Today's Most Influential Generation(s)

There is a lot of content that focuses on the stark differences between Millenials and Gen Z and how the two groups differ in behaviours, attitudes, and shopping preferences. Our study aimed to look into these topics, and we soon came to realize that Gen Z and Millennials are actually not so different.

In fact a lot of “trends and attitudes” we associate with Gen Z, are actually driven by Millennials. So let’s take a closer look:

Make it easier to digest

A love for sweet short content

TikTok Source
We’ve all heard the claims that Millennials and Gen Z don’t want to do ‘hard work’ and are looking for the easiest way to get things done. 

Well maybe there’s some truth to this, at least when it comes to how they like to absorb information. Both generations exhibit a high propensity for video content- in the forms of Instagram Reels and Tik Toks. In fact, accessing video content has become a part of daily life with 46% watching Instagram Reels or Tik Tok everyday, and 66% watching everyday or every couple of days. 

Daily video watching

Instagram Reels and TikTok Videos
While heavy social media usage is often associated with the Gen Z group, it appears that both groups are accessing these specific platforms at identical rates. The appeal of Instagram Reels and Tik Tok is that it allows content creators to craft a quick/to the point story that focuses on experience elements rather than solely on features (which is how they differ from more traditional image content on Facebook or Instagram). 

What is different about this type of content in comparison to let’s say other forms of media such as traditional Instagram posts, Facebook posts, or even Vlogs/Youtube content? It is:
The audio and visual components allow for a more engaging experience and create a greater level of authenticity as people showcase their everyday lives instead of only showing glamorous/luxurious almost seemingly unattainable imagery. 
There is already a massive opportunity for product discovery for new or small businesses with 21% of millennials saying they often buy from brands they’ve never heard of before because of a social media recommendation. Interestingly this number is significantly lower for Gen Z who reported 14%. Which once again indicates that Millennials are just as if not more reliant on social media as a source for shopping recommendations.

Make it more meaningful

Emphasis on crafting a curated lifestyle

TikTok Source
Millennials have often been labeled as a “wellness generation” due to the importance they place on self care and striving for a balanced lifestyle with equal attention paid to both body and mind. Meanwhile, Gen Z have demonstrated a passion for pushing for individual identity and expression while also maintaining the attention to wellness. Keep in mind there is a lot of overlap between these interests between the two groups as well as the type of content they consume as noted in the earlier point. When asked about which categories Tik Tok/Instagram Reels were the go to primary source of information, we noticed a great degree of overlap and very similar responses across both groups.

Social video is my go to primary source of information

Line Chart with Percentage Values Example
What’s interesting here, is that the Top 5 categories chosen by both groups are all strongly related to lifestyle elements that impact social perception and image.
Fashion and makeup 
Speak to the social perception an individual is trying to embody and ways in which they can craft and express their own unique identity.

Speaks to a social activity in which an individual is trying to participate in.

Cooking and fitness
Speak to the lifestyle/wellness routine elements an individual is trying to incorporate.
Additionally what’s interesting about these categories, is that the most popular content showcases:
  • How to put together a certain look (fashion, makeup)
  • How to do a task or participate in an activity (cooking, fitness)
  • What an experience will look and feel like (dining, fitness)
The DIY focus of this type of content goes several layers deeper than a traditional ad and it allows a consumer to get a sneak peak into the experience they are seeking.
Businesses (especially small businesses) now have the ability to directly speak to consumers in a more personal way rather than solely through ads. Rather than focusing on the product attributes, companies can move towards expressing how their product can help consumers achieve a particular identity or showcase how the product can help achieve a wellness goal.

Make it quicker

A shorter attention span

TikTok Source
As we mentioned, Millennials and Gen Z want easier to absorb content that gives them more meaningful relevant content quickly. But just how quick does it need to be?

We found that attention span differs across different media content with advertisements having the most unique pattern, with attention sharply declining as length increases.

Attention span

Video Type Line Chart
Overall, it appears that Gen Z respondents are slightly more tolerant of longer videos, with fewer indicating that they would get bored after shorter periods of time. However, there is not a significant difference between the two age groups. Additionally, respondents indicated that they are less likely to get bored with entertainment/streams and live sports streaming videos, with fewer indicating that they would get bored after longer periods of time compared to the other types of videos.
Tech + Sports
It makes sense that the likes of Apple, Amazon and Google are starting to compete with traditional media organizations for rights in sports. Last year 95 of the 100 most viewed programs on TV were live sports, and their need for subscribers that are engaged with the content throughout the year maintains that subscriber base across the age ranges.

Image source:

Make it work

Uniqueness & utility beat known brand

TikTok Source
When speaking to Millennials and Gen Z it quickly became apparent that utility was more important than brand when making a purchase decision.

Utility > Brand

Millennials Gen Z
I have no problem switching brands if I think it’s going to be a better option for me 75% 60%
If I want to achieve a certain look I’m happy to buy knock-off versions of the items rather than paying full price for the real thing 62% 51%
I’m more concerned with how well an item is going to work for me than the brand that is selling the item 69% 56%
I often buy from brands I’ve never heard of before because of a social media recommendation 53% 44%
These numbers were even more pronounced in the Millennial group which indicates that the importance of brand name has been dissolving for a while now. The interest in constructing a curated lifestyle often involves seeking out unique expressive components or aligning with niche products/companies that are a form of self expression and help create a social identity. 
Gen Z and Millennials are crafting a distinctive lifestyle for themselves, which comes along with products the services that sometimes break away from traditional brands and focus instead on more niche interests.

Make it genuine

Look out for higher ethical standards

TikTok Source
While Gen Z is often associated with cancel culture and taking grander actions to demonstrate their political or social stances, we saw that Millennials were even more likely than Gen Z to completely stop buying from a brand if they found out it was unethical. They also indicated higher levels of brand mistrust. 

Would stop buying from a brand if they found out it is unethical

Bar Chart with Data Labels

Say they don't fully trust brands

Bar Chart with Data Labels
Due to a higher age, Millennial consumers are more mature in terms of exposure as well as discretionary income and therefore exhibit more picky decision making when choosing from whom to shop. Ethics and honesty matter and this is likely to increase in the Gen Z group as well with time.

Make it less manual

On the lookout to reduce stressful tasks

TikTok Source
Millennial and Gen Z are on a mission to reduce the number of tedious or manual tasks in their everyday life. A lot of Tiktok and Instagram content can be found that provides tips or ‘hacks’ to reduce time and energy spent on such tasks.

Overall, it appears that having to make a phone call to customer service is the most frustrating thing for respondents across all age groups, with 34% of total respondents, 32% of Gen Z respondents, and 37% of Millennial respondents indicating this.

What frustrates Millennials & Gen Z the most

Chart.js Bar Chart with Percentage Data and Data Labels
Gen Z and Millennials have similar percentages for some of the frustrating things, such as "reading instructions or documents that are not written in a straightforward way" and "needing to research or compare options before buying something." However, there are some differences between the two generations for other frustrating things.

Gen Z is more likely to find dealing with the postal system frustrating, while Millennials are more likely to find going into a store for shopping frustrating. Additionally, Gen Z is more likely to find waiting in line for anything and waiting more than 2 days for delivery frustrating, while Millennials are more likely to find having to make a phone call to customer service frustrating.

Businesses need to be ready now

In conclusion, while there may be some subtle differences in the consumer habits of Gen Z and Millennials, overall, these two generations are not drastically different in terms of their purchasing behaviors. Both groups value authenticity, convenience, and socially conscious brands, and are highly influenced by online media and peer recommendations.

As the two largest generations in the workforce and consumer market, it is important for businesses to understand the similarities and differences between them in order to effectively target and appeal to their shared values and preferences. By recognizing the overlapping traits and interests of these groups, companies can create marketing strategies that resonate with both Gen Z and Millennials, ultimately leading to greater success and growth in the ever-evolving marketplace.

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