Marketing to Gen Z: Media Habits & Shopping Trends

By Ashley Chicola / May 25, 2023

Gen Z’s media consumption and shopping trends are largely shaped by 24/7 access to the Internet. With its endless opportunities for shopping and entertainment, the Internet has a hold on Zoomers. They’re indebted to on-demand content, and conditioned to expect a seamless blend of online and in-person shopping experiences from brands.

In the first installment of our “Marketing to Gen Z” series, we explored the elements of Internet culture that are tied to what it means to be a Zoomer. Here we’re looking at the ways in which the Internet has transformed Gen Z’s physical reality, influencing – and sometimes even enhancing – how they spend their time and money. 

What are Gen Z’s media consumption habits?

Zoomers spend tons of time plugged into their devices – but what are they actually up to? We know they’re binging their favorite TV shows, playing games on their phones, and refreshing their social media feeds. While these may seem like media consumption occurs in isolation, Zoomers are finding new ways to foster connection via digital channels, gravitating toward interactive online experiences that satisfy their need for community.

What they’re watching: streaming video

Zoomers spend less time watching traditional TV than any other age group, instead shifting their attention to online video content. Much of it is high-budget, big studio content, and Gen Z is streaming it the legit way with paid subscriptions. Netflix holds the top spot as Gen Z’s most popular streaming platform (75% are watching every month), followed by Hulu (54%), Disney+ (48%), and Amazon Prime Video (40%). Zoomers are also sharing content and sourcing suggestions online – 55% are likely to post about their favorite shows on social media, and 63% watch new content based on recommendations from other people.

What they’re playing: mobile games

Gaming is a favorite pastime of Zoomers who participate as players, viewers, members of online gaming communities, and more. As avid mobile gamers, 69% of Zoomers play games on their phones, versus 42% on PCs and 38% via consoles. The social aspect of gaming is important to Gen Z; they’re into multiplayer games that allow them to communicate and hang out with friends and other players. And with 91% of Zoomers making in-game purchases during the past six months, Gen Z’s spending habits are opening up various monetization opportunities for app developers.

Where they’re hanging out: social media

US Zoomers spend nearly three hours on social media each day – that accounts for almost 40% of all time spent online! Social media is a place for Gen Z to connect and consume content, with 35% of Zoomers using it to keep in touch with friends and family, 30% scrolling to fill spare time, and 24% visiting social platforms to find content. And while YouTube and TikTok are Gen Z’s most used social platforms, BeReal, a social app that prompts users to take and share a front- and forward-facing photo once per day with no retakes, is gaining traction among Zoomers who appreciate its focus on “authenticity.”

How does Gen Z spend their money?

Zoomers are savvy about where and how they spend their money. With a keen focus on financial literacy and independence, they are 43% more likely than other generations to use a finance app to manage their budget and often turn to social media for tips on saving. They’re also looking for bargains – 71% would rather wait for a product to be on sale, while just 29% would prefer to buy a product now at full price. Below we look at two ways Zoomers lean into their obsession with value and convenience – through subscription services and restaurant loyalty programs. 

What they’re buying: subscription boxes

Subscription-based e-commerce services are on the rise, and this trend is expected to continue among Gen Z shoppers. According to a Fluent survey, 40% of Zoomers currently subscribe to a subscription service, with 23% citing savings and another 17% pointing to added value as a reason for signing up. From meal kits to personal care boxes, they’re hyped for subscription services like Hello Fresh, Scentbird, Dollar Shave Club, and Glossy Box. 

Where they’re eating: QSRs

Gen Z loves fast, casual dining – including fast food chains and quick service restaurants (QSRs) like Panera, Chick-Fil-A, and Chipotle. To make the most of their dining experiences, 57% of Gen Zers have downloaded a QSR loyalty app on their phone, unlocking access to exclusive offers and perks. And as a money-conscious cohort with a strong taste for convenience, it’s no surprise that 36% of Zoomers turn to QSR apps to save money, while 25% use them to place orders in advance.

What are some Gen Z shopping trends?

Whether browsing on their phones or in a physical store, Zoomers are looking for personalized touchpoints that help optimize both the in-store and online shopping experience. They’re also embracing emerging digital payment technologies like mobile wallets and buy now, pay later services for a more frictionless checkout. Read on for the latest on Gen Z’s online and in-store shopping trends – and learn how these two worlds collide to create a more seamless customer journey. 

In-store shopping trends

While they may be digital natives, Zoomers don’t shop solely online. According to Global Web Index, 48% of Zoomers prefer to shop in brick-and-mortar stores, looking for immersive in-person experiences, exclusive promotions, and curated product displays. But don’t be fooled – even when they’re browsing in person, Zoomers stay connected to the digital world. While in stores, Gen Z shoppers still access personalized discounts or coupons on their mobile devices and scan items on their phones to skip the lines and check out through the brand’s app. 

Online shopping trends

The rise of social commerce (i.e., buying products directly within social platforms like Instagram and TikTok) is one of the largest online shopping trends among Zoomers. Social media is no longer just a place to socialize or stay up-to-date on the latest news and entertainment – it’s also a place to learn about new products and make purchases. According to eMarketer, nearly half of Zoomers make purchases on social media, with 45% saying they bought something because they found a new item they liked (cue the popular “TikTok made me buy it” trend). 

Closing thoughts & what’s next?

With close ties to the digital world often informing how they exist in physical spaces, Gen Z has high expectations for the omnichannel customer journey. For an in-depth look at where and how to reach Gen Z shoppers, check out our infographic here. If you’d like to learn how Fluent can help your brand unlock this in-demand demographic, connect with us here.