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A Recap of our Webinar on Gen Z: Immense Buying Power, But Know Their Playbook

It wasn’t that long ago that Millennials were all the rage, however, companies are beginning to realize that a new generation represents a larger population with greater spending power and influence. They are identified as Generation Z.

Our primary motivation for analyzing this segment was to better understand how to successfully engage this audience and determine if a specific data collection approach would prove more successful in involving them in the research process.

To form a complete picture of this segment we took three different approaches:

View the recorded webinar

  • A thorough review of all existing information including: articles, research studies, and other secondary/primary data
  • Our own proprietary research to better understand their thinking, core values, and habits
  • Testing of various data collection methods to determine if one would prove more successful in engaging this audience

Defining Generation Z

Let’s start with a definition of Gen Z. This group is defined as anyone born between 1997 and 2010. In researching this topic the exact dates seem to be open for discussion, with some having the start date at 2000. Regardless, we have found it is more important to understand the segments within the overall generation rather than to make generalizations about them as a whole.

To understand Generation Z and what has shaped their thinking, core values, and how they look at the world, one has to look no further than the events that took place during their time. The time period they grew up in was an eventful one that included events such as 9/11, the recession, the birth of social media, gay marriage, legalization of pot, the first African-American president, Occupy Wall Street, The Tea Party, and the recognition of cultural diversity. They are more entrepreneurial, more socially conscious, and closer to family and friends. This generation has never been without the internet or a smart phone. They have had ready access to information on a 24/7 basis since their birth which has affected the way they think, interact, get news, shop, etc.

Keeping the events that shaped their world in mind, it is no surprise that this segment tends to be more realistic, practical, technology reliant, connected, and culturally diverse. A specific article likened them to moderate Republicans, in that they tend to be liberal/moderate on social issues and conservative on fiscal and security issues. This is one divergence we see when compared to Millennials, who grew up in a more stable environment and are more concerned about themselves than helping others.

Based on this information review, I would walk away with the following suggestions to improve engagement:

  • Adapt to their digital world
  • Treat them like adults
  • Keep engagement entertaining, visual, and interactive

Focus Pointe Global Proprietary Research

To further understand this segment we conducted our own proprietary research among an audience of 14-21 year olds within our panel. This proprietary research took place in mid-June of 2017 and touched on the following areas:

  • Technology usage and habits
  • Social media habits, usage, and frequency
  • Interaction preferences
  • Biggest influencers in their lives
  • Biggest issues they face
  • News they regularly follow
  • Shopping habits
  • Research participation – do they participate, do they like to participate, preferred method of engagement, and time willing to spend

After analyzing the data, we decided to compare and contrast two different age groups: 14-17 and 18-21. The first group represented those in high school and the second group represented those in college, or post high school. As expected, notable distinctions were identified between the two age groups.

What did we discover?

  • Technology: It’s all about the smartphone
    • To no surprise, most of this segment’s time is spent on their smartphone
    • The older age group watches more TV and the younger age group is less likely to use a laptop, desktop, and/or tablet
  • Social Media: It still reigns supreme
    • Both age groups are very active on social media
    • Older age group is found to be more reliant with 94% using Facebook, versus 63% of 14-17 year olds
    • 18-21 year olds were more active in every social media option measured
  • Communication: Non-verbal is the top choice
    • When communicating with friends and family, texting is the number one preference
    • Second most popular is social media
    • Email is rarely used
  • Interaction: They like to “hang out”
    • Both groups like to hang out with friends, go shopping, or watch a movie
    • Playing video games is not a high priority to this segment
  • Biggest Influencers: Those closest to them shape their world
    • Parents/family members and friends are by far the biggest influencers in their lives
    • Teachers, celebrities, and public figures provide very little influence in their lives
  • Social Issues: They dominate their thinking
    • For both age groups, social issues are considered the #1 issue they face with the next being education
    • The two age groups concerns about economic and political issues with the older group more interested in the economy and the younger group more interested in politics
  • News they follow: Entertainment is primary interest
    • This is by far the area of most interest to both age groups (around 80%)
    • Politics ranks second (around 50%)
    • When it came to other topics, the older group shows more interest in Business and the younger group is more likely to follow Sports
  • Shopping Habits: Open to all shopping/buying options
    • All three options are considered fairly equal: online, in-store, and research online then buy in store
    • Older more likely to buy online, younger more likely to buy in-store
    • Social media plays a huge role in finding out about new products, friends/family are second most influential
  • Research Participation: They like to participate!
    • Over 90% gave a top two box for liking, less than 1% bottom two box
    • Surprisingly, length of commitment is not an issue (over 50% would go over 20 minutes)
    • The method they prefer is via a smartphone (although, 2/3 would participate in any way possible)
    • The method they least prefer is in-person and phone conversation

What do we take away from our own proprietary research?

  • Think about treating the 14-17 year old age group differently from the 18-21 year olds
  • They like to participate in research, but don’t abuse the privilege
  • Mobile is king, but don’t be afraid to employ other methods (again, don’t abuse)

Testing Methods

The third phase of this exploration was testing three distinct data collection methods. The purpose of this testing was to determine if a particular method was more engaging, more likely to stimulate response, and/or more time and cost effective. Additionally, we wanted to understand how long we could engage them in order to collect additional insight.

The three testing methods:

  • Gauge: a mobile app that allows for an A vs. B selection. Simple swipe to select.
    • Advantages: speed of data collection (as little as 8 hours), less expensive than custom
    • Considerations: limited to A vs. B comparisons
  • Polling: online custom omnibus – fixed number of questions (10), fixed sample sizes (250, 500, 1,000)
    • Advantages: speed of data collection (24-48 hours), lowest cost option
    • Considerations: limited to 10 questions, set sample sizes, simple question format
  • Qualtrics: comprehensive online survey programming tool – includes branching, piping, interactive exercises, and multi-media content
    • Advantages: fully customizable, depth of insight, multi-media, rich reporting
    • Considerations: longer programming time, usually longer in field, most expensive option

Each of the three data collection methods collected respondent feedback on alternative packaging designs. The consistent measure across all three methods was overall preference and it was obtained in a different way for each method:

  • Gauge: swipe
  • Polling: radio button next to image
  • Qualtrics: drag and drop image preferred

Additional questions were included in both Polling and Quatrics: strength of preference and fit with brand. Other measures were included with Qualtrics only: visual impression (mark-up exercise), attribute preference (drag and drop), and feelings about the package/brand relationship (open-end).

Survey length differed between the three options:

  • Gauge: less than 1 minute
  • Polling: 5-7 minutes
  • Qualtrics: 10-12 minutes


  • All three methods provided comparable and consistent results
  • The strength of preference was consistent across all three methods
  • Additional data and insight (Qualtrics) were collected efficiently and effectively
  • Including interactive exercises (Qualtrics) and qualitative feedback provided additional in-depth insight and diagnostics that help to separate or distinguish options

The decision to use any of the three options is really based on two variables: the need for speed vs. the need for additional depth and insight. All three options proved to be viable and provided actionable information.

Our take away:

  • If you need it quick – use an app
  • If you need additional depth and insight – make it interactive
  • Don’t be afraid to use online surveys – must be mobile friendly, entertaining, visual, and interactive

What We Learned About Gen Z

As we looked across all three parts of this exploration, we would provide the following take away:

  • You must adapt in order to successfully engage Gen Z
  • Work harder to make a connection by explaining how their input shapes the future
  • It’s all about the smartphone, but don’t be afraid to use other methods — consider multi-modes to be successful
  • Make it visual, interactive, and entertaining to keep them engaged
  • Mimic Snapchat, Twitter, and YouTube
  • Don’t be afraid of longer interactions as long as you set expectations and make it interesting
  • Consider breaking up any long study into pieces to keep them connected

We view this as a first step in gaining an understanding of how to best engage and successfully involve this segment in the research process. We will continue to conduct our own research to help guide the development of future solutions and methods for engaging Gen Z. Look forward to more news coming from Focus Pointe Global on this topic and further discussion of this very important segment.


Presented by:

Wally Balden 
Managing Director, Online Research Services
Focus Pointe Global

Wally has been in the marketing research business for the past 38 years, with the last 20 dedicated to online data collection methods.  He has served on the supplier side, client side and as an end user of research in various product management and marketing positions across numerous Fortune 100 companies. He is a recognized authority for online data collection methods and data quality, and has been a frequent speaker on these topics at research events around the globe.

In his current role he is responsible for creating, developing and managing all online qualitative solutions at Focus Pointe Global.