8 Things to Know About Gen Z Consumer Habits

Growing up as digital natives, members of Gen Z have never known the world without the influence of the internet and mobile phones. This generation is also more diverse, connected, and vocal than any group that has preceded them. As a result, Gen Z—albeit young in age—is already leaving a huge mark on the world we live in. Below, we take at eight things you need to know about their behavior, spending, and preferences as consumers.


1. Gen Z spends its fair share of time on social media—about 12 hours per week, to be exact. According to Piper Sandler’s biannual “Taking Stock with Teens” report, they engage with Instagram (84%), Snapchat (78%), and TikTok (71%) the most, while favorites of elder generations, such as Twitter (41%) and Facebook (28%), lag far behind. When asked to declare their favorite platform of all, the divide grew even further.


Favorite Social Media Platform
31% Snapchat
30% TikTok
24% Instagram
5% Discord
3% Twitter
2% Facebook


2. In terms of spending, there are some significant disparities between teen males and females. Amongst upper-income teen males, food accounts for approximately 23% of their wallet share, while video games (16%) and clothing (16%) occupy the second and third spots. For females, on the other hand, spending is more concentrated. Clothing takes the top spot at 29%, while food trails closely behind (24%). Personal care items round out their top three (11%).


3. What are the food brands that are capturing the hearts and minds of Gen Z? Seventy-one percent of teens prefer limited service restaurant brands, so it should come as no surprise that the likes of Chick-Fil-A, Starbucks, and Chipotle top their lists. In terms of snacking, brands including Lays, Goldfish, Cheez-It, Doritos, and Cheetos comprise their top five.


4. With 12% of teens saying that the environment is the most important political/social issue, plant-based meats are a food trend to monitor. Though only 15% of teens say they consume plant-based meat, an additional 34% say they are willing to try. This is a sharp contrast from adults, of whom only 20% claim they are willing to try plant-based meat.


5. In the realm of clothing, specialty stores (such as the likes of PacSun or American Eagle) are the most popular amongst teens, followed most closely by online-only “eTailers.” However, when asked to name a specific brand that they favor, 38% selected an athletic apparel brand. Nike, in particular, dominates the competition in this age group—earning favorite apparel brand status from 27% of teens.


6. What about beauty buying? In terms of overarching trends, the past year has, unsurprisingly, contributed to a slide in makeup use. Only 21% of teens say they wear makeup every day, as opposed to almost a third of teens in the spring of last year. On top of that, clean beauty has been a big buzzword for this group; sixty-one percent say they look at the ingredients in their beauty/personal care products, and 80% say they are willing to spend more for clean or natural beauty.


Favorite Buying Destinations Favorite Skincare Brands Favorite Cosmetics Brands
46% Ulta 35% CeraVe 10% Tarte
24% Sephora 10% Cetaphil 10% e.l.f.
9% Target 9% Neutrogena 9% Maybelline
5% Walmart 8% The Ordinary 6% L’Oreal
2% Amazon 3% Clinique 6% Too Faced


7. Overall, nearly seven in ten teens identify as gamers, and they spend an estimated $217 per year on the category. Though new consoles such as the Xbox Series X/S and PS5 came out in the past year, only 4% of teens say they own one at this stage. However, that’s very likely to change, as 53% of gamers say they’ll buy one of the new console systems in the next two years.


8. How do teens make their purchases? With 33% not having a traditional bank account at this point, the most common payment method in a given month is still cash (83%). However, payment apps are becoming very common, and the fintech industry is beating out traditional banks in this area. Nearly half of teens have used Venmo in the last month, while PayPal (34%) and the Cash App (28%) follow behind.

Is your brand looking to connect with Gen Z in the coming year? Contact us today to learn how we can help you craft brand experiences that create authentic connections with consumers and build long-term loyalty.




Source: “Taking Stock with Teens.” Piper Sandler (Spring 2021).

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