Analysis: Gen Zs are hiding from your digital promotions

More and more of the Gen Z (18-24 year olds) are taking it upon themselves to reduce their online activity. Despite lockdowns leading to a surge in online activity, a fifth (17%) of Gen Z-ers have deactivated their social media accounts in the last 12 months, said a recent Digital Society Index (DSI) survey, by Dentsu Aegis Network which analysed more than 5,000 Gen Z individuals, as part of a worldwide study of 32,000 people conducted at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Globally, a third (31%) have limited the time they’ve spent online or looking at their smartphone and almost half (43%) have taken steps to reduce the amount of data they’re sharing online, such as clearing their search history or opting out of geo-location services.

It is clear that these measures have been taken due to an acute awareness of how their data may be used as well as some of the perceived negative impacts of technology on society. More than half (58%) of the Gen Z individuals interviewed say they don’t trust tech companies because of concerns over how they use their data, while four out of ten (37%) believe social media is having a negative impact on political discourse in their country.

Worryingly, with mental health issues a big concern for younger people, nearly half of Gen Z believe their personal use of tech has a negative impact on their health & wellbeing. Masaya Nakamura, CEO solutions at Dentsu Aegis Network, said: “Gen Z-ers are tech literate and are taking back control of their data and online activity, both to look after their well-being as well as address concerns about how organisations may misuse their data. However, they remain hugely positive about the wider impact of technology on society.”

This can be seen as Gen Z-ers remain confident that technology will do more good than bad in the future. Two-thirds (62%) are optimistic that digital technologies will help solve the world's most pressing challenges, and this sentiment is felt most in Hong Kong (78%) followed by Poland, Finland and Mexico (75%).  Half of Gen Z also believe AI and robotics will create career opportunities for them in the next five to 10 years, significantly above average. However, this brings new expectations with nearly three-quarters (72%) of Gen Z believing brands will need to demonstrate how their use of tech benefits society over the next 5-10 years.

How can brands win over this privacy conscious bunch?

Nakamura explained that brands need to reassess how they build relationships with this cohort in a way that places a premium on transparency, empowerment and a clear value exchange when using consumer data. They also need to ensure they are using technology in a way that delivers wider societal benefit as expectations on brands increase to create helpful experiences and solutions.  He said: Gen Z-ers are tech champions – but you’ve got to earn their trust first.

Moreover, the study also highlighted that moving forward, it is paramount that brands prioritise investment in data security to combat the ever-present risk of  cyber-attacks and data breaches. This is not just about new technology, but ensuring that data security is part of the organisational and cultural DNA.

Brands must also ensure that the right processes, workflows and roles are in place to make the most of your customer data. First-party identity and data, data management technologies and analytic capabilities act as enablers to gaining consumer insight and delivering valuable experiences, but they are not the entire solution.

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