Youth marketing

Everything you need to know about Gen Zalpha: Unlock the next generation of consumers

 A diverse group of smiling, young Gen Alpha and Gen Z friends take a close-up outdoor selfie, with sunlight shining behind them.
Written by
Izzy Hall
Published on
July 4, 2024
Last updated
July 4, 2024

What this article covers

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Generations are a funny thing. 

Boomers, Millennials, Generation Z: we’re all part of one, and like it or not, have characteristics unique to our life cycles. 

Our formative years shape who we are: Millennials grew up in the shadow of events like 9/11. They entered the workforce during the height of an economic recession. Boomers grew up as television expanded, changing their understanding of the world around them. Gen Z was the first digitally native generation: the generation of social media, filters, and instant connectivity. 

For marketers, the importance of these generational differences cannot be understated. 

However, we think you probably already know this. In fact, you’ll probably also be aware that generational cut-offs aren’t an exact science. 

Sometimes, two generations will merge: and that’s where we come in.

Ready to find out exactly who this generation is? Curious about their values, their spending power, and their expectations? Well, if you’re not, you should be; because this cohort is one that marketers simply cannot afford to ignore.

In this blog, we’ll be sharing exclusive insights, data, and research, picked directly from the source. 

Introducing: Generation Zalpha.

Who is Generation Zalpha?

Generation Zalpha is a hybrid generation: a blend of the youngest members of Gen Z, and the oldest members of Gen Alpha. Their age range spans between 9 and 14. The youngest Zalphas are children of Millennials – and notably, they’re not digitally native, they’re digitally fluent. 

In January 2024, we conducted research from over 2,000 Zalphas across the UK and the USA between the ages of 9 and 14. We surveyed them on topics ranging from their values, to their use of social media, their access to tech, gaming and their purchasing influence.

What are Gen Zalpha’s core values?

So, what are the things that Gen Zalpha holds near and dear to their hearts? 

Which of these things are most important to you?

  • Being happy: 77%
  • Helping other people: 47%
  • My family: 42%
  • Gaming: 44%

Interestingly, despite growing up in the age of the climate crisis, it appears Zalphas have less of a concern around sustainability than previous generations. Only 19% said that looking after the planet was important to them – whilst 12% shared that “making things last a long time” (such as toys and clothes) was a priority. 

In comparison, a massive 77% of Gen Z shared with us that they’d buy from a brand if that brand made sustainable choices. 

And what about where Gen Zalpha’s interests lie?

We asked Gen Zalphas: Which of the following are your main interests?

  • My family: 77%
  • Spending time with friends in person: 66%
  • Spending time with friends online: 38%
  • Gaming: 60%
  • Pets and animals: 47%
  • Reading books, ebooks or magazines: 28%
  • Keeping up with the lives of celebrities: 4%

Again, we’re seeing huge generational differences between Zalpha and Z affinities, notably through the lack of interest in celebrities. 

For Gen Z, celebrities and influencers have shaped their connection to online culture. They’re fine-tuned to keeping up with the world of the stars (contrary to Millennials though, they’re doing this via TikTok and not through reading glossy magazines!). 

For the next generation, this appears less of a priority, with Zalphas preferring to focus their attention on gaming and spending time with friends.

By gender, there is differentiation in how Gen Zalphas prefer to socialize. Female-identifying Gen Zalphas were more likely to prefer spending time with their friends in person (72%), compared to male-identifying Zalphas (62%).

This can be attributed to gaming (which we’ll cover in more detail later). 

76% of male-identifying Zalphas shared that their main interest was gaming. 

In comparison, only 42% of female-identifying Zalphas said the same. As a result, 39% of male-identifying Zalphas said their favorite form of socialization with friends was gaming, compared to a mere 14% of female-identifying participants.

Gen Zalpha’s access to tech

Gen Z might’ve grown up online, but Gen Alpha was born online. As a result, Zalphas’ tech savviness cannot be underrated: they’re proficient in technology and probably have better smartphone skills than their parents!

However, when it comes to giving them this access to tech, the decision ultimately does lie with their parents. 

Which of the following technologies do you have access to at home?

  • Television: 94%
  • Smartphone: 85%
  • Tablet: 79%
  • Smart speakers (Alexa, Google Home): 49%

Approximately how many hours a day do you spend using a screen?

  • 1-2 hours: 15%
  • 2-3 hours: 27%
  • 3-4 hours: 22%
  • 5-6 hours: 6%

What things do you do on your digital devices?

However, whilst Zalpha screen time might be high, they’re not using this for all play and no work. In fact, 64% are using technology to do homework and educational research.

We asked Gen Zalpha: What things do you do on your digital devices?

  • Homework: 64%
  • Play educational games: 33%
  • Watching videos on streaming services: 82%
  • Using social media: 46%
  • Listening to music: 64%
  • Gaming: 71%
  • Online shopping: 23%
  • Read and watch news: 10%

Interestingly, it appears that Zalphas would rather use technology for entertainment, rather than socializing on Instagram or TikTok. When it comes to learning about the world around them, they’re less concerned with what’s going on in the news (who can blame them?), with only 10% using technology to keep up with current affairs.

By gender, female-identifying participants preferred to use technology for social media (50%) than male-identifying participants (44%).

Almost double the amount of female-identifying participants use digital devices for online shopping (30%) than male-identifying participants (16%).

What kind of media sentiments are Zalpha drawn to? 

94% of Zalphas like to watch TV shows or streaming services that make them laugh.

This is in-line with what we already know about Gen Zalpha: they’re optimistic. When it comes to their downtime, they’re less stuck on the serious stuff - they want to see things that represent the world around them in a cheerful light.

What are your favorite streaming services?

  • YouTube: 67%
  • Netflix: 71%
  • Disney+: 61%

Only 1% of those surveyed said they do not use streaming services.

Gen Zalpha’s purchasing power

Ahh, purchasing power: the reason you’re probably here.

Gen Z alone boasts a buying power worth an estimated $360 billion. Gen Zalpha (as a merged generation), will have a share in that. But for the younger members of this cohort, it’s important to note that their power is in pester, not purchase.

For Gen Zalpha, the buyer isn’t the generation themselves, but their parents. So, for brands, your marketing efforts will need to target the Millennial or Zillennial parent first and foremost. That being said: the more positive a view the Zalpha has of your brand, the more likely the parent is to buy from it.

What influences Zalpha’s product preferences?

  • It’s a brand I like: 66%
  • My friends have it: 46%
  • It’s a brand that is considered cool: 34%
  • It’s good for the planet: 15%
  • My favorite influencer/creator has it: 17%

Again, this data shows that Zalphas are more concerned with what’s trending amongst their peers or in the wider world than they are with things like sustainability and influencer recommendations. 

Interestingly, whilst you’d expect Zalphas to be drawn towards things that give them quick gratification, only 13% said they’d ask for a product if they knew it could be delivered the next day.

Is it important for you to have a say in what your parents or guardian buys for you?

By gender, female-identifying participants were the most likely to use their pester power on clothes and shoes (95%), whilst male-identifying participants prioritized toys and games.

In 60 seconds:

What kind of advertising appeals to Zalphas?

  • Emotive advertising: 59%
  • Something I can connect with digitally through a QR code or competition: 17%
  • Something which shares a similar interest to me: 63%
  • Something featuring my favorite influencer/creator: 21%
  • Something featuring my favorite celebrity: 17%

Gaming and Gen Zalpha

Gamers are present in almost every age group – but for Gen Zalpha, it isn’t just a pastime: it appears to be their main source of entertainment.

67% of Gen Zalpha spend between 1 to 3 hours on gaming platforms every day.

And, when it comes to socializing, a clear winner between IRL and online has emerged… 

56% of Zalphas would rather spend time socializing with their friends on gaming platforms, compared to 44% who would prefer to do so in person?

Whilst some might argue this is bleak reading, it’s simply a product of Gen Zalpha’s environment. 

Gen Zalpha and representation

This cohort has grown up online and with smartphones at their fingertips. Gaming is just a new form of community for Gen Alpha. They can engage from the comfort of their homes, use it as a means to catch up with friends, and contribute to discussions.

However, on the topic of self-perception, it’s fair to say that there is some bleak reading involved…

61% of Zalphas use a virtual avatar when gaming. Of these 55% shared that they think their virtual avatar is a better representation of who they are.

  • 27% said they wish they looked more like their virtual avatar in real life.
  • 28% said they’re more comfortable socializing as a virtual avatar.
  • 27% said they can be themselves more via online games than in person.

There was little variation by gender: however, by region, participants from the US had a better self-perception.

22% of US participants said they wished their appearance matched their avatar, compared to 31% of UK participants. 32% said they were more comfortable socializing as their avatar in the UK, compared to 22% of US respondents.

16% of Gen Zalpha in the UK said their gaming avatar was ‘better’ than how they viewed themselves, compared to 9% in the US.

Some of this data might shock you. Some of it might pleasantly surprise you. But, as always, there are a lot of actionable takeaways from it.

How can marketers harness these insights?

Gaming is the new social

The gaming statistics for Gen Zalpha are high: but this isn’t a negative – in fact, it offers a huge opportunity for brands. Leverage the social aspect of gaming to reach Gen Zalpha, through community events, or immersive campaigns that sit natively on gaming platforms.

One example is Nike’s 2023 collaboration with Fortnite. 

Nike created a virtual store within Fortnite, allowing players to explore and purchase virtual Nike merchandise for their in-game avatars. The campaign received a huge amount of press coverage – not only amplifying Nike’s (already huge!) reach, but reinforcing it as a brand that has truly embraced the digital age, and tap into the gaming community.

Gen Zalpha are tapped into their emotions

On the whole, Gen Zalpha seems to have a positive outlook on the world around them. 77% said that being happy is the most important thing for them. This positivity extends into their empathy: 37% said that making other people smile was a priority. 

When it comes to how brands can use these insights, the answer is clear: by highlighting positive messaging, specifically on how your brand contributes to the world around it in a meaningful way. 

Our data shows that Gen Zalpha is receptive to emotive advertising (55% said this was their preferred kind). Incorporating this into your campaigns is key for tapping into the pester/purchase power of this emotionally intelligent, switched-on generation.


The creator economy isn’t as relevant as it is for targeting Gen Z

Gen Z might’ve been the ‘Influencer Generation’, but our data shows that Zalphas are less fussed about keeping up to date with creators. 

Instead, they appear to be highly connected to one another, valuing peer-to-peer interactions more than creator recommendations. Reputation is still a driver of this, with 34% influenced to buy a product if it’s ‘considered cool’. However, rather than going to creators for this confirmation, they’re asking their friends. 

How do brands tap into this, you ask? Well, one answer is through personalization. Invest in getting to know who your audience is, and tailor your campaigns right down to the individual. You can collect this through zero-party data (we can help on that, by the way!), and use these insights to target your audience. 

When consumers feel special, they become generous with how they speak about your brand. This is salient when you acknowledge that it’s (mainly) the parents who have the purchasing power. Parents are far likelier to shop with a brand that has verified, good reviews: especially when it comes to their children.

Gen Zalpha loves to learn – so get educating!

Our data shows that Gen Zalphas are keen and eager to learn. In fact, they’re spending a lot of time on their devices watching educational videos, or using them for homework and research. 

A massive 53% said they like to watch content that teaches them something new.

Gen Zalphas are visual learners, so videos and images will resonate well with them. Contrary to Gen Z, who favor short-form content, Gen Zalpha enjoys longer-form content (such as educational videos and animated series). 

You might not think this is relevant if you’re a non-educational brand – but you’d be sorely mistaken! 

To capture Zalpha spend, you’ll need to find them where they are. And where exactly is this? YouTube. 73% of Gen Zalphas say that YouTube is their favorite streaming service: so, if you haven’t already thought about focusing your campaign efforts there, it’s time to get familiar. 

Think social media killed the TV star? Not for Gen Zalpha. 

Let’s finish by circling back to the start: understanding generational affinities is key to any successful campaign. 

And, even when you think they’d be similar (in the case of Gen Z and Gen Alpha), the data might just throw you. 

Whilst Gen Z are creatures of the digital world, Gen Zalphas aren’t quite evolved to their pace yet. Younger members of this cohort won’t have access to social networks – so you might want to prioritize other mediums. 

TV ads are a strong contender here. 59% of Zalphas use their digital devices to watch live TV – and 41% use these devices to catch up with TV on-demand. The power of out-of-home advertising is also important. Gen Zalpha are a highly creative generation, who are drawn to immersive and innovative campaigns. Their screen time might be high, but this doesn’t devalue the importance of IRL. Consider merging the two together: for example, by placing a QR code on an OOH ad that takes the individual to an exciting page (such as an interactive survey, or a game). 


Closing remarks

Successful campaigns targeting Gen Zalpha must be agile: embracing the changing landscape of social dynamics, emotional intelligence, personalization, education, and a blend of digital and traditional media. 

By understanding and adapting to these nuanced preferences, brands can forge lasting connections with this dynamic generation. 

The future is here: we’re already living in it…

We are Pion: your ticket to next-level growth

At Pion, we help brands harness the growth-driving power of consumer groups with full-funnel insights, advertising and verification. Our ecosystem of solutions helps expand your brand’s customer base and supercharge sales. 

Since 2005, we’ve uniquely built our expertise to help brands better understand, engage and grow loyalty with students, Gen Z, and other strategic consumer groups. From initial insight through to targeted promotion, our solutions drive growth on the right platforms, in the right ways - all to take your business to new heights.

Understand, engage and grow with a single partner. You’re in good company. 

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