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New insights to help you understand the Gen Z drinker

March 8, 2020

Just when you think you’ve finally got a handle on millennials and all their very specific purchasing and drinking preferences, here comes Gen Z. With a smartphone in one hand and their other index finger on the pulse of a number of important social issues, Gen Z have arrived and they’re ready to become the new influencers. A generation that was predicted to have $44 billion in buying power by 2020, commanding a full 40% of consumer spending, Gen Z is set to change the way we live, shop – and drink.

But first, 4 facts to help you understand the Gen Z consumer

Anyone looking to understand Gen Z can start by understanding that they are not millennials. So for brands looking to capitalize on that growing Gen Z buying power, there’s going to be a bit of a learning curve, and it’s one that goes beyond figuring out what TikTok and Twitch are. These next facts about Gen Zers as consumers are a good start.

#1: Gen Z is not all about the experience the way millennials are

By this point, it should come as no surprise that millennials – with their love of Insta-ready locations and showy features like molecular gastronomy – are all about the experience. What might surprise you is that Gen Z isn’t. A recent survey showed that while 74% of millennials have a higher than ever standard for customer experience, with 75% of millennials willing to pay for those great customer experiences, only 62% of Gen Zers prioritize customer experience in the same way.

Gen Z are very much about positive social change, and they will put their impressive buying power where their mouths are.

#2: There will be no slowing the digital takeover with Gen Z at the wheel

For the most part, Gen Zers can’t remember a time before social media and smartphones. They’ve grown up immersed in advanced and innovative technology in a way that even millennials weren’t. As a result, seventy-four percent of millennials spend at least five hours online. If marketers are looking for Gen Z, they know where to find them. How to truly reach them, however? That’s a different question.

#3: Gen Zers want to get real

If you want to capture the attention of Gen Z, don’t try to do it with a celebrity. Sixty-three percent of Gen Z consumers would rather see real people in an ad than a celebrity. If you’ve been wondering exactly who all those Insta-famous influencers have been influencing, there you have it.

#4: Brands who want to attract Gen Zers better care about their values

Perhaps even more than digital innovation and Instagram influencers, what Gen Z wants when it comes to marketing are brands that demonstrate purpose-driven values including sustainability, environmentalism and diversity. Gen Z are very much about positive social change, and they will put their impressive buying power where their mouths are.

6 insights to help you understand the Gen Z drinker

By this point, it shouldn’t come as a shock that when it comes to consuming alcohol, Gen Z is doing it their own way. From reduced consumption to nights of Netflix and swill and a little bit of trend-chasing, these six facts will tell you what you need to know about Gen Z as drinkers.

#1: Gen Z is Generation Moderation

Let’s get it out of the way early: Gen Z isn’t drinking as much alcohol as other generations. A mere 15% of of-age Gen Z drinkers reported drinking once a week, a small percentage compared to 28% of millennials and 36% of baby boomers.

Just because more Gen Zers are staying home to get their drink on doesn’t mean they necessarily want to sacrifice the bartending experience. They’re just doing it themselves using YouTube tutorials or with popular at-home mixologists on Instagram – a trend that gained even more popularity following near-global lockdowns in April.

Remember: Gen Z doesn’t remember a time before social media; a time before our every move had the potential to be broadcast online, either by ourselves or someone else. Time after time they’ve seen someone make a drunken fool of themselves, whether at their schools, in their cities, or on an even broader scale. The fear of social media overshare is strong enough that it is contributing to the reduced alcohol consumption mentioned above.

#2: Gen Z just wants to stay home

While millennials are out Snapchatting from behind the velvet ropes of the hottest clubs and getting the perfect shot of a tall draught pour in a perfectly seedy dive bar, Gen Zers are repeatedly choosing a night in over a night out. Which makes perfect sense with the picture of the Gen Z consumer and drinker that’s starting to take shape. Risk-averse, hooked on their tech, and looking to save money. Yep, you’ll find Gen Z enjoying their beverages from the comfort of their own homes. What was once a notable preference for Gen Z has now become increasingly relevant for all generations in a post-Covid world.

#3: DIY bartending is on the rise

Just because more Gen Zers are staying home to get their drink on doesn’t mean they necessarily want to sacrifice the bartending experience. They’re just doing it themselves using YouTube tutorials or with popular at-home mixologists on Instagram – a trend that gained even more popularity following near-global lockdowns in April.

#4: When Gen Z drinks, their tastes run surprisingly traditional

For all the alcohol brands out there desperately trying to innovate to appeal to Gen Z, maybe rethink that strategy. A study of Gen Z drinkers in the autumn season when flavoured malt beverages are abounding and seasonal flavours are infused seemingly everywhere found that Gen Z favoured IPAs and wine.

#5: Their tastes also run surprisingly fancy

As Gen Z drinkers have come of age, bartenders have noticed an uptick in the number of cocktails and premium beverages being ordered. This fits with the consumer profile of a generation that wants bang for their buck (when they spend it) and like to take it easy on the alcohol consumption, instead opting to savor something great. Quality over quantity, as they say.

#6: But there’s still room for wellness

Generation Z is a health-conscious generation, a priority that is at least partially responsible for the popularity of hard seltzers like the now-ubiquitous White Claw. How far brands want to take the health and wellness approach when it comes to adult beverages is up to them, but with Gen Z in the discussion, brands and bartenders alike are focusing on medicinal herbs, superfoods, cold-pressed juices and teas to create Z-approved beverages.

"I'm going vegan" on a cocktail

Generation Z, demystified

From afar, Gen Z may appear to be a confusing combination of ‘90s throwback clothing, neon colours, political ideals, social activism, social media and short attention spans. But take a little time to investigate what makes them tick and you’re likely to find a demographic that will surprise you with their love of the traditional, their need to play it safe, a healthy respect for quality over quantity, and the desire to feel authentic connections with brands.

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