Generation Z: a user’s guide

Generation Z member

A lot has been said and written about Generation Z – but what exactly will this new generation mean for local retailers, and what can we do to engage with them? KAM Media Strategy & Insight Director Blake Gladman offers a practical user’s guide to Gen Z’ers.

If you search the internet there is a lot of opinion about Generation Z, some with facts and some without. One thing is for sure though, a lot of people are talking about them, and with good reason. In fact, a quick Google search shows 356 million search results for ‘Generation Z’ compared to 96 million for ‘Millennials’.

So why are they so important? Put simply, they will shape the way we will shop, eat, drink and interact with brands, because technology will lead the way and it’s being driven by the influencers and no generation is more influential than Generation Z.


Authenticity is a key word for this generation and one with far reaching implications. Nurturing and maintaining authenticity is a sure fire way to gain credibility and loyalty from Generation Z. More so a lack of authenticity or worse – trying to fake it – is a one-way ticket to obscurity.

One of the key drivers of authenticity is trust and Generation Z are smart to the ways of social media. It’s no longer enough for a brand to have a social profile that alludes to having a personality – they can see through this façade to the inevitable hordes of interns or chatbots that are actually doing the posting. Generation Z want the real you, warts and all.

This is key – they know we live in a world that isn’t perfect so to see a retailer, manufacturer or celebrity that operates within a perfect world immediately rings alarms bells and gives off an aura of inauthenticity.

The way to truly connect with Generation Z is to embrace the challenges you face, embrace the mistakes you make and to celebrate your successes with them. Just as a friend would do.

Four out of five 18 to 24-year-olds say that a combination of friend recommendations and social media influence them to buy a particular product, compared to the rest who are influenced by the traditional combination of brand adverts and celebrity endorsements. Creating an authentic social media presence can help you to tap into the Gen Z market.

Social sharing

Furthermore, the rapid rise in social sharing and 24/7 news cycles is having a profound impact on how we digest information and to the extent in which ‘news’ is shaping our mindsets. This impact is being felt through the massive shift that is taking place within business and consumerism. A shift that is gaining momentum with each passing day.

This is a shift in what it fundamentally means to be a ‘brand’ in today’s world. Specifically, how the generation fuelled by social media, and the generation that has grown up in a digital, omnipresent world, sees the brands of today.

It’s become a bit of a cliché to say that Generation Z are technology savvy, but when a generation grows up with a smartphone in their hand it’s hard to separate them. With many of them spending more than seven hours on their phone each day, it’s a wonder that they find time to do anything else. Except, when you consider that they communicate with each other, watch TV shows/films, listen to music, read the news, do work, order dinner and buy a coffee all on their phone, then it becomes a bit easier to understand. Being connected is just that, joined together physically and emotionally.

These devices are no longer a tool that they pick up when they need to use it. They are an extension of their existence. Therefore, it’s no surprise that for this generation, if it didn’t happen on social media, or if a company doesn’t have an app or, god forbid, a decent website then in simple terms it doesn’t exist or resonate.


Is there a backlash coming though? Two in three Gen Z’ers are currently worried that they are spending too much time being ‘connected’.

We’ve already seen brands attempt to tap into this trend with social media detoxes and WiFi-free zones, and the rebirth of vinyl record sales suggests a desire to go back to basics.

But brands need to find the right balance as, without a presence within their ‘connected’ world, you won’t exist enough to make a difference in their ‘real world’ – negotiating this tightrope is perhaps the key to long-term engagement and loyalty with Generation Z.

KAM Media’s Generation Z report is the result of a research study speaking to 500 of the UK’s Generation Z between the ages of 18-24 to uncover the facts about what they do and, above, all what influences them to do it.

To find out more about the report and its contents, visit or contact Blake Gladman.

Confused about Generation Z? You’re not alone...

If you find yourself confused about precisely what Generation Z means, don’t panic as you’re not alone. Even Wikipedia seems uncertain. Here is it’s definition which is more an attempt at a description than an actual definition:

Generation Z or Gen Z, also known by a number of other names, is the demographic cohort after the Millennials (Generation Y). Currently, there are numerous additional competing names used in connection with them in the media. There are no precise dates for when this cohort starts or ends, but demographers and researchers typically use the mid-1990s to mid-2000s as starting birth years. Presently, there is little consensus regarding birth years.

Most of Generation Z have used the Internet since a young age, and they are generally comfortable with technology and with interacting on social media.