Surveying Gen Z: Understanding the Preferences and Expectations of the New Generation

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Gen Z

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McKinsey calls Gen Z the ‘True Gen’ in one of its recent reports,

Brought up in the backdrop of digital normalcy, economic recession, school shootings, diverse family structures, legalization of gay marriage, and the country’s first Black president, this generation is unlike anything that has come before it.

They’re radically inclusive, passionate for truth in everything from self-identity to politics and relationships to consumption, and fiercely engaged in activism.

As the older members of the Gen-Z join the workforce and consumer demographics, businesses that fail to understand their preferences and expectations do it at their peril.

To give our clients an insight into how Gen-Z operates and what drives them, we are using this article to dive deep into the fascinating world of Gen-Z — their unique preferences, expectations, and what makes them tick.

Unpacking Gen Z: Who They Are

Generation Z was born between 1996-2010. They are the most diverse generation in US history. Nearly 48% of them are non-white.

Gen-Zers are activists, funny as hell, and want to conduct all their interactions online. They are comfortable with customer service chatbots and self-service checkouts and don’t care much about brand loyalty.

Unveiling Gen Z: 5 Intriguing Facts
Image Source: iStock/GeorgePeters

Gen Z’s world revolves around smartphones, having little to no memory of life before the digital era.

Having been raised in households with diverse family structures, they are the first generation that fully experienced the irrelevance of gender roles. They’ve also grown up with multiracial peer groups, and many have LGBTQ+ parents. As a result, Gen-Z is radically inclusive.

They are idealist consumers. They stand for purpose and accountability. If you want to appeal to your Gen-Z consumer base, engage in ethical business practices, give spaces to underrepresented groups, and do your bit for climate change.

What Drives Gen-Z

For decades, most businesses have catered to consumers who didn’t ask them many questions or expected too much from them. We all bought into the lure of exclusivity, and it was only recently that the most prevalent consumer base — the Millennials — started asking questions about equity, ethics, and accountability.

But for Gen-Z asking questions and holding businesses to a higher standard of ethics and accountability is an integral part of who they are.

Here are the five key factors that drive this engaged generation.

1. Technology: The Digital Natives

Gen-Zers are called digital natives. Where Millennials saw the internet come to life and experienced its wonders firsthand, Gen-Z saw it when its novelty had worn off. For them, digital is just how things are.

They consume the internet more comprehensively than the previous generations and use it to connect with friends, find stuff online, and even look for dating partners. Nearly 17% of them spend more than 5 hours a day online.

Gen Z also rely on automated solutions for different activities. For instance, to book a salon appointment, they will prefer one of the best salon scheduling software, like Salonist to simplify the tasks of scheduling and rescheduling procedures.

The Digital Natives

But they are vigilant on social media. You’ll see that compared to Boomers or Millennials, Gen-Z has been more conscious of how they want to be perceived online. And they know how to curate that persona. They also value anonymity and find great solace in online communities like Discord.

At the same time, they believe in authentic self-expression on digital platforms and use social media to create virtual communities, drive activism, and expand their perspectives.

TikTok and meme culture is also quite prevalent with Gen-Z. The TikTok algorithm has enabled Gen-Zers to find extremely specific interests and forge communities around them. They use these groups and TikTok videos to discover new interests, explore niche ideas, and learn new things.

2. The Activism Generation: Making a Difference

Gen-Zers are the most socially conscious consumer group you’ll find. They care about issues and want to associate with businesses that show the same care. Climate justice, gun control, and inclusivity are one of the many areas of social justice where Gen-Z activism is breaking ground.

Making a Difference

Every year, Gen-Z comes out in droves holding climate change rallies internationally. Greta Thurnberg, a Gen-Zer, is an influential climate change figure who brought worldwide recognition to the issue, and she’s just a teenager.

In 2018, students across the US took to the streets to demand stricter gun control laws. Having seen their siblings, friends, and peers killed inside schools has shaped the fierce activism in Gen-Z.

Plus, they are only interested in brands that care about people and the environment. 62% of Gen-Z shoppers prefer sustainable brands over others, whereas 73% will pay more for sustainable products.

An important reminder here is that sustainability isn’t only about being green-conscious. A truly sustainable product is made with ethical considerations for the environment, society, and people. If you are a brand that wants to align with Gen-Z’s values of authenticity and social responsibility, these are the standards you have to fulfill.

3. Personalization and Authenticity: The New Standard

Gen-Zs are gender nomads. They see no sense in self and gender identities that are rigidly living under labels.

The New Standard

They value personalization and look for tailored experiences with brands. You cannot sell them exclusivity because they want that from every brand they interact with. Savvy brands are going with that and catering to a burgeoning Gen-Z demographic with truly custom experiences.

Glossier, a skincare and makeup brand, has connected with its Gen-Z base by giving them products that emphasize natural beauty. They elevate it by directly engaging with their audience on Instagram through user-generated content that’s massively popular with the community.

Spotify understands Gen-Z and its love for personalization and authenticity. The streaming platform constantly learns from its user’s listening habits and recommends songs and playlists that resonate with them and make Spotify a fan-favorite.

A word of caution here. While Gen-Z may be the perfect buyer for a personalized experience, they are highly skeptical of marketing in the guise of something else. That’s why you’ll now see paid Instagram posts tagged as ads. Gen-Z wants to know when you are selling them something.

So, run your ad and engagement campaigns separately if you want a genuine connection with your Gen-Z base.

4. Entrepreneurial Spirits: Creating Their Path

Unlike Millennials, who were born in a financial boom, Gen-Z’s first experience with money has been restrained. Being born and raised in a recession has given them an appreciation for financial stability. They’re pragmatic and driven for financial success.

Business Insider recently called them the Hustle Generation because 48% of them are juggling multiple side hustles. Almost half of the Gen-Z workforce is also employed at two or more places simultaneously, compared to other groups in the workforce.

Creating Their Path

They are also extremely entrepreneurial. More than half want to set up startups and launch their businesses.

In the workforce, Gen-Z favors working remotely to preserve their mental health, derive more satisfaction from work, and shed the traditional culture of being tied to their desk 9-5.

5. Expectations for the Future: What Gen Z Wants

Gen-Z is a highly optimistic and driven generation that believes in its power of engagement and activism. They are hopeful for the future and their ability to make it happen.

What Gen Z Wants

Working to bring all strata of society on equal grounds, they are passionate about fair access of everyone to resources where people come out of generational poverty, create opportunities for themselves, and enjoy a better future.

Gen-Z is also dedicated to environmental sustainability and rightly sees it connected to racial justice. It prefers brands that balance purpose with profit and go beyond performative inclusion. In workplaces, they want the brands they connect with to value their employees and provide a healthier work-life balance.


The future is Gen-Z, and it is exciting. It is socially conscious, pragmatic, hopeful, and has a witty sense of humor.

As a brand in 2023 that wants more and more Gen-Z consumers buying from it, you better bring some internal changes to your organizational structure and practices because Gen-Z wants and deserves nothing less.

About The Author

Kelvin Stiles is a tech enthusiast and works as a marketing consultant at SurveyCrest – FREE online survey software and publishing tools for academic and business use. He is also an avid blogger and a comic book fanatic.