Spending, saving, socialising: What Asia’s Generation Z craves

Asian teens are more willing to shop online, but also feel strongly about social issues according to a new study.

Women mobile phones
Although young people in the Asia Pacific region are comfortable shopping online, many still prefer brick-and-mortar stores, a new study shows [File: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters]

Some parents see it as a test of nerves, or at times, a sport: The daily challenge of keeping connected devices like smartphones out of the hands of their teenage offspring – or at least controlling their access to them.

The fact that young people today are spending increasing amounts of time online should come as little surprise to anyone.

But the results of a new survey of 4,500 teenagers and young adults across nine Asian Pacific countries shows that many of them are more willing to use those devices, not only to keep themselves connected to friends and up to speed with the latest issues but increasingly as a way to shop.

In fact, Generation Z, or those born between 1997 and 2007, are more comfortable than ever with shopping online, according to the study by Wunderman Thompson, a global brand consulting agency.

“For older generations, it was a choice of online or offline. For Gen Z, it’s both, seamlessly,” Chen May Yee, Asia Pacific director at Wunderman Thompson Intelligence told Al Jazeera.

More than three-quarters of respondents in the study said they were comfortable making purchases online, but 63 percent still preferred to buy things in person.

And companies in the region are starting to pick up on their habits.

“For example, in Thailand, Pomelo – a fast-fashion retailer – lets you order on its mobile app, then pick up purchases at local checkpoints – gyms, cafes, etc – and try on the clothes, then instantly return anything you don’t want,” said Chen.

Matthew Chin, 20, told Al Jazeera he was not able to save money on a regular basis yet but still has financial milestones he would like to achieve.

“By the age of 30 to 35, I’d like to own a car and a house,” said the accounting student at Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TARUC) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia who works part-time during his semester breaks.

Chin is not the only one working part-time and still struggling to save.

“I actually don’t save money because I don’t earn much. I spend my own money on entertainment and more (on) food, but I don’t buy clothing,” Yap Qiao Ying, a 21-year-old fellow student at TARUC tells Al Jazeera.

Yap works as a part-time sales promoter if she has time, and says she feels “lucky” to be hired. She said she hopes to not only earn enough to travel and buy a car but to also have extra to spend on her family’s expenses.

A separate study of preferences of millennials and Generation Zs by consultancy firm Deloitte last year showed that a growing number of young people are disillusioned with their financial situation. But they are willing to work part-time and in temporary jobs to achieve their financial goals, according to the global study.

“When asked what is most important to them about where they work, money is not the number one answer. It is the nature and meaning of the work itself and the ability to learn and grow,” Kavita Rekhraj, Deloitte’s Life Sciences & Health Care Leader for Consulting in Southeast Asia told Al Jazeera.

“Full-time work is not a priority, as they are seeking flexibility, and work with meaning. As a result, more and more Gen Z are seeking out opportunities in the alternative workforce, or ‘gig economy’ as a way to earn, whilst maintaining flexibility and interest,” she said in an email.

While Wunderman Thompson and Deloitte define millennials as being in their late 20s to early 30s, and Gen Z-ers as being born between 1997 and 2007, Deloitte said the preferences of the two groups are remarkably similar.

Gen Z-ers also put their money where their mouth is when it comes to racial inclusivity, gender issues and climate change.

“Gen Z is growing up in a world racked by climate change, economic uncertainty and geopolitical shifts. They’re not taking it sitting down. They are using their wallets to make a stand, supporting brands that promote causes they care about,” Chen said.

Climate change is the top concern of those aged between 13 and 25, with income inequality, unemployment and “terrorism” closely following suit, the Wunderman Thompson survey showed.

According to the study, young people today are championing causes like democracy, civil liberties, mental health, national pride and the environment both online and offline.

For example, teenager Faye Hasian Simanjuntak started a shelter to protect victims of child sex trafficking in South Jakarta, the study said. Sisters Melati and Isabel Wijsen are lobbying businesses to stop using plastic bags on the Indonesian island of Bali, it added.

“In much of Asia, this is a generation that’s grown up in cities literally transformed by rapid economic growth. Entire neighbourhoods have been razed for skyscrapers. Pop culture is now global and instant, thanks to the internet and travel,” Chen said.

“Amid all this, Gen Z-ers are looking for authenticity. They appreciate localism and heritage and you see this in the rise of brands across the region that tap into this.”

And whereas older generations might have been more politically apathetic, Generation Z appears to be more engaged, the study found.

“When it comes to politics, they want to know that policymakers care about what they care about – environmental pollution, natural disasters and future job prospects being the top three worries that emerged from our survey,” said Chen.

“It’s time to talk their language – online and offline, in an authentic way, and address their concerns.”

Source: Al Jazeera