The Mobile-First Generation: Gen Z Is Heavily Into Mobile Gaming, Shopping, and Social Media, Finds Tapjoy’s New Modern Mobile Gamer Report™

By | June 17, 2021


New research from Tapjoy, a leading mobile advertising and app monetization company, shows that members of Generation Z are extremely tuned in to the mobile ecosystem. More than three quarters of Gen Z, defined as those born between 1996 and 2010, claim to have gotten their first smartphone before the age of 18, compared to only 49% of Millennials. Now reaching adulthood, Zoomers represent billions of dollars in buying power and a largely untapped opportunity for advertisers, as shown in Tapjoy’s latest report, Modern Mobile Gamer 2021: Generation Z Edition.

As the latest installment in Tapjoy’s Modern Mobile Gamer series, the Generation Z Edition surveyed 7,103 US-based mobile gamers between the ages of 18 and 24 to discover a number of valuable insights. For instance:

  • Gen Z is the first mobile-first generation: 22% of Zoomers got their first smartphone at age 10 or younger, and 61% got theirs between the ages of 11 and 17. Almost half replace smartphones every 2-3 years. Their favorite mobile activities are games, social

  • media, and entertainment such as streaming apps like Netflix or Disney+.

  • Zoomers love mobile games: 86% use mobile devices as a gaming platform, compared to 42% who use console/handheld devices and 38% who play on a PC. During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, 66% reported downloading more gaming apps, compared to 59% of Millennials and 56% of Generation X. Gen Z’s favorite games to play are Action/adventure, Role-Playing Games, and Puzzle/Match-3.

  • They’re big shoppers on mobile: 68% of Zoomers shop on their mobile phones 1 – 4 times a week. Sixty percent of them frequently purchase to-go food or delivery, and 57% make frequent retail purchases on mobile. Their preferred ways to make purchases on mobile are on branded apps and e-commerce storefronts, through rewarded offers in mobile games, and through Instagram ads, respectively.

  • Gen Z loves brand content: Gen Z is avid followers of retail brands on social media, with a particular affinity for clothing and fashion brands: 65% of Zoomers follow clothing and fashion brands, compared to just 52% of Millennials and 40% of Gen X. Zoomers are also the most likely generation to prefer humorous brand content. Gen Z also shows a strong preference for short videos, with 66% listing it as a preferred content type compared to 63% among Millennials and 59% for Gen X.

  • They prefer rewarded mobile game ads over social media and search advertising: 53% report engaging with rewarded mobile game ads — compared to 38% on Instagram, 23% on TikTok, 22% on Facebook, 17% on Twitter, and 16% on Google Shopping.

  • They’ll engage with brands in exchange for value: More than half of Zoomers have discovered at least one new product on their mobile devices through content such as short videos, memes and social posts. They dislike search result ads and non-skippable video ads, preferring to engage with rewarded ads in mobile apps.

Tapjoy’s research and analysis also found that the COVID-19 pandemic had a lasting effect on Generation Z. Nearly three quarters reported playing more mobile games in 2020, and 55% found mobile games “more fun and engaging than expected” during the pandemic. Their top pandemic products were clothing and apparel, to-go food, and beauty/hygiene products, while their top pandemic subscription services were streaming, home goods, and meal kits.

“Generation Z is incredibly engaged in every facet of the mobile ecosystem,” said Lauren Baca, Senior Director of Marketing at Tapjoy. “Unlike older generations, they’ve never really known a world without smartphones. They’ve been playing mobile games since they could hold a phone, and their first instinct when buying something new is to reach for that device. They’ve also grown up in a world where ads are often optional, so they’re very particular about the marketing and branded content they engage with. They value humor, shared values, ads that respect their time, and those that provide a value exchange, such as rewarded ads in mobile games. Advertisers have the opportunity to tap into the most mobile-centric generation yet — they just need to adjust their strategies.”

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