Gen Z: Consumer, Culture and Communication


Born between 1995 and 2012 and defined as the digital-native generation, the Z’s have had the ‘Net at their fingertips their whole lives.  It delivers their information needs, their educational needs: 42% of 16-24yo students rely on TikTok for educational information (1) their entertainment needs, their social needs and even more so, post Covid, their shopping needs.

Recent Voxburner US research indicates that 55% of Gen Z consider buying something after seeing it on TikTok, and a staggering 92% use Instagram (2). Locally in Australia a recent Afterpay survey noted 72% of Gen Z say Insta is their most-used app. (3) Social influencers continue to carry significant sway; 56% of Gen Z reported they are more likely to try a product or service if their favourite online influencer recommends it in a 2022 CGK survey (8).

Culture Connection

However, before jumping onboard the Gen Z social train, it’s important to be aware that garnering brand loyalty and engagement and ultimately, items in basket with Gen Z encompasses a wider range of considerations than any other generation. 

With their culture firmly entrenched within the digital ecosphere and across expansive social networks, Zeds are always and everywhere online.  Their information flow is ceaseless and thus their capacity to assess, review, approve and make purchasing decisions happens at speed.  In a 2022 Commonwealth Bank survey on brand purpose, “Unethical behaviour” was the most-cited reason for a negative Z-consumer experience with a brand, with specific references given to unfair employment practices, online tracking behaviour, and selling products which negatively impact the environment or society at large. CSR and Sustainability expectations of brands continue to dominate amongst the Zeds with 60% of Australian Gen Z’s saying they shop sustainably, compared to 55% of all Australians.  One-third have ditched brands they consider unstainable (3) and Global Web Index data indicates Gen Z is 22% more likely than other generations to unfollow a brand online if they fail to meet their CSR obligations (5).

Walk Your Talk

Gen Z expects their brands and influencers to embody the same values as they do. They expect their brands’ CSR platforms to be honest and undertaken and communicated with transparency, with ecommerce practices – from sourcing to packaging to delivery under scrutiny and are willing to pay more for brands who they see are doing sustainable good (EG: Patagonia pledging 1 percent of sales to support environmental organisations around the world, with a keen focus on sourcing materials ethically).

Communicating with the Zeds

McCrindle research highlights “The visual summary drives higher engagement than the written narrative. Watched on a mobile of course, bite sized, personalized information defines GEN Z”.

And you need to be quick! They have a short attention span – in fact for video it’s 8 seconds.

Only 15% of Gen Z feel represented in the advertising they see (8) and according CKG 82% of Gen Z (US) trust a company more if the images they use in their ads are of actual customers (6).  To authentically engage, Gen Z wants to see representation of normal and diverse people, non-overtly edited, with relatable imagery in everyday moments.  They want communication that feels inclusive, candid, and personal to them.

In a nutshell, reach your Gen Z customer base online via social platforms with short, snappy videos/vlogs and UGC and leverage your UGC across platform for efficiencies. Engage authentic Gen Z influencers to establish relatability and endorse your brand – but background check who you choose.  Gen Z takes time to research, read reviews and recommendations before making purchases both on and off social media sites so it’s important to maintain an ongoing responsive conversation with them.

Why is reaching Gen Z in the right way so vital?

Gen Z comprise one third of the global population and currently hold a collective disposable income of $360billion (Bloomberg 2021) which is predicted to increase seven-fold to $3.2trillion by 2030. 

In Australia, Gen Z represent 18% of the population, IE 4.6m Australians aged 10-24.  According to Afterpay, Gen Z and Millennials currently account for 36% of the total retail spend in Australia. Their share of retail spend will grow to 48% by 2030, as more of Gen Z (currently aged 9-24) enter the workforce.

Establishing credibility by demonstrating your brand values and purpose consistently and in a personalized way will build your kudos with Gen Z.  They want to co-create with brands, borne out by the increasing millions of creator communities across Tik Tok, Instagram and You Tube.  Thus, creating community cohesion, inviting involvement, not being afraid of criticisms, and establishing a clear two-way conversation channel that actively listens will help build love for your brand.  The ‘likes’ button is a powerful and purposeful tap for the Zeds.

3 Gen Z Trends:

  • Work-life Balance:

The rise in the gig economy amongst Gen Z, where free-lancing and short-term contract work fits in with their need for flexibility and to work in a way that facilitates creativity.  However, human interaction is still essential.

  • Ethically Conscious Consumption:

It only takes seconds to search for a person/brand/product’s background online.  Gen Z are more inclined to purchase from sustainable brands – more so than any other generation.  Who made the product, where the product is from and the processes from which it was created are all examined by the Z’s and they’re willing to spend more with brands who take a clear and proper stand on ethical issues and CSR and spread the word.

  • Social Media Transition:

A focus on audio and gaming streaming, plus smaller group social networking. Whilst Tik Tok is now considered critical for reaching Gen Z, they globally consume more audio and gaming content per day than all forms of TV viewing combined (9).  Plus, increased engagement amongst smaller platforms like Reddit, Gas, Geneva, and Fizz indicate preferences in being a part of smaller more connective social groups that offer Gen Z a space to feel welcome and safe.  Note these channels are those with underdeveloped advertising offerings thus offering ecommerce, subscriptions and features are their only revenue drivers.



2 VXB_October_Guide_Guide_to_Social-Media_20221013.pdf (

3 Afterpay-GenZReport-Single-4.02 (1).pdf

4 Calling Gen Z: how brands can engage with a purpose-driven generation | Marketing Mag




8 Oct 2022

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Saffron Carter