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Mar 26 2020
YPulse is carefully monitoring COVID-19’s impact on young consumers and how brands can respond. We’ll be providing new data and insights for you weekly to cope with the crisis, including soon-to-be-released special reports, exclusive data on Coronavirus and the next generations, and actionable insights on what brands need to be doing now.
You can access everything here on our young consumers and COVID-19 hub.
The COVID-19 crisis is upending everyone’s lives, and impacting all generations. But Gen Z is experiencing the pandemic at a more formative time of life. The youngest generation experiencing the crisis has grown up in the shadow of 9/11 and in the midst of the Recession. Now they are facing a challenge that no generation before them has known. Some are about to enter their adult years, and some are at ages that make this experience an indelible part of the way they view the world. They are likely to be permanently changed by it.
Young people are already feeling the emotional and economic impact of the virus. Our exclusive data shows that 93% of 13-39-year-olds are being impacted by it—and it has already drastically changed their behaviors, from what they buy to how they spend their time. While some of these changes will be short term, brands should expect that many will be long lasting. Here are just some of the ways that Gen Z could be changed by COVID-19, after the immediate threat of the crisis subsides:
The shuttering of numerous restaurants, gyms, and retail stores has resulted in many layoffs and employees losing their jobs—and with unemployment claims in the U.S. reaching more than 3 million, young people are getting hit hard. According to a Harris Poll survey, young service workers under 22-years-old are losing more work hours than any other demographic. Almost a third of Gen Z workers had been put on leave compared to only 13% of previous generations. YPulse is keeping a close watch on how the virus is impacting young consumers, with new data coming weekly. But we can already predict that this generation will be financially impacted by the crisis long term—just as Millennials were impacted by the recession when they were coming of age. While we initially predicted that Gen Z’s spending power would reach $34 billion this year, the sudden entrance of Coronavirus could heavily impact that. But beyond this year, the generation is likely to face difficulties with employment, savings, and reaching milestones at the same rate that previous generations did.
PTSD for an Already Anxious Generation?
While they’re already concerned about mass shootings and climate change—living through a pandemic is just another thing to add onto their already crowded plate of woes and worries. News has started to emerge that young adults make up a big percentage of who’s hospitalized. Teen environmental activist Greta Thunberg announced that she was exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and “extremely likely” that she contracted it and urged young people to practice social distancing and stay home if they’re able to. But fears surrounding contracting or spread the virus and giving it to friends or family are just the beginning of the mental health repercussions of this pandemic. Our survey shows that half of Gen Z is afraid of getting Coronavirus themselves, but they’re even more afraid of loved ones getting sick (71%), being stuck at home for a long time (62%), and running out of supplies (54%). PTSD around isolation and financial strains—as many families struggle in the wake of the crisis—seems likely. As they age up, Gen Z will likely be looking for escapes from their innate and now amplified stress, and their focus on mental health will probably intensify.
A Home-Centric Life
Before the virus, the majority of Gen Z saw technology as their great connector—something that not only kept them close to friends, but was vital to those friendships. Now, technology is their connection to the entire world—from school to other young people sharing their quarantine experiences on TikTok, YouTube, and more. Though older generations already thought that Gen Z was hooked on screens, we could see this experience actually intensifying their reliance on them—and using them to cut down on their IRL interactions outside their homes. After all, now they’re seeing that schools, grocery shopping, gyms, movie theaters, and even going to bars can be, at least sometimes, accomplished with the right device in their living rooms. There is also a good chance that they will continue some of the habits they’re forming in quarantine and expect that brands digitize offerings and make them available at home. That PTSD we mentioned above could also extend to their willingness to be in big crowds and populated areas, at least for some time.
With schools shut down and switching to remote learning, many high school and college students are having difficulties with the transition. Over half of students tell YPulse they are no longer attending school, and parents are struggling with home schooling. Because some young people aren’t able to easily access the resources they need or get in touch with teachers as swiftly, this could potentially alter their timeline and affect how their education moves forward. Additionally, some states have canceled standardized testing. In general, college students feel as though by being told to suddenly move out of their on campus housing, they’re missing out on the typical dorm room experience. While some high school and college seniors have found ways around it, many are missing out on traditional graduation ceremonies, proms, music performances, and other major events that young adults consider “rites of passages.” This could just be a temporary interruption of their education, but for many, it could be larger issue that could influence their decisions in career and their future finances.
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