Gen Z is gearing up to be the largest consumer audience at 151.1B, wielding over $265.6B in collective spending power. And if your brand hasn’t already invested in learning Gen Z consumer habits, now is more important of a time to do that than ever. The coronavirus crisis has struck at a formative time in Gen Zer’s life—and how your brand responds will likely define your relationship with this lucrative emerging demographic for years to come.  

Read next: The Ultimate Guide to Marketing to Gen Z

Gen Z was already connected—that’s even more true now 

Given that G Zers are true digital natives, the line between their IRL lives and their lives online was already a bit blurry. But now that technology is essentially the only route to human connection, entertainment, and work, that line is virtually imperceptible.  

gen z consumer habits

For example, we already knew that about 70% TikTok users are between the ages of 13 and 24. In the first 27 days of March, TikTok saw a 23% increase of it’s already 1.7 million users. And definitely worth noting is the 50 million sign-ups “virtual living room” app House Party has seen just in the last month. While video conferencing services like Zoom will likely experience declining users once face-to-face interaction resumes, House Party has found a unique niche and is unlikely to go away anytime soon. 

What does this mean for your brand? Gen Zers are tuned in, looking for connection and entertainment. Newer social media platforms TikTok and House Party are experiencing explosive growth, and those users are likely to stick around once normal life resumes. Your brand has an opportunity here to reach the Gen Z consumers on platforms where they’re paying (a lot of) attention. 

Gen Z consumers habits value brands that support their values 

Gen Zers are socially conscious, politically active, and environmentally aware. According to our Gen Z Explorer Series™, 48% are progressive on racial issues, 47% are progressive on gender issues, and are 45% progressive on environmental issues. And this young audience likes to support brands that live out their values; Gen Z consumer habits, in many ways, are an extension of who they are. 

The takeaway for your brand? Our world is in crisis mode, and Gen Z is hyper-aware. Before the pandemic, Gen Z already wanted to see your brand doing the right thing, supporting causes they believe in, and making the world a better place. And during a pandemic? That desire is amplified.  

Now is the time to live out your mission and values, to implement creative campaigns that emphasize connection and positive change, and to innovate. According to a survey by Adweek, “brands should focus their resources on tangibly adding values to their communities and motivating people to contribute to worthy causes”. Brands that use this time to focus on their values and their communities will emerge top of mind as Gen Z consumer habits resume normally. 

Gen Z believes it’s appropriate to advertise right now—but be authentic 

You’re in luck since over half of Gen Z Adweek survey respondents believe it’s appropriate to advertise right now, expressing understanding that businesses need to survive right now, and that there are brands selling products and services that are genuinely helping them at this moment (e.g. fitness services). 

gen zers

However, Gen Z can spot inauthenticity a mile away and will be the first to raise a red flag if they sense something is off. Gen Z wants to see advertisements from companies they can get behind, not brands trying to take advantage of the moment. For example, positive social media messages and campaigns from a company with an unsafe work environment for employees won’t fly. And as proof, 75% of Gen Z respondents on a DoSomething survey said that the number 1 action they wanted to see from brands was that they “ensure employee and consumer safety”. 

Your next move? Advertise to Gen Z consumers but examine your messages with a lens of authenticity. Gen Z wants to support brands that are not only advertising in line with their values but are making transparent business decisions in line with them, too.  

A global pandemic has proven to be a strange time for advertising. But Gen Z consumers aren’t going anywhere—in fact, they’re waiting for your brand to show them how we will all emerge stronger together. Focus on innovative campaigns on new social platforms, promoting your mission and values, and engaging with Gen Z consumers in an authentic way. 

Refuel has been working with young audiences for 30 years. Contact us today to learn more about how our proprietary data, omnichannel solutions, and data-driven strategy can solidify your brand among Gen Z consumers. 

Christina O'Toole

Christina is a data-driven, full stack marketer with over 20 years success leading marketing in technology, higher ed and publishing industries. Christina has developed hundreds of marketing campaigns and built all facets of programs including lifecycle journeys, creative direction and lead generation. She now heads corporate marketing at Refuel Agency.