paying attention to the places they go and the things that they do to truly understand who they are and the kind of content they’ll respond to.

Carat encourages brands to connect with Gen Z emotionally. A spokesperson concluded in the report: “Align the things they currently enjoy, such as gaming or going to the movies, with the things that they aspire to do like getting their dream job. This will allow Gen Z-ers to view your brand as both attentive and supportive, a critical functionality when establishing top-of-mind awareness.”

Feel the need to target this misunderstood generation? Call your ChartLocal Digital Sales Manager at 888-826-8060 and let us help you target this niche, or any other, like never before. Email Sales@ChartLocal.com and let us show you how easy it can be to get in front of whatever generation works for you business.

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