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New Research on Gen Z Teens: Tech, Digital, Social and More!

Gen Z Teens.  Who exactly are they?  Is this new generation much different than past generations?  And if they are (hint, oh yes, they are!), what is the best way to reach these influential trendsetters?  That is what Refuel Agency, the largest full-service youth marketing and advertising firm, dedicated to helping brands reach niche consumer segments including Gen Z teens, hoped to find out.  Enter Refuel’s Gen Z Teen Research Study, which uncovered fascinating and insightful findings about this coveted demographic cohort.  Without further ado, let’s dive in.


Big Spenders

Where do we start?  Well, first, at 25M+ this is a big demographic.  One thing to keep in mind – in order to be considered a Gen Zer, you must be born in the mid 1990’s to 2013.  Gen Z now encompasses 21% of the U.S. population.  Wow!  Good to know right?  But let’s get back to our Gen Z teens whose immense purchasing power is now at a whopping $266 Billion.  And of that, $108 Billion is being spent by teens alone, without help from their parents.  What are they spending their money on?  Top categories include food, apparel, personal care, and video games.  67% shop at brick and mortar stores, 43% shop at retail stores and 42% shop online.

Not surprisingly, Gen Z teens value discounts and reward programs when it comes to brand loyalty.  But interestingly enough, 29% say they don’t care about brands – only products.  And 18% are more loyal to brands that support their social causes.  What brands top their list?  In the clothing category it’s names like Forever 21 and American Eagle.  Nike and Adidas in the shoe/athletic category, and Lay’s, Cheetos, and Hersey in the snack category.

Political and Social Activists

Old school and new school values – they share and value both, according to the Explorer study.  Traditional values including loyalty, respect, ambition and trust top the list. At the same time, they also put high importance on contemporary values such as style, humor, uniqueness, creativity and adventurism.  Gen Z teens also consider themselves young activists, who are very motivated by various social causes like suicide prevention, racial equality and bullying (top 3).  Moreover, 48% claim to be progressive on racial issues, 47% claim to be progressive on gender issues and 45% say they are progressive on environmental issues.

In keeping with these findings, it was not a total surprise to uncover that 60% – yes over half, are politically active with a sense of purpose. For example, 1 in 3 Gen Z teens share opinions on social media. 26% volunteer in their respective communities, and 1 in 4 donate to non-profit or issue campaigns.  Let’s remember we are talking teens here!

Turning our attention to higher education where these Gen Zers are concerned, most (62%) plan to attend college right after high school.  With over half starting the research process, years (yes, plural years) before enrolling.  These days males are more likely to major in tech-related areas like computer science and engineering, while females are presently leaning towards health sciences.


24/7 Mobile Usage, Social Media Dominates

So now that we know what these Gen Z teens are like, what is the best way to reach them?  Even without a study, we know teens live on their mobile devices.  To show how far we have come, these devices have already replaced TV and satellite for streaming purposes.  54% use their mobile device to stream content while only 19% use a cable box! To put this in prospective, they are 64% more likely to use a smartphone and 70% more likely to use a laptop than the general population, according to the Gen Z Teens Explorer™.

Gen Z teens are huge content consumers. 91% watch videos online from sites like YouTube and 87% listen to streaming music through apps like Spotify.

In terms of overall media usage, online videos top the list (91%); from sites such as YouTube – they are HUGE consumers of content.  Gen Z teens also like to listen to streaming music at (87%) – Spotify being their preferred choice, watch streaming videos (84%), and look at bulletin boards in school (73%).

What platforms are they currently using to message their friends these days?   Well, they are actually 20% LESS likely than the general population to message their friends via just a regular text (using iMessage, etc.).  Instead, teens today prefer Snapchat and Instagram messaging platforms. In fact, they are 3.6X more likely to use Snapchat for messaging and 86% more likely to use Instagram.   They are also not afraid to share.  72% say they willingly post publicly on social media.

One of the more interesting discoveries was the variety of apps they use on a daily basis.  Refuel Agency asked Gen Z teens to list their top 5 apps they use the most – minus mainstream apps like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and a few more.   Most popular was Avakin Life and IMVO – both online virtual communities.  Wattpad, a storytelling / social network, came in third.  SoundCloud, a music/audio platform was next followed by TikTok – where you can create and share short videos.


Key Takeaways

So what have we learned?  This is generation with diverse values on both ends of the spectrum. They are often motivated by social causes which affects their perception and preferences of brands.

While they do actively engage with in-school and other types of media, social media dominates their time and attention.  Thus, in order for advertisers to really ‘connect’ with influential Gen Z teens, they must have a social mindset themselves; brands must be in constant contact with their teenage consumers and targets.  Marketers must understand how and why these teens use each social platform.  Unlike Millennials, who like to broadcast every minute of their lives to everyone, the teens of today are much more selective with who they share their stories with (hence, their preference for social platforms like Snapchat and Instagram).   The key is creating relevant, authentic content that will resonate with these trendsetters and the adults of tomorrow.

Want to learn more? Please reach out to us at Refuel Agency. We are here to help you reach, engage and influence, youth audiences across the country.  What are you waiting for?