Tech habits of college students reveals surprises with Generation Z

What trends has Generation Z (Gen Z) adopted, as 16 million Americans go back to their campuses? A new survey from UNiDAYS gives some insights.

The under-23 generation (Gen Z) are the true digital natives. Growing up with the internet, gaming, and gadgets, they are welded to their devices. They are poised to become 40 percent of the US population by 2020, and they have $140 billion in spending power.

Companies are starting to take notice.

So, how do marketers connect with them and make sure they do not use tactics that miss the mark? A new survey by New York-based media brand Ad Age, in conjunction with global Student Affinity Network UNiDAYS has tried to decode the Gen Z digital generation.

It surveyed 22,723 college-age respondents from the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand to find out about their technology usage and purchasing habits. The survey showed that Gen Z is super-connected.

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Almost every respondent (97 percent) owns a smartphone, and 93 percent own a laptop. Surprisingly, less than half (44.2 percent) own a tablet, one in seven (14 percent) own a smartwatch, and only one in 30 (3.5 percent) own VR equipment.

Nine out of 10 respondents said that they use up to 10 apps per day -- and two in three (66 percent) will pay for music apps, one in three (31 percent) will pay for game and entertainment, and one in four (24 percent) will pay for health apps.

Although Gen Z seems to be ultra-reliant on their smartphone for everything, the survey does not seem to support this. Although respondents reported that they use their phones are used for shopping, most meant they use their smartphones different shopping-related activities.

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Sixty-four percent of respondents use them for browsing only, whereas almost three out of five (fifty-nine percent) use their devices for price comparisons.

Fifty-eight percent use their devices for product reviews, over half (fifty-two percent) go online to check item availability, and forty-six percent look for store locations on their devices. However, 60 percent said that they prefer using a desktop PC to make purchases online.

Almost four out of five respondents (79.7 percent) consume their news from social media, and half (50.6 percent) get their news from TV. Only one in eight (12.7 percent) get their news from printed materials.

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Surprisingly, despite the "mobile-only, digital-only" perception, 77 percent of respondents said that they prefer reading printed books. And across digital media, 64 percent do not listen to podcasts, and 56 percent do not click on ads when browsing websites.

Brands that want to connect with this generation needs to broaden their channels. This digital generation has love for both digital and print, shop online, and in store, and use the internet as a necessary tool to complement their daily lives.

Having a joined-up approach and tailoring the brand message according to the channel will ensure the best reach and conversion -- whether an app sale or a printed book.

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