The AR Generation: How Gen Z Uses Augmented Reality

The AR Generation: How Gen Z Uses Augmented Reality
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Gen Z, an abbreviation we hear every day yet don’t know much about, refers to the generation that follows the millennials. Marketing strategies, company targetings, consumer spending predictions, and many more metrics are now driven by the data collected from Gen Zers as they are the upcoming young adults of the next 5 years.

Born between 1997-2012, this generation has been raised on the internet and social media, with some of the oldest finishing colleges by 2020 and entering the workforce. They stand out by being more creative, self-expressive, and having a unique relationship with the current digital culture.

Today, augmented reality and virtual try-on technologies are mostly used among Gen Zers and late millennials. Take Snapchat for example, one of the most apparent and available platforms to engage with AR, which has 163 million active daily users.

The percentage of young people among these 163 million users is quite high. In the US, Snapchat reaches 90% of 13 to 24-year-olds and over 75% of 13 to 34-year-olds. Another interesting figure is that according to a 2019 JWT intelligence study, 40% of Gen Z prefer to express themselves with AR lenses/filters to send out photos and videos.

Other than Snapchat usage, engagement with AR, in general, is also high, according to Snap. In their 2021 Consumer AR Global Report, it is stated that Gen Z and millennials are 71% more likely to use AR frequently compared to older generations. These numbers are expected to grow as 5G will accelerate AR technology adoption.

“The creativity that we’ve seen develop around Gen Z has really manifested organically based on how they communicate with each other.”

Jeff Miller, Global Head of Business Marketing at Snap

Socially distributed lenses and filters are the leading forms of consumer-based AR. A close second is location-based gaming, thanks to Pokémon Go, whose users engage with AR for 2-3 minutes per session and with more AR game elements rolling out all the time.

Expectations of Gen Z: convenience, constant connectivity, smooth communications, authenticity 

Unique Gen Z characteristics: Young, bold, pragmatic

Using AR as a Decision-Making Tool for Gen Zers

AR can help Gen Zers make better decisions. Gen Zers are defined as a bold and self-valuing generation, they influence each other very much. This hyper-connectivity that comes from social media, created certain types of clothing, appearance, and a specific taste that the majority of Gen Zers prefer.

Here, AR can be a great tool to support Gen Zers in their shopping decisions. AI can also help with their decision-making with relevant but better product recommendations. Be it selecting a meal from the menu, AR can translate the ingredients into visuals and AI can give healthy personalized suggestions considering the current health situation of the user stored in health apps.

Gen Zers are independent despite their young age and want to make decisions of their own without consulting an adult or a parent. They can access any information on the internet and find the answers they’re looking for pretty easily. At this point, AR can play a critical role to assist Gen Zers to make the right decision for them and eventually become a trusted tool to refer to.

Gen Z: A Mobile-First Generation

According to Joe Cardador, VP of Consumer Intelligence at Barkley, this young generation already represents up to $143 billion in buying power and will in a few years become the largest group of consumers in the US. Gen Zers are tech native, they were born into this era of rapidly evolving technology, and from their childhood computers and mobile phones has been in their reach. Technically they’re the first generation growing up with mobile phones, immediate internet access, and YouTube and they’ve mastered using them. 

Among the consumer devices, Gen Zers have a strong preference for mobile. The media consumption habits of Gen Zers are centered around visual, easy-to-perceive information. A couple of years ago, Gen Zers’ preference was mainly Youtube, Snapchat, and Instagram to spend hours on. However, TikTok disruptively entered the market and added other dimensions to visual content: audio and choreography. It also has a variety of tools that enable users to create their very own content, and the impact on society has been amazingly disruptive. All thanks to the great tech adoption of Gen Zers.

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Catching the Attention of Gen Z

Today, creative content is produced and marketed just within 10 seconds of visual bombardment. According to Google’s Gen Z Trends and Insights 2021 report, millennials’ attention span is 12 seconds. However, Gen Zers can only wait for 8 seconds until they swipe to the next content unless they’re really interested.

Also, Gen Z reports watching video content on smartphones 2x as much as Millennials. This shows that Gen Zers communicate and should be communicated through visual content as that’s what they’re looking for due to their shorter attention span.

Here, AR can be the solution to capture their attention for more than 8 seconds. AR-based ads are less invasive — they literally merge with the real world without dragging the viewer out of the scene. This thin line between technology and reality creates an air of authenticity that appeals to Gen Z’s own experience with technology. Constituting a big part of future buyers, Gen Zers' demand to see something different in ads will boost AR usage in the advertising sector too. 

Curators of the New Digital Space

We’ve talked about Gen Zers being hungry for innovative, out-of-the-box ideas and preferring brands that are successfully employing this uniqueness in their strategies. Other than consuming creative content, they are eager and hyped to create original content using various tools.

Unsurprisingly, the first tools they use are social media apps, whether it’s using an editing tool to add a collage or an audio app to layer in music.

In this context, Snapchat has Lens Studio that enables creators to express themselves. Lens Studio creators have a range of skills, from basic 2D illustration to 3D modeling. An official Snapchat Lens Studio creator Benjamin Paruzynski says “Everybody is a creator on Snapchat”. Creators take advantage of this tool and the result is imaginatively beautiful visuals and unique AR lenses.

“We essentially gave them the tools to develop an incredibly expressive visual means of communicating with their friends, and also the ability to work with brands in such a way that they’re leading the forefront on augmented reality, oftentimes inspiring our own internal team.”

Jeff Miller, Global Head of Business Marketing at Snap

So What's Next?

Gen Zers’ desire for sharing online worlds with friends (whether that be via a video game or augmented reality experience) will continue to push new tech software and hardware to the marketplace.

Marketers will be forced to upgrade their strategies to reach this largest consumer generation. It’s an interactive environment where both creators and consumers push each other to achieve greater developments. It can’t be ignored that Gen Z has a very natural and intuitive relationship with augmented reality and this is just signaling a very promising future for AR.

“VR, AR, AI, ML, and Gen-Z are all maturing together. Therefore, Gen-Z is the most likely generation to integrate advanced technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality seamlessly into their daily lives,” says Sam Wolfe.

Soon we will see how fast this new tech adoption will happen. If you want to jump on this latest AR trend and showcase your products in 3D, contact us and learn more about our solutions.

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