YPulse made five major predictions about 2022, and we’re returning to them now to proudly say they all came true. Yes, all of them—down to Netflix releasing Apple versions of their mobile gaming apps. Using our extensive data and insights on Gen Z and Millennials, we were able to predict their work habits for the year, the evolution of metaverse marketing, and the ways COVID would define their life for a third year in a row. And given our precision last year, you’ll surely want to check out what we see in store for 2023. Just to prove it, here’s how all five of our accurate predictions for 2022 played out:
1. A year of in-between
We can all say for sure that 2022 was an in-between year, as young people’s lives hung in a limbo between continued concerns about COVID and eased restrictions encouraging them toward normalcy. Just as we predicted, young people little by little returned to their pre-COVID habits, but not entirely. Our In-Between trend report showed 34% of young people say they don’t think life will ever truly return to “the way it was before,” but that if it did, the majority say it wouldn’t until 2023. And as of July, YPulse’s Experiences report data shows 58% of young people still said it would be six months or more before COVID was no longer a threat, while 25% said the threat was gone.
But that didn’t stop them from feeling hopeful about the year and testing the waters of the things they once thought nothing of doing. For the first time since before the pandemic, young people tell YPulse they would rather shop in-person (though 73% still regularly shop online). Activities like seeing friends and family inside, eating at restaurants, and going to the movies became comfortable again for the majority of Gen Z and Millennials. However, the majority also say they’re still not comfortable going to a gym / workout studio, travelling by plane, going to concerts in-person, and going to sporting events in-person. Crowded and enclosed spaces continued to be something most young people were avoiding—showing the persistence of their in-between state.
2. Gen Z’s pop culture takeover continued
There’s just no denying that we were right on this front: Gen Z are the arbiters of all things trending and viral these days, especially due to their social media presence on trendsetting platforms (read: TikTok). And of course, when YPulse asks them who is most important in starting trends, specifically for fashion, they say individuals like themselves and their generation. And they literally took ins and outs into their hands, one month supporting the clean-girl-Sunday-reset aesthetic, and the next moving onto feral-goblin-mode-indie-sleaze.
But like we said in our prediction, it’s not just style, it’s all pop culture. Their value of brand accountability defined some of the most viral (and controversial) moments of the year, in everything from Adidas dropping Yeezy to throwing cans of food at famous paintings. Their favorite audios on TikTok controlled the music charts, and their favorite shows broke streaming records. And there’s no slowing them down, either: as more and more of this gen become influencers, they’re only becoming more powerful in what trends, and what Millennial favorites become old news. (Or if they’re lucky, resurface like Gen Z created it themselves!)
3. Metaverse evolution
Last year, we said “In 2022, expect that the ‘Metaverse’ will continue to evolve, with brands bringing shopping, product drops, and more events into these spaces, but for Gen Z and Millennials it will largely occur within the gaming worlds they’ve already been spending so much time in”—and that sounds about right to us. As we said, the metaverse had already existed under different names, but by labeling virtual world video games as “metaverses,” the metaverse became known as the hub for young people, especially young Gen Z. YPulse’s Metaverse trend report shows 57% of Gen Z play virtual reality games, and they use the spaces to hang out with friends, attend virtual events, and create avatars that are extensions of themselves.
For brands, this means the metaverse is the place to be, and nearly every day a new brand was activating their virtual worlds, collections, and games. Roblox dominated brand attention for advertising and growing loyalty among the youngest of consumers. It’s working in huge ways for the brands who go all in, allowing them to boast millions of players visiting their virtual brand locations and wearing their digital accessories. And just as we said the metaverse would be part of brands trying to remain relevant, YPulse data shows 59% Gen Z and Millennials themselves agree “Brands need to interact with virtual worlds to stay relevant.”
4. Gamification of entertainment
Multiple media giants took the foray into entertainment-gaming hybrids in 2022; We predicted that Netflix would be among those to really make headway in entertainment gaming, and they certainly were. They launched Apple versions of their video games (as we said they would), and expanded the options on their mobile gaming tab. They launched more in-app games, with one even accompanied by corresponding animated series—blurring the line back in the other direction. They also kept on their choose-your-own-adventure strategy, with Cat Burglar in February, which uses trivia to advance the plot.
HBO Max went outside their existing platform with several mobile app games, one being an immersive augmented reality game as lead up to their new House of Dragon series called House Of Dragons: DracARys. The majority (60%) of Gen Z and Millennials tell YPulse they’re more likely to play a video game if it’s based on a book or movie, and HBO is doing their best to check all their boxes for gamification. In other words, the lines between TV entertainment and gaming continued to blur, and we don’t see this trend slowing down.
5. Normalization of hybrid work
Just as we said it would be, hybrid work continues to be the mode of work Gen Z and Millennials prefer. YPulse’s Employment and Career Goals report shows 16% of employed young people currently work on a hybrid schedule, and 19% still work fully remote. But for those who work in an office, only 21% say that in five years, they would want to work from an office all five days a week—60% say they’d like to be working a hybrid schedule. Clearly, as they lived the in-between life, this is one of the features they’ve decided isn’t quite so bad, and even fits nicely with the work-life balance they so prioritize. And while big brands might be pushing back on fully remote work (Twitter and Disney have both required their employees to return to the office), Gen Z and Millennials are only growing fonder of hybrid work. And as another year of it begins, they’re further associating it with their concept of what their career years are going to look like. (And make no mistake, if they don’t like the schedule at their current job, they’ll just find another.)
Want to know what to expect from 2023? Check out our latest predictions…