YPulse has been covering the behaviors and trends of young consumers in Western Europe for over a year now, bringing brands all the insights they need to understand Gen Z and Millennials in the U.K., Italy, France, Germany, and Spain today. In the course of this research, we’ve discovered many things that young Europeans have in common with those in North America—but some things they don’t, too. These differences are key for brands to understand when they are marketing in these regions and want to hone in on specific preferences, passions, and interests. As a wrap to 2022, here are five of the key differences between young consumers in Western Europe and North America we learned about this year:
- Online celebs are influencing young Europeans’ purchasing habits the most
YPulse’s Celebrities and Influencers Report data shows that young Europeans are +8pts more likely than their North American peers to have opened their wallets at an influencer’s behest. More than three in five young consumers in Western Europe said they purchased something because an online celebrity has spoken about it, or recommended it. That’s not to say young North Americans aren’t also being influenced to purchase by online celebrities. After all, our recent Fits for the Feed trend report found that social media is the top place young consumers in both regions are finding fashion brands and inspiration, and influencers big and small are driving the rise of social commerce. #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt now has 16.8B views (and counting), and a third of young consumers in both regions tell YPulse they’ve purchased something from that or a similar hashtag.
The majority of young consumers in both regions say that they’ve purchased something that an online celeb has spoken about or recommended, underscoring the level of influence these content creators really have on Gen Z and Millennials’ purchasing habits. But young Europeans are even more likely to be influenced by online influencers than their North American peers, which means brands have an even greater chance of reaching young consumers in this region by partnering with online celebs.
- Climate change is viewed as a bigger problem among young WE than NA in 2022
YPulse’s Local / Global Citizenship Behavioral Report revealed that young Europeans say climate change / global warming / environmental issues are the biggest problem their generation is facing in 2022. The answer to this question was quite different in North America: for the first time, inflation has taken the top spot for the biggest problem North American Gen Z and Millennials believe their generations face, surpassing tech addiction, and COVID-19. The environmental issue came only No.7 on the list, a long way from the top place among young Europeans.
YPulse has been tracking European Gen Z and Millennials’ climate anxiety for a while now, and we’ve long known that these gens are factoring sustainability and environmental consciousness into their daily lives. YPulse’s data from WE Sustainability report shows that the vast majority of 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe are worried about climate change, and a full 80% say that climate change is an immediate threat to human life. Our WE Causes / Charity and Activism report also found that climate change is one of the top five issues they’re most passionate about. As such, climate activism is going strong in Western Europe—remember the recent Van Gogh soup-throwing protest?—thanks in no small part to teen environmental advocates, including Greta Thunberg from Sweden.
3. Young Western Europeans are less entrepreneurial than their North American peers
Nearly half of young Europeans say they’d rather have the stability of working for a big company than risk losing it all on their own—a full +10pts more than their North American counterparts. In fact, many young North Americans are ready for that risk: 33% say they plan to start their own company compared to 25% of young Europeans. Indeed, data from YPulse’s Employment and Career Goals Report also shows young Europeans are less likely to say starting their own company is important to them (41%) compared to North Americans (48%), and they’re also less likely to say it’s their dream job: when we ask these gens to tell us the top company they’d want to work for, their own company comes in at No. 9 for young Europeans, whereas it comes No. 4 in North America. Meanwhile, 10% of young North Americans are already self-employed compared to just 4% of young Europeans.
All of this makes one thing clear: as of now, young Europeans are less entrepreneurial than their American peers. But that doesn’t mean the growing entrepreneurial spirit of Gen Z and Millennials in Western Europe should be ignored. As they continue to seek meaningful work, and as their governments push for innovation, these young consumers could catch up to young North Americans.
4. Young Europeans use Instagram a lot more than North Americans
Instagram is a staple among young consumers in Western Europe, and 69% of them say they use the social media platform—+12pts more than in North America. Young Europeans have a special relationship with Instagram, which is one of the most popular video viewing sources among young Europeans, including European Gen Z. Data from YPulse’s Fits For The Feed Trend Report also shows that Instagram is the top place young Europeans are turning to for fashion inspiration. While this is technically also true in North America, a closer look at the data shows a real difference between the two regions: there’s a +12pts difference between Instagram and TikTok in Western Europe, whereas there’s only +2pts between the two platforms in North America.
This is not to say that Instagram will continue to dominate social media in Western Europe. In North America, Instagram has already been replaced by TikTok as Gen Z’s favorite social media platform. And like their peers across the Atlantic, young Europeans are increasingly turning to TikTok for pretty much everything in their lives: information, entertainment, inspiration, and even tips on tax returns. Instagram successfully launched Reels in August 2020 to counter the success of TikTok, and the feature became Meta’s fastest-growing segment in 2022. But it will be difficult for the social media platform to maintain the momentum against the un-ignorable TikTok, a topic YPulse dug into in the recent The TikTok Effect Trend Report.
5. Cannabis is a lot more mainstream among young consumers in NA than in WE
In this year’s Health Drugs and Risky Behavior Report, YPulse found that two in five young North Americans use marijuana on a monthly basis, or even more often. The picture looks very different in Western Europe, where only 13% of young consumers say they use marijuana monthly or more often. Just 22% of Millennials and 13% of Gen Z in the region have tried cannabis, and nearly four in five say they never use it. North Americans’ interest in cannabis has been pushing the substance into the mainstream in the region, and fueling the burgeoning cannabis economy for years now. YPulse has been reporting on the rising number of young consumers in NA using cannabis, where the substance is increasingly becoming legal for recreational use.
While cannabis is still largely illegal in Western Europe, Germany recently unveiled plans to become one of the first European countries to legalize marijuana, paving the way to change the perception of weed in the region. In fact, while very few young Europeans consume marijuana, that doesn’t mean they are not eyeing the marijuana industry. Nearly two in five say they’re interested in CBD-based gummies, beauty products, and beverages, and CBD / cannabis is one of the health trends they’re interested in now, indicating that the substance is ready for its glow-up from illicit drug to wellness elixir in Western Europe, too.