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SurveyMonkey study: Gen Z social media and shopping habits

SurveyMonkey study: Gen Z social media and shopping habits

The retail landscape for brands is experiencing a generational change in consumer habits as Gen Z purchasing habits shift toward social media and digital payments, diverging from older generations’ shopping tendencies and expectations.

Key findings: 

  • Gen Z consumers want more from brands than just affordable and high-quality products. Brand authenticity, transparency, and sustainability are higher priorities for this age cohort than for older consumers.
  • Social media plays an increasingly important role in purchasing decisions, with Gen Zers more likely to use social media to connect with their favorite brands, seek inspiration, and research products.
  • Gen Zers embrace mobile payments and digital wallets to make purchases with apps like Cash App, Venmo, and Apple Pay leading the way

Affordability, authenticity and transparency resonate the most with Gen Z

When deciding to purchase from a brand, Gen Zers place a greater emphasis on affordability, brand authenticity, and brand transparency when compared with older generations. Among Gen Z consumers:

  • 62% say affordability is important to their purchase decisions, compared with 53% overall
  • 32% say brand authenticity plays an important role in their decisions, compared with 24% of overall
  • 25% value brand transparency, compared with 16% overall

Factors Important to Purchasing Decisions

Consumers of all generational cohorts want to shop from companies whose values are most aligned with their own, but Gen Z is the least likely to say they would boycott

Almost three-quarters (73%) of consumers say it is very important that brands share similar values as they do, with little difference across age groups. Despite this, Gen Zers are least likely to have boycotted a certain brand within the last year due to differences in social and political views.

  • Only slightly more than one-in-three (36%) Gen Zers have done so, compared with 40% of Millenials, 42% of Gen Xers, and 50% of Boomers

For Gen Z, connecting with brands on social media is standard practice

% Follow Brands on Social Media

The majority (61%) of Gen Zers follow brands that they like on social media, compared with only one in three (34%) consumers among the older generations. Those who follow brands on social media are much more likely to purchase products from said brands: 43% say they are more likely to do so, compared with only 7% of those who do not follow any brands.

  • Slightly less than one-third of Gen Zers (29%) and Millennials (30%) say they are more likely to purchase from a brand that has a social media presence, whereas only 19% of Gen X and 11% of Boomers share the same sentiment

Likelihood to Purchase from Brand with Social Media Presence

Social media platforms play a growing role in the customer journey, especially for Gen Z

Unlike older generations, Gen Zers find inspiration for their purchases from a diverse array of sources, looking to shopping websites (51%), social media (47%), friends and family (45%), and brick-and-mortar stores (44%). Millennials, Gen Xers and Boomers overwhelmingly prefer shopping websites such as Amazon or Target to discover ideas when shopping, and are less likely to turn to social media and physical stores.

Source of Inspiration for Purchases

When researching products before making a purchase, more consumers turn to YouTube than any other social media platform. 29% use YouTube to conduct their research, followed by Facebook (21%) and Instagram (10%). While YouTube is most popular among all generations, the online video sharing platform is the overwhelming destination for product research among Gen Zers. 

  • Almost half (47%) of Gen Zers use YouTube to research products before buying. Instagram (29%) and Facebook (21%) are much less frequented. 
  • YouTube leads all platforms among Millennials (35%), Gen X (28%) and Boomers (18%), but older groups are generally less likely to use social media to research potential purchases.

Social Media Platforms Used to Research Products 

Family members and friends are the most trusted sources for product recommendations across all age groups, with 60% deferring to their social circles for advice. Recommendations from creators or influencers stand out among Gen Z (11%), trailing family members (34%) and friends (31%), but ahead of other sources such as online forums (7%) and celebrities (3%). Only 7% of Millennials trust influencers or content creators the most.

Most Trusted Source for Product Recommendations

More than half of all Gen Zers (58%) and Millennials (56%) have made a purchase based on a recommendation from a social media influencer or content creator, compared with 46% of Gen Xers and 38% of Boomers. They are also more likely to purchase more products due to social media.

  • 49% of Gen Z purchase more clothing due to social media, and about a third purchase more beauty and skincare (34%) and technology (31%). 
  • Gen Z females are more likely to purchase more clothing (55%) and beauty and skincare (57%), while clothing and technology are purchased more frequently among Gen males (43% and 38% respectively). Millennials display similar purchasing tendencies, although at lower rates.

YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok most popular social media platforms among Gen Z

Facebook continues to reign as the most popular social media platform, with two-thirds (67%) of adults having used the social network within the last month. YouTube trails closely (60%), while Instagram (37%), TikTok (20%), and Snapchat (20%) follow at a distance.

  • Facebook’s popularity (57%) among Gen Z adults, however, falls behind YouTube (69%) and Instagram (67%), while maintaining its lead among Millennials (68%), Gen X (71%) and Boomers (68%). 
  • Nearly half of Gen Z are on TikTok (46%), and more than half on Snapchat (58%), compared with just 20% of all consumers among both platforms. 

Social Media Platform Used Within Last Month

Gen Zers are also much more active on social media: nearly two-thirds (64%) use social media several times a day, compared with 47% overall. Among daily users, more than half (54%) of Gen Z spend 2 or more hours browsing on social media, whereas only 41% of Millenials and 30% of Gen X have similar levels of usage.

Debit most preferred method of payment among Gen Z, but mobile payment services also popular

More than half (52%) of Gen Z consumers prefer using a debit card when making purchases; only one in five (19%) favor using credit cards. Preference for debit cards decline with age, while preference for credit cards increase. Mobile payment services, such as Apple Pay and Venmo. remain less popular than credit and debit cards, with only 12% of Gen Zers, Millennials, and Gen Xers saying mobile payment services are their preferred payment method.

Among mobile payment service providers, Paypal is most popular for consumers overall, with 41% having used the service to make a purchase within the last year. More recent services see higher levels of usage among Gen Z, with one in three having used Venmo (33%), Apple Pay (31%) and Cash App (33%) for purchases last year, similar to usage of Paypal (30%) for the demographic.

Mobile Payment Service Used to Make Purchase Within Last Year

Read more about our polling methodology here