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Exploring the future consumer: 6 key trends impacting South Africa’s Gen Z

Written by Staff Writer

September 12, 2023

By Raine St.Claire

  • TikTok takes the lead  

The surging popularity of TikTok aligns with a broader shift in online shopping known as influencer marketing. In this approach, social media influencers employ captivating posts and clips to enhance brand visibility and boost purchasing intent among their highly engaged audience. Creator endorsements carry significant weight and authenticity, setting them apart from conventional banner advertisements. Over the past two years, TikTok has experienced a consistent surge in its GenZ user base, with an estimated six million South Africans currently active on the platform, half of them aged under 24.

  • The significance of mental health  

Gen Z is increasingly open about discussing mental health issues, making it vital for brands to incorporate self-care into their marketing and messaging. YPulse data reveals that 71% of this consumer base appreciates brands that prioritise mental health. Two-thirds of the young individuals surveyed report experiencing stress and anxiety due to significant financial and social pressures, combined with academic and work demands. In response, they seek to strike a healthier work-life balance through approaches like “quiet quitting.” Some are turning to social media platforms like TikTok and YouTube for guidance and support, given their limited access to mental health professionals.

  • The hustle for financial stability  

To alleviate financial challenges, 34% of Gen Zs engage in side hustles, with secondary sources of income beyond their primary jobs or studies. These side hustles encompass entrepreneurial ventures and commissions earned by referring friends and family to products and services such as bank accounts and ride-sharing. Additionally, this generation actively seeks value, discounts, and affordable alternatives from brands, with 79% expressing a willingness to join loyalty programs, presenting a significant opportunity for brands.


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  • The power of brand values


Growing up in an increasingly diverse world, this digital generation values diversity and inclusion as integral components of their lives. They understand the positive impact of diversity on innovation, creativity, and decision-making. As activists, they expect brands to embody these values, as evidenced by their choices of workplaces and brand support. Over 90% of surveyed Gen Zs believe that brands should share their values and actively support causes they are passionate about.

  • Authentic diversity representation


Gen Z has grown up in a world marked by increasing diversity, and they regard diversity and inclusion as fundamental aspects of their lives. They recognise that diversity contributes positively to innovation, creativity, and decision-making. It is not merely about superficially featuring a token diverse cast or influencers from various backgrounds. Instead, it entails delving deeper to ensure that these portrayals truly reflect the real-life experiences and narratives of the individuals they represent.

They value authenticity in their choices, be it the influencers they follow or the products they purchase, with a notable 61% basing their buying decisions on recommendations from what they perceive as genuine social media influencers or content creators. To them, authenticity is not a mere buzzword; it is a guiding principle, fostering trust in the influencers they follow and sparking positive responses when recommendations feel sincere. Brands and marketers keen to connect with and influence this demographic must prioritise authentic diversity representation and collaborate with influencers whose credibility shines through in their endorsements, promoting more genuine and meaningful connections in a world where authenticity matters more than ever.

  • The importance of community


These digital nomads place a higher emphasis on community compared to previous generations, utilising online connections to establish a sense of belonging and form digital relationships with like-minded individuals. Given their distrust of governments, large institutions, and businesses, many Gen Zs place their trust in communities, friends, and family. Brands aiming to remain relevant must build one-on-one relationships through community engagement, departing from traditional top-down communication methods.

In this rapidly evolving landscape, it is imperative for marketers to comprehend and embrace these essential trends if they aim to effectively engage with and cater to the dynamic generation of future consumers. To navigate this shifting terrain successfully, brands must adapt their approaches, establishing genuine connections with Gen Z while remaining attuned to their ever-changing preferences and principles. By seamlessly integrating these emerging trends into their marketing campaigns, collaborating with authentic influencers, and showcasing unwavering commitment to meaningful causes, brands can unlock the full potential of this dynamic generation, not only in South Africa but also on a global scale.

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