What is Gen Z?

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Gen Z is currently nan second-youngest generation, pinch millennials earlier and Generation Alpha after. Like each generation, Gen Z’s behaviors are shaped by really they grew up. Young group coming person travel of property successful nan protector of ambiance doom, pandemic lockdowns, and fears of economical collapse. The first Gen Zers were calved erstwhile nan net had conscionable achieved wide use. They’re called “digital natives”—the first procreation to turn up pinch nan net arsenic a portion of regular life. The procreation spans a wide range: nan oldest Gen Zers person jobs and mortgages, while nan youngest are still preteens. Globally, Gen Z is increasing fast: Gen Zers will make up a 4th of nan population of nan Asia–Pacific region by 2025. Read connected to understand what makes Gen Z tick.

Learn much astir our Growth, Marketing & Sales Practice.

What is simply a generation?

No uncertainty you’re already acquainted pinch nan conception of procreation wrong families. Your grandparents, parents, children, and children’s children each dress up a chopped procreation successful narration to you. But each of them besides belongs to a diffuse class of their peers, grouped together based connected erstwhile they were calved and what they acquisition during their lives. Social scientists person studied generations—in mentation and much practically—for millennia. More recently, thinkers for illustration August Comte person based on that generational alteration is nan motor down societal change. More specifically, each procreation entering into a caller life shape astatine much aliases little nan aforesaid clip is nan beat that creates nan history of a society.

Specific major-scale events tin besides style nan outlook of a procreation and are often reflected successful really they’re named. The Lost Generation, for example, is named for nan malaise and disillusionment knowledgeable by group who lived done World War I. Later, nan Greatest Generation was named for nan heroic sacrifice galore made during World War II. Their children, calved soon aft nan warfare ended, are called babe boomers; their outlook, successful turn, was colored by nan Vietnam War and nan societal upheavals of nan 1960s. More recently, millennials’ worldviews person been shaped by nan September 11 attacks and nan proliferation of nan internet.

Of course, these are generalizations: each alleged procreation comprises a multitude of unsocial individuals pinch their ain opinions, values, behaviors, and plans for nan future. Some societal scientists moreover judge that nan believe of studying generations tin obfuscate what motivates group connected an individual level. Generational mentation should beryllium understood pinch this caveat, and utilized only arsenic a measurement of reasoning astir society, alternatively than nan gospel truth.

What is unsocial astir Gen Z?

While location are substantive differences wrong nan cohort known arsenic Gen Z, location are a fewer commonalities its members share.

As nan first existent integer natives, Gen Zers—speaking generally—are extremely online. Gen Zers are known for working, shopping, dating, and making friends online; successful Asia, Gen Zers walk six aliases much hours per time connected their phones.

Digital natives often move to nan net erstwhile looking for immoderate benignant of information, including news and reviews anterior to making a purchase. They flit betwixt sites, apps, and societal media feeds, each 1 forming a different portion of their online ecosystem. Having grown up pinch societal media, Gen Zers curate their online selves more cautiously than those successful anterior generations have, and they are much apt to move to trends of anonymity, much personalized feeds, and a smaller online presence, moreover arsenic they voraciously devour media online.

Video-sharing societal media sites person seen a meteoric emergence arsenic Gen Z comes of age. TikTok presently rules trends, feelings, and civilization for Gen Zers, who dress up 60 percent of nan app’s 1 billion-plus users. Gen Zers flock to corners of nan net wherever they tin talk their passions and interests pinch those who stock them—from gaming to K-pop—bonding pinch some group they cognize successful existent life and ones they’ve only met online.

Gen Z besides faces an unprecedented behavioral health crisis: US Gen Zers surveyed by McKinsey study nan least affirmative outlook and nan highest prevalence of intelligence illness of immoderate generation, and European respondents study struggling pinch self-stigma. This pessimism is fueled by increasing global unrest, wars and disruptions, financial crises, and educational interruptions owed to nan COVID-19 pandemic. Feelings of “climate anxiety” are besides wide reported: galore Gen Zers study that they deliberation astir nan destiny of nan satellite connected a regular basis.

They are already seeing decreased economical opportunity and don’t presume a societal information nett will beryllium location to drawback them arsenic pensions shrink, redeeming for status gets more difficult, and nan older organization grows. Already, 58 percent of Gen Zers successful a caller McKinsey study reported not having a basic societal request met—the largest percent by acold of immoderate generation.

But Gen Zers besides study a much nuanced position astir nan stigma of intelligence unwellness than different generations. European Gen Zers look little inclined to discriminate against group pinch intelligence unwellness (although they do stigmatize themselves).

Circular, achromatic maze filled pinch achromatic semicircles.

However, Gen Z is besides mostly known for its idealism—they’re portion of a caller activity of “inclusive consumers” and socially progressive dreamers. Generally speaking, Gen Zers judge successful doing their portion to thief extremity nan intensification of ambiance change and to found greater equity for all. More than immoderate different generation, Gen Z collectively demands purpose and accountability, nan creation of much opportunities for group of divers and underrepresented backgrounds, and rigorous sustainable and greenish practices.

Learn much astir McKinsey’s Retail, Healthcare, and Sustainability Practices, and cheque retired our Diversity and Inclusion collection.

How are Gen Zers different from millennials?

Those connected nan cusp of Gen Z and millennial—people who were calved soon earlier nan move of nan millennium—are sometimes referred to arsenic “Zillennials” aliases “Zennials.” That includes older Gen Zers who’ve been successful nan workforce for a fewer years and young millennials who place much pinch Gen Z.

However, Gen Z mostly has its ain formative experiences distinct from those of astir millennials. Here are immoderate ways American Gen Zers differ from their older counterparts:

  • They are mostly much pragmatic, pinch some analyzable idealism and worries for nan future. Gen Zers dream of individual profession fulfillment but expect economical struggles.
  • They person less affirmative life outlooks, pinch little levels of affectional and societal well-being than older generations.
  • They are much willing successful belonging to an inclusive, supportive community.
  • They are much individualistic, pinch a stronger sense of individual expression.
  • They are much politically and socially active, advocating for what they judge connected societal media.

What are Gen Z’s values?

Gen Zers mostly person beardown values related to racial justice and sustainability. Mobilizations for illustration nan Global Climate March, led by Gen Z activistic Greta Thunberg, thrive connected nan activism of young people.

Climate alteration is 1 of the issues Gen Zers attraction astir most. They often telephone for betterment connected personal, public, and world scales to forestall early catastrophe. Many Gen Zers picture themselves arsenic environmentally conscious, and nan mostly of Gen Z expects to spot sustainability commitments from companies and organizations.

Gen Z is besides surviving successful a clip marked by quickly rising inflation and financial woes. Rising student indebtedness debt also plagues galore members of this generation.

What are Gen Z manner trends?

Gen Z loves expressive clothes, wants to stand retired alternatively than fresh in, and has an ever-changing style—what was successful a period agone mightiness already beryllium retired today. Their trend-chasing habits are supported by fast-fashion retailers supplying accessible ways to move it up. One Gen Z staple shop, Chinese fast-fashion elephantine Shein, adds 6,000 caller products to its website per day. This whitethorn look astatine likelihood pinch nan generation’s values of sustainability, but nan velocity astatine which Gen Z trends alteration and their desire for unsocial style tin sometimes flooded their eco-scruples.

Gen Zers besides emotion thrifting and vintage styles—which are overmuch much successful statement pinch their calls for circular fashion. Both ’90s and y2k-style clothes person seen a awesome comeback, including fast-fashion dupes and apparel dug retired of closets and thrift stores. Fashion resale has knowledgeable monolithic growth thanks to Gen Z resellers and influencers, and it’s normal for a Gen Z wardrobe to beryllium a operation of inexpensive accelerated manner and treasured vintage pieces.

Learn much astir McKinsey’s Retail Practice.

What do Gen Z shoppers want?

The net has changed unit everlastingly and shaped nan tastes of integer natives. Here’s how:

  • Consumption is astir entree alternatively than ownership—Gen Zers subscribe to streaming platforms alternatively of buying films aliases music. This inclination extends moreover to services for illustration car shares aliases luxury-clothing rentals.
  • Gen Zers judge their tastes mightiness change, and they are much apt to spend connected experiences that enrich their day-to-day lives than millennials, who are much apt to splurge connected luxury.
  • Members of this procreation attraction astir easiness of use: mobile pay, app-based services, and elemental online transactions are important, and brands person recovered awesome success by restructuring to suit Gen Z tastes.
  • Gen Zers for illustration brick-and-mortar stores much than millennials do but still want a awesome online shopping experience. Some brands person moreover recovered success done online-first launches, often supported by Gen Z consumers.
  • Ads are everywhere; Gen Zers acquisition brands “at each moment” arsenic they move done their integer and beingness worlds.

And arsenic a procreation committed to its values, Gen Z expects nan aforesaid of its retailers—Gen Zers often take brands that person a strong communicative aliases purpose, arsenic good arsenic those committed to green practices. In 1 McKinsey study, 73 percent of Gen Z reported trying to purchase from companies they see ethical, and nine retired of 10 believe that companies person a work to address biology and societal issues. However, they tin tell erstwhile a marque is conscionable paying articulator service and isn’t backing up diversity or sustainability claims pinch existent change.

Many Gen Zers passim Asia see nan net arsenic nan first spot to go when researching caller products to purchase; successful nan United States, 40 percent of Gen Zers admit to being influenced online, often by nan brands featured successful nan videos they watch. Members select a batch of information, from influencers, family, and friends, to determine where and really they want to spend.

For much in-depth exploration of these topics, spot McKinsey’s Generation Z collection. Learn much astir Gen Z insights by subscribing to our newsletter—and cheque retired entry-level occupation opportunities if you’re willing successful moving astatine McKinsey.

Articles referenced include:

  • “Heat waves, nan warfare successful Ukraine, and stigma: Gen Z’s perspectives connected intelligence health,” September 27, 2022, Lea Arora, Erica Coe, Martin Dewhurst, and Kana Enomoto
  • “Addressing nan unprecedented behavioral-health challenges facing Generation Z,” January 14, 2022, Erica Coe, Jenny Cordina, Kana Enomoto, Raelyn Jacobson, Sharon Mei, and Nikhil Seshan
  • “Giving Gen Z customers what they want: A speech pinch by.U,” November 11, 2021, Edward Ying, Trio Lumbantoruan, and Andrew Roth
  • “Gen Z and nan Latin American user today,” December 10, 2020, Tracy Francis and Fernanda Hoefel
  • “How Gen Z and millennials are shaping nan early of US retail,” September 28, 2020, Bo Finneman and Emma Spagnuolo
  • “Meet Generation Z: Shaping nan early of shopping,” August 4, 2020, Bo Finneman and Emma Spagnuolo
  • “The young and nan restless: Generation Z successful America,” March 20, 2020, Shruti Bhargava, Bo Finneman, Jennifer Schmidt, and Emma Spagnuolo
  • “Asia’s Generation Z comes of age,” March 17, 2020, Thomas Rüdiger Smith and Naomi Yamakawa
  • “The power of ‘woke’ consumers connected fashion,” February 12, 2019, Imran Amed, Anita Balchandani, Marco Beltrami, Achim Berg, Saskia Hedrich, and Felix Rölkens
  • “‘True Gen’: Generation Z and its implications for companies,” November 12, 2018, Tracy Francis and Fernanda Hoefel
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