Gen Z Girls Don’t Want Surprise Gifts, but Getting Them One That’s ‘Instagram-worthy’ Is Cool

Unexpected findings predominate first holiday gifting report

Gen Z is the first generation with no memory of a world without web-enabled devices and social media. Getty Images
Headshot of Robert Klara

As we enter the holiday gift-giving season and thoughts turn to selecting a heartfelt gift for that special young person in our lives, there’s something essential to bear in mind.

Whatever sort of present you put beneath the tree, you’d better make sure it looks good on Instagram.

No, that’s not a joke. It’s one of the findings from digital media company Sweety High’s “2017 Gen Z Holiday Gifting and Influencer Report” released this morning. The first-time survey queried over 600 girls between the ages of 13 and 22, asking them what influenced their gift-giving (and receiving) behavior.

“Some of the hallmarks of Gen Z as a generation are really borne out in this data,” said Sweety High’s co-founder and CEO Frank Simonetti. After all, he added, “this generation is the most connected, day to day and hour to hour.”

SOURCE: Sweety High/2017 Gen-Z Holiday Gifting and Influencer Report

Gen Z, the sizeable demographic group coming up just behind millennials, isn’t merely made up of digital natives—it’s the first generation with no memory of a world without web-enabled devices and social media. So it’s probably no surprise that when it comes to giving and receiving holiday gifts, the young ladies of Gen Z are in a digital state of mind.

Forty-two percent of 13- to 16-year-old girls, for example, have a new laptop on their wish list. And a greater percentage of Gen Z girls overall would rather receive a digital gadget than beauty products (51 percent versus 49 percent).

But the findings that truly give pause are the ones that appear to show how social media sensibilities have supplanted the social norms older consumers took for granted.

SOURCE: Sweety High/2017 Gen-Z Holiday Gifting and Influencer Report

For instance, while the element of surprise has historically been what makes tearing open holiday presents fun—indeed, it’s the whole reason for wrapping them in the first place—many Gen Z girls would rather opt out of that. Over half (52 percent) of 13- to 16-year-old respondents would simply like to receive the items they specified on their wish lists, thank you very much. Only older Gen Zers (70 percent of those between 20 and 22) appear comfortable with surprise gifts.

Nowhere, however, is the social media influence of Gen Z more apparent than in this tidbit: The majority (58 percent) of girls ages 13 to 16 prefer to receive a gift that’s “Instagram-worthy.”

Hold on. Does this mean that having a gift liked by social media followers has become more important than just liking a gift in the first place? Well, not exactly. As Simonetti sees it, this data point is simply an indication that the web has normalized the idea that even the most personal aspects of life are ones fit for prime time.

“If you know anything about young girls, the idea that they’re going to broadcast their lives in an Instagram still frame or in a series of snaps—that’s a given,” he said. “So [whether] I’m getting a gift or meeting a celebrity, it’s all going up there.”

Survey results like these make it tempting to think of Gen Z as a generation who’s sold its soul to social media. But Sweety High’s data also suggests that today’s youngest consumers place a surprisingly high value on holiday traditions.

For instance, it’s easy to assume that Gen Z girls do all their holiday gift shopping online, but only 54 percent of them do, in fact, while a whopping 77 percent actually like going to brick-and-mortar stores.

SOURCE: Sweety High/2017 Gen-Z Holiday Gifting and Influencer Report

Or you might think that Gen Z shoppers would prefer to get all their gift-giving ideas from social media platforms, but a vast majority (75 percent) actually prefer in-person, word-of-mouth recommendations.

And while you might think celebrities and social media influencers dictate what brands Gen Z girls wind up liking, the truth is the brands they’ll buy are far more influenced by family (77 percent) and actual friends (81 percent).

While the study’s core findings confirm “technology has become the new toy,” Simonetti said, “the overall idea was [that] girls really did care what parents and friends were doing. They wanted [gift giving] to be a personal experience.”

And that’s bound to boost the faith in the future of humanity just a little. As Sweety High’s co-founder and CCO Veronica Zelle sees it, the up-and-coming generation of consumers combines the best of digital savvy with a refreshing respect for the old-fashioned relationship so many fear social media is destroying.

“I think this is the generation that’ll save the world,” Zelle said, “and a few brands, too.”

@UpperEastRob Robert Klara is a senior editor, brands at Adweek, where he specializes in covering the evolution and impact of brands.