Covid-19 Is Changing Gen Z Consumer Habits. Here Are 5 Things Marketers Need to Know

They're viewing everything from advertising to shopping to app usage differently

virus particles floating around by an open laptop
Gen Z appears to be approaching marketing with a more future-forward perspective. Getty Images
Headshot of Nick Gardner

Key insights:

Gen Z recently surpassed the baby boomers as the largest cohort of consumers, so it makes sense that marketers have been scrambling to understand the group. Just as the picture was getting clearer, Covid-19 has thrown a wrench into things, completely disrupting all of our lives, Gen Z included.

Amplify Solutions, a youth marketing firm that helps brands thrive in the student market, took note of the massive shifts that are currently taking place with Gen Z as a result of Covid-19. By leveraging their network of Gen Z consumers, they conducted a survey of 357 Gen Z consumers aged 16-24 to get to the bottom of how they’re feeling and what they’re doing now. 

Kieran Mathew, founder and CEO of Amplify, joined us on the most recent episode of the Gen ZEOs podcast, where he exclusively shared the results of their research. Kieran was also a guest on our daily live show Adweek Together, where we discussed some of the findings.

The following are five key takeaways that are important for marketers to understand Gen Z during Covid-19.

The obvious pastimes

Of course, there are the things that we’re all doing, such as streaming shows and movies, playing games, cooking, cleaning and carving out time (perhaps unsuccessfully) for physical activity. Brands have an opportunity here to offer solutions that foster social interaction online to combat the increased levels of depression and anxiety that Gen Z has reported experiencing as a result of home isolation. 

However, what’s especially notable is that 76% of survey respondents indicated that they’re using this time for personal or professional development. 

Gen Z has always been future-focused. Many of them were raised through the last recession and understand the importance of being competitive in the job market. This crisis has only exacerbated these concerns. With so much time on their hands, Gen Z is seeking out ways to develop practical new skills that will make them more attractive to future employers. This will be a huge opportunity for traditional e-learning companies and new players in online courses. 

two chat bubbles made up of keywords with male and female next to them
Amplify looked at the types of activities Gen Z absorbs and divided it based on gender.
Amplify Solutions

Receptivity to advertising

A little more than half of survey respondents indicated that it’s appropriate for brands to advertise during the pandemic, citing reasons such as “businesses still need to survive in this difficult period,” with 21% reporting that they were unsure while 27% said advertising right now is inappropriate.

What’s most important is that Gen Z consumers are demanding that those who do choose to advertise do so thoughtfully. Respondents noted that rather than pursuing any performance-based marketing, brands should focus their resources on tangibly adding value to their communities and motivating people to contribute to worthy causes. Brands that use this time to focus on their communities and are empathetic to the current state of affairs will be top of mind for Gen Z when they do resume their normal spending patterns.

two lists that start with yes and no about what gen z finds inappropriate in advertising
For the most part, Gen Z doesn't think advertising during the pandemic is inappropriate.
Amplify Solutions

Online shopping

Women are spending less money than usual shopping online, while men are spending slightly more. However, women are shopping online more frequently than men.

A majority of survey respondents, both male and female, reported shopping online between once a week to once every two or three weeks. It is reasonable to expect that Gen Z will spend less money online during the pandemic as a result of their general fiscal responsibility and considering that 22% of survey respondents reported losing a job or internship due to the pandemic.

While 37% of women and 27% of men reported spending most of their online shopping on clothing, 37% of men and 19% of women reported spending most of their shopping budget on online courses or digital learning tools. Gen Z is not only spending their time on personal development, but they’re also willing to spend their money to help achieve these goals.

two bar graphs
Gen Z shopping habits have changed slightly during the pandemic.
Amplify Solutions


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Nick is a video producer at Adweek and host of the Gen ZEOs podcast.
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