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What is Generation Z buying during COVID-19?

As living in a pandemic becomes the cursed “new normal,” millions of Gen Zers are adjusting to their changed lives. The team at JUV wanted to learn more about how these changes have affected Gen Z’s habits, so we asked The Receipt, JUV’s in-house research network*. 

What we found is that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gen Zers are more active online, whether that be by using more social media or mobile apps. 

The pandemic has opened our eyes and wallets to spending more money and spending more thoughtfully.

During this time, Generation Z has experienced a huge increase in our usage of social media, online shopping, and food delivery services with 50% of our survey respondents reporting an increase in social media usage, 18% with an increase in food delivery services, and 16% with an increase in online shopping.

As doors re-open, how is brick and mortar faring? 55% of Gen Z respondents said that it had been over 3 weeks since they last went shopping in real life. Of those who shopped IRL, 23% of these respondents said that it had been over 6 months.

Along with the increase in shopping, there has been a significant push to choose what we are spending on more consciously (with popularized mantras such as “Support small businesses!”). 58% of respondents noticed an increase in notifications from retailers/brands as compared to pre-pandemic times, which has also interestingly led to an increase in frustration at the lack of thoughtfulness from some companies. 

A 17-year-old respondent  from Sacramento, California even said, “I feel more annoyed that large companies are attempting to look over the fact that many people are in difficult positions. We can’t be the same consumers we were before the pandemic.” 

On top of that, these times have only highlighted the great imbalances of our society and that if we have privilege we need to be using it to help people who don’t – as shown in these comments from a 20-year-old respondent hailing from Van Nuys: “I have made an effort to only purchase clothes/household items, (and food when possible) from Black, Latinx, and Indigenous-owned businesses.” Whether it’s the nature of these times or all the time we’ve been given to reflect on our lives, this pandemic has only revitalized our interest in breaking down these walls.

We continue to love subscription services.

Most Gen Zers have not changed their subscriptions, but a significant amount have increased the amount of services they subscribe to, as over 20% of our respondents told us. Many of us are searching for avenues of self-care, and subscription services have become a way for us to create regular moments of happiness for ourselves. 

Aside from finally committing to popular subscription services such as both Netflix and Disney+, Gen Zers have also embraced new niches. Amongst many others, these up-and-coming services include House Plant Box and Snack Crate.

It’s the little things in life for me.

This pandemic has taken away something Gen Z lives by – the ability to control our lives. We are constantly trying to diversify our lives in our mission to find ourselves – whether it’s scrolling on a new side of TikTok, shopping at new places, or getting into new music, our appetite for fresh, new experiences has only grown. Social media and online shopping are all representatives of different worlds we can create for ourselves to embrace self-care and drive our own happiness.

More than 50% of survey respondents expressed very negative sentiments about their feelings during this time. The most frequent words used to describe feelings have been “bored”, “anxious”, and “tired”.

What’s next?

Generation Z notices the lack of empathy from brands, especially during this time. Despite 58% of respondents noticing an increase in notifications/offers from retailers, Gen Zers are not interested in email campaigns. 

A 16-year-old respondent from New Delhi, India said, “It is sometimes frustrating because the economy is crashing, and most people cannot afford many products which are being advertised. No retailers are empathising with people, which is the need of the hour.”

At JUV, we understand the value of authentically engaging an audience, which is why we’ve worked with companies like Jansport. During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we helped position Jansport’s brand by launching an influencer marketing campaign with a focus on social impact. The campaign received 11.5M+ views across TikTok, culminated in the donation of 12,500 backpacks, and was covered by press outlets like Business Insider, who wrote: “JanSport hired a Gen-Z think tank to help launch a TikTok influencer campaign during the coronavirus pandemic without appearing tone-deaf.”

JUV Consulting is a Gen Z collective that works with companies to create purpose-driven and authentic marketing campaigns that engage young audiences. Contact us at info@juvconsulting.com if you would like to learn how to reach Gen Z. 

*We surveyed 339 respondents, aged 14 to 24, conducted online from September 30 through October 5. The average respondent was 18 years old.

Mal Vivek is a consultant at JUV Consulting. She enjoys tech, drinking overpriced coffee, and you’ll likely find her in a different timezone all the time. Find her on Insta @malavika.vivek!

Noorie Dhingra is JUV's Director of The Receipt. You can find her solving word searches, drinking cold brew, or driving around. Follow her on Instagram @nooriedhingra.