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WiFi, Weed, Wine: The Things Gen Z & Millennials Can’t Live Without During Quarantine

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 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.

What can’t young consumers live without during their time of isolation at home? We asked…

According to YPulse’s exclusive COVID-19 research on young consumers and the pandemic, four in five 13-39-year-olds in the U.S. are self-quarantining. Three in five Millennials tell us that they have started working remotely full or part time, and almost nine in ten students say that their school has closed. As Gen Z and Millennials are kept home, separated from friends and family, their new reality is creating new needs at home, with a majority feeling anxious about Coronavirus.

Every week, we’re surveying 13-39-year-olds in the U.S. to see how the pandemic is changing their behaviors and daily lives—from their activities to their spending to their brand affinity. Their media consumption behaviors have been shifting drastically, as have their spending behaviors. The majority tell us they feel like they need to stock up on food and supplies for their time at home, and half say they already have. An extended quarantine is, in fact, one of their top fears about the pandemic, outpacing actually getting the virus themselves. We’ve asked them what they’re buying more of because of Coronavirus (look for that in our special report on COVID-19 spending shifts, coming tomorrow). But we also asked what they can’t live without as they face this ever-increasing time of isolation at home.

With 93% of Gen Z and Millennials feeling affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s no surprise that priorities are beginning to become clear—and we’re finally beginning to have concrete answers to the age-old getting-to-know-you question: if you were stranded on a desert island, what would you want to have with you? It turns out that Gen Z and Millennials know exactly where their priorities lie. In our recent COVID-19 survey, we asked 13-39-year-olds to tell us the top things they couldn’t live without during the quarantine. Here are their top responses:

What They Can’t Live Without


    1. Food
    2. Phone
    3. Internet/WiFi
    4. Water
    5. Family/Being able to see my family
    6. Television/Movies/Streaming service
    7. Friends
    8. Video games
    9. Being able to go out
    10. Computer/Laptop
    11. Beverages/Drinks
    12. Significant other
    13. Toilet paper
    14. Human interaction
    15. Coffee
    16. Marijuana/Cannabis
    17. Alcohol/Beer/Wine
    18. Fresh air
    19. Music
    20. Medicine
    21. Art supplies/Hobbies 


Understandably, the first few items on the list include essentials like food, water, and WiFi (yes, internet access is an essential to these generations) but many Gen Z and Millennials say they couldn’t live without their family. Their loved ones rank above entertainment, being able to go out, and even…toilet paper. The importance of being able to see family and friends, even when isolated from them, has been fueling the popularity of video conferencing apps, and even co-viewing tools. Of course, being quarantined with their families has been starting trends on social media as well—and clearly many Gen Z and Millennials wouldn’t want to be stuck at home without them.

Although we did find last year that Millennials are drinking less, alcohol (including wine and beer) is in the top 20 list of what they can’t live without during their quarantines. In fact, 15% of 21-39-year-olds tell us that they have been or will be drinking MORE because of Coronavirus, and 47% say they have or will be buying alcohol because of Coronavirus. They aren’t alone. People across the country are “stocking up on alcoholic beverages”—and according to a Nielson report, beer sales rose by 2.3%, spirits by 4.9%, and wine by 1.7% at liquor, grocery stores, and convenience stores during the first week of March compared to last year. Alcohol delivery service Drizly has seen a 500% increase in their product sales. Alcohol isn’t the only vice on this ranking: weed also came up as something some young consumers tell us they can’t live without, with several saying they “need it” to stay sane, but also for medical purposes. The New York Times has explored how for some cannabis-obsessed young consumers, weed is an “essential” during this time, and our results clearly reflect that.

As for distractions that are not drug or alcohol related, aside from internet, TV/Movies/Streaming Services are number six on the ranking, with some mentioning specific streaming platforms (ahem, Netflix) as an essential because “It’s an never ending source of entertainment.” Video games are number eight on the ranking, and quarantined young consumers have indeed been fueling a gaming boom with Verizon reporting a 75% week over week gaming increase, and Steam reporting a record 20 million people logged into their streaming platform at the same time. Respondents tell us that gaming helps them to stave off boredom, but also to feel connected, and yes, even stay sane. In a similar vein, many Gen Z and Millennials explained that they needed something to keep their mind off of the anxiety caused by the coronavirus pandemic, making hobbies an important part of their quarantine priorities. One 34-year old explained, “I couldn’t live without it because it’s my outlet for when I can’t talk about things or put things into words.”

As for “being able to go out” being something Gen Z and Millennials said that they couldn’t live without, well, the reasoning was pretty obvious—being bored was a frequent response, in addition to “cabin fever” and “being cooped up.” As we mentioned, prolonged quarantine is one of their big fears, with 62% of young consumers telling YPulse that they are afraid of “being stuck at home for a long time.” As one respondent explained, “It kinda takes away my freedom and it shouldn’t have to be like that.”

Brands can connect with young consumers by helping provide access to the things they see as must-haves as they isolate at home. Providing entertainment and offering distraction from their anxiety is a clear win (49% of young consumers told YPulse that they were interested in watching videos / tv shows / movies that help them escape, even before the pandemic). Of course, helping them to stay connected to friends and family is another opportunity: whether providing messaging or gifting opportunities, just facilitating communication, or amplifying the services they’re turning to to stay in touch, there are a lot of places that brands can add value right now.