New Study Reveals How the Expectations of Gen Z ‘Are Reshaping Brand Experiences’

American Express shows how they compare to millennials

Gen Z is more than twice as likely to drop a brand for poor features or responsiveness on social media as Gen Y. Getty Images
Headshot of Erik Oster

During a panel discussion at its American Express Innovation showcase today, American Express unveiled the results of a study it commissioned and Forrester Consulting conducted that examined the brand expectations of Gen Z.

The study, “Raising the Bar: How Gen Z Expectations Are Reshaping Brand Experiences,” involved 1,027 North American Gen Y (23- to 37-year-old) and Gen Z (16- to 22-year-old) consumers and reveals both similarities and differences between the two generations.

Gen Y and Gen Z share some of the same brand expectations, with digital experiences important to both. But Gen Zers are more likely to drop brands for slow responsiveness in online customer-service chats. They’re also less likely to prefer speaking with customer service reps over the phone and more likely to use digital-wallet and device-specific mobile payment options.

Don’t talk to me

One difference that probably doesn’t come as a surprise is that members of Gen Z are less comfortable talking to people on the phone. While more millennial respondents (49 percent) preferred discussing problems over the phone with customer service reps than other options, only 38 percent of Gen Z participants preferred that method.

Gen Z notably preferred solving problems on their own, with 31 percent saying they preferred to utilize online resources to problems with a products or services, compared with just 18 percent of Gen Y respondents.

They grow up so fast

Another somewhat encouraging finding is the degree to which members of Gen Z are already managing their own money. Eighty-one percent make purchases on their own, 77 percent claim they a close eye on their own finances, and 72 percent have their own checking or savings accounts.

Gen Z is more comfortable with digital-wallet transactions than Gen Y—43 percent of Gen Z respondents said they had made such transactions in the past three months compared with just 29 percent of Gen Y respondents. They’re also more likely to turn to device-specific mobile payment options like Apple Pay, with 33 percent saying they had used such tools during the past three months compared with 22 percent for Gen Y.

What not to do

Gen Z is more than twice as likely to drop a brand for poor features or responsiveness on social media, according to the survey. Twenty-one percent of Gen Z respondents said such experiences would likely make them stop using a product, service or brand, compared with just 9 percent of millennials. They’re also more likely to drop a brand, service or product over poorly designed mobile features (23 percent to Gen Y’s 16 percent), slow response times in online chat for sales or customer service (20 percent to Gen Y’s 17 percent), or only providing customer service over the phone or in person (12 percent to Gen Y’s 10 percent).


“Gen Z is ushering in a new world order of empowered and entitled consumerism,” Forrester wrote in the conclusion of its report. “Brands and customer support teams are working hard to keep up. As digital technology permeates all aspects of business, its distinction will eventually begin to dissolve.”

The summary continued: “To capture Gen Z’s attention, business leaders have to go beyond simply thinking digitally. They need to become customer obsessed and deliver experiences founded on the pillars of empathy and delivering utility such as immediacy, personalization, security and entertainment.”



@ErikDOster Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.