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How Close Are Gen Z & Millennials to the Return of “Normal”?

How many Gen Z & Millennials are returning to their pre-pandemic routines, in two charts…

started 2021 with the prediction that this year would bring an experience rebound as  young people got vaccinated and started feeling safe enough to resume the activities they loved pre-pandemic. And as much as Gen Z and Millennials leaned into their homebody status during 2020, they also clearly missed experiences—which they were driven by pre-pandemic. We told brands to expect a forceful expression of vitality as young people got vaccinated and exuberantly return to planes, restaurants, concerts, festivals and more events and experiences that will feel like celebrations of life after the year (plus) most have spent staying home as much as possible.

We’ve been keeping tabs on their desire to jump back into the activities they’ve missed, and YPulse’s data showed that over half of 13-39-year-olds planned to be or would be vaccinated before the summer. Now, we’re seeing that it’s not just their plans but their behaviors that are truly shifting, as pre-pandemic activities make their return among these generations. 

To start, since March 2020 we’ve been asking young consumers if they’re quarantining because of Coronavirus (i.e. staying home as much as possible, avoiding contact with others) and while the number who say they are has been declining steadily over the last year, the last few months have seen the biggest drops: 

Currently, 54% of young people tell YPulse they’re quarantining because of Coronavirus—the lowest number by far since the pandemic began. And while that is still a large number of 13-39-year-olds who are staying home as much as possible, if the drops continue at this rate the majority will be back to more normal activities by the end of the year. We also ask young consumers when they believe that COVID-19 will no longer be a threat, and found the number who say “six months or more” dropped from 72% in May 2021 to 57% in June 2021.

But quarantining can also look different for different people, and in May and June of this year, we also began asking Gen Z and Millennials, “Which of the following activities are you currently comfortable doing?” We allowed them to choose from options including everything from hanging out with friends and family outside and inside, going to work, going to the movies, and, of course, not being comfortable with anything.  When it comes to hanging out with friends and family, there has been only slight changes in comfort levels between May and June, and the majority of 13-39-year-olds say they are comfortable hanging out with family in person inside and outside, and friends inside and outside. But the numbers who feel comfortable with experiences outside their homes has increased nearly across the board just between May and June: 

YPulse has tracked how online shopping has increased significantly in the last year, but it’s evident that young consumers are also ready to do some in-store shopping as well, with 61% of 13-39-year-olds feeling comfortable with shopping in-person, and that number staying relatively steady between May and June. 

Meanwhile, the numbers who say they’re comfortable with going out to eat at restaurants, going to see movies in theaters, travelling by plane, going out to bars, and going to sporting events and concerts have all increased in the last month. Save going to restaurants, the number who are comfortable with these activities is not yet over half. But the rapid change in attitude is certainly something that brands and businesses should take as a positive sign. These numbers will likely only increase over the next months.  

The number of students who say they are comfortable going to school in-person, and young people who say they’re comfortable going to work in-person have also increased in the last month, another strong signifier that the return to “normal” is rapidly returning for many.

Of course, the pandemic has changed some things permanently. The new normal for these generations will likely include hybrid work, and perhaps even school, schedules, an expectation that movies and concerts will be available to them at home as well as out in the world, and a continued affinity for the convenience of online shopping. But after a year of staying home, they are beginning to find the new balance of getting out more.

YPulse Business users can access the full summer plans behavioral report and data here.  

Don’t have a YPulse Business account? Find out more here.