Industry Chat: The importance of values for

Gen Z with Student Beans


In our format ‘Industry Chats’ we consult experts from our partnerships to provide you with relevant news from different industries, share best practices and support our partners during this time.


Industry Chat: The importance of values for Gen Z

While in the marketing space you might hear a lot about millennial shopping behaviour, we take a step forward and look at the next rising generation of consumers: Generation Z. It is essential for businesses to understand the new generation of consumers, that is commanding a remarkable $143 billion in buying power.

So, how do we make sure we’re reaching them in a relevant way? We interviewed Student Beans to understand how Gen Zs are paving the way for a new world of digital engagement.


Our expert of this issue: Student Beans

From online shopping during the pandemic to changing their purchasing habits as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement, there’s a strong relationship between what Gen Z believes and what they spend money on.

In this interview, Student Beans takes a deep dive into key Gen Z ethics and values – and explores how those values affect their purchasing decisions.


How would you describe Gen Z?

Gen Zs are the most tolerant demographic to date. With access to an array of digital resources – and an international outlook that aligns them with global and local issues alike – ethics and values sit at the core of everything they do.

We know that 77% of US-based Gen Zs have taken action for a cause they believe in – whether that’s via petitions, social media, protests or marches. But another huge facet for Gen Z’s ethics and values is their purchasing decisions. The oldest Gen Zs are in their early 20s – they have their own disposable income, and they’re not afraid to put their money where their values lie.


What would you advise, where can you reach Gen Z best?

As digital natives, it’s not a surprise that social media is students’ number one destination to get shopping inspiration – and advertisers should follow their lead when it comes to platforms. Instagram tops the list, with 71% of UK students seeking ideas of things to buy there.


How would you describe the consumer behaviour of Gen Z prior to Covid?

They are digital natives. They’ve never known a world without the internet, and they find it easier than most to switch between online and offline communities and interactions.

That said, prior the pandemic, Gen Zs are as much a fan of in-person shopping as anyone else. 75% of UK students typically shop for university items both online and in-store, and over in the US, the picture is similar – 82% mixed online shopping with in-store shopping. Just a quick glance at the brands topping the list in our Youth Brand Affinity Tracker proves that instore shops hold a special place in Gen Z’s hearts.


With the Covid 19 restrictions, did you notice a shift in the purchasing habits of Gen Z?

As a particularly cautious generation, Gen Zs have adapted to online shopping with ease. Adhering to COVID-19 rules and regulations is deeply aligned with their values, and the majority have been taking the pandemic seriously – so for the time being, you’ll find them shopping online. 96% browse online stores regularly, with the majority of Gen Z students (38%) saying they check out online stores several times a week. Gen Zs want to stay loyal and support brands they love throughout the pandemic.

And while none of us want COVID-19 to last any longer than it has to, there are some shopping behaviours that Gen Zs are looking to continue with beyond the pandemic. 83% say they’ll be on the lookout for discounts more often – so make sure you have a bold, well-promoted student discount program and a secure method of verifying students.


You have mentioned before that Gen Zs are the most tolerant demographic to date, as ethics and values sit at the core of everything they do. How are those values reflected in their shopping behaviour?

2020 was a year of action for the Black Lives Matter movement – and Gen Zs were at the forefront of the campaign for justice and parity. 69% of young people we surveyed said they’d signed a petition in relation to the movement, with 67% posting about it on social media. A huge focus of Black Lives Matter was to challenge racism among friends and family – and 63% of Gen Zs said they engaged with difficult conversations with friends, while 59% raised awareness with family.

Within the pandemic, direct in-person action in support of BLM was difficult for many young people, but that hasn’t stopped Gen Zs from finding alternative ways to pledge their support. 71% of Gen Z students have changed their shopping habits in some shape or form to support BLM. It’s clear that for this demographic, the link between ethics and shopping habits is stronger than ever.

Gen Zs have made it their mission to hold brands accountable for their actions – and they won’t respond well to inauthentic or performative action when it comes to BLM. We’ve seen how young social media users have actively challenged performative statements or posts by brands. So what do they expect from you?

Your support for BLM needs to touch every area of your business. Over 75% of Gen Z students are calling for more inclusive products and marketing, with 80% believing that brands should use their platforms to raise awareness of racism. Change has to come from the inside – and 76% of Gen Zs want brands to make internal changes to support black employees.


What advice would you give for advertisers trying to reach Gen Z?

Above all, Gen Zs values and ethics are driven by authenticity. From the content they consume to the causes they support, it’s all about keeping it real – and they respond best to brands that do the same.

Be clear and frank about what you’re offering them, speak to them via their native platforms, and really get to grips with their world – and you won’t go wrong.


Thank you to Student Beans for the insights! We look forward to a continued prosperous partnership in 2021.

To learn more about how Student Beans can help you to achieve success with Gen Z consumers, get in touch today!


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