What brands need to note when targeting the Asian Gen Z

OK boomer. If you aren't familiar with the term, you probably haven't spent a whole lot of time with the up and rising group of Gen Z-ers. Today Gen Z-ers in Asia are coming of age in the world’s fastest-growing region, albeit with uncertainty caused by trade battles and territorial disputes.

"This backdrop is sculpting their attitudes and outlook," said Chen May Yee APAC Director of Wunderman Thompson Intelligence. She explained in a foreword in Wunderman Thompson's "Generation Z: APAC" study that Gen Z-ers in Asia shares global commonalities—for example, an affinity for technology that’s fueling creative and entrepreneurial pursuits, and both personal and political causes. Of course, there are local nuances shaped by demographics, politics and where the region’s economies fall along the development curve.

For example, in China, Gen Z-ers are most likely to be only children and their experience will be shaped by this family dynamic, with its economic and emotional benefits and pressures. But in Vietnam, they are entering a workplace transformed by historic market reforms. In Malaysia, Gen Zers are a political force for the first time, thanks to the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18. And in Taiwan, they are the first young adults in Asia who can marry a same-sex partner.

“Generation Z: APAC examines the attitudes, behaviors and passions of this cohort, and identifies trends and opportunities for brands," said Chen, adding that the study includes original consumer data by our in-house data unit SONAR from 4,500 consumers in nine markets — China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.

Here are six other interesting Gen Z trends:

  • Seamlessness

Gen Z-ers consider online shopping “a basic life skill just as much as shopping offline,” and “enjoy being served with the utmost convenience” . Fashion brands such as Pomelo who merge online and offline, allow these group of shoppers to avoid queuing to try items on by using the app to book a fitting room. Another example of seamlessness to cater to the Gen Zs, Hong Kong-based drug store AS Watson introduced AI and AR in its stores. Its own research found that Gen Z enjoyed the experience of browsing in physical stores, but often added on a digital layer to the experience, such as looking up online reviews before buying.

  • Customisation

In an era of mass consumption, Gen Z-ers are all about individuality. According to the report, Gen Zs are interested in getting a one-of-one experience. In Indonesia, custom shoe and clothing brand Never Too Lavish, took customisation to a new level. Combining sneaker culture, streetwear and graffiti, its one-of a-kind offerings are showcased and sold only via Instagram.

  • Inclusivity

Whether it’s promoting body positivity or supporting gender inclusivity, homegrown makeup labels are using design and viral social media campaigns to empower Gen Z to shatter outdated beauty standards. That includes the longtime Asian preference for light skin. In addition, there is a growing trend tribe of male beauty bloggers, as young men are increasingly embracing a more nuanced expression of masculinity by wearing makeup.

  • Community

While it’s true that Asian social media influencers have some of the biggest followings in the world, some brands are focusing on community and urging participation for more authenticity, targeting platforms popular with Gen Z. For example, HeyTea opened in Singapore and Hong Kong, and thrives on a network of trendy wanghong—online micro-influencers who photograph their products, stores and cute merchandise for social media. About 31% of respondents in China said they’d rather look at pictures of their friends than pictures of celebrities.

  • Cashlessness

For this generation, cash is going the way of paper diaries. Paying, saving and investing are increasingly online and instant. The report said 73% of young people overall say they are comfortable making a purchase from their phone, compared to 93% of Chinese. Meanwhile, 97% of Chinese Gen Z-ers say when given the choice, they prefer to make payments using a digital wallet, compared to 79% in all markets surveyed.

  • Localism

As Asian economies become ever more intertwined with the global economy, there’s also a growing appreciation among young people for the homegrown and distinct. Similarly, Southeast Asia’s movie industry, long dominated by imports from Hollywood, Bollywood and China, is seeing a revival of interest in and funding for local entertainment.

Indonesia’s answer to Marvel came in 2019 with Gundala, the first superhero movie in the Bumi Langit cinematic universe. Indonesian entertainment is also getting a shot in the arm with the launch of streaming platforms by ride-hailing giants Gojek and Grab. Gojek launched its video on-demand service Go-Play in 2019 while Grab signed a deal with Southeast Asian streaming service Hooq the same year, in moves that will pump new investment into local content creation.

Generation Z comprises those in their teens and early 20s. In 2019, generation Zers constituted 32% of the global population of 7.7 billion, according to Bloomberg analysis of UN data. This is the most global, connected generation ever— more politically aware, more environmentally conscious and more socially progressive. The oldest Gen Z-ers are now entering the workforce and eligible to vote.