As the generation referred to as “Millennials” begins to make way for what is considered “Generation Z”—or anyone aged 7 to 22 years old—the art market (and commercial industries in general) have taken note of the strong influence Millennial buyers are having on the state of economic and consumer affairs. However, it seems that the youngest generation (with an established, dubbed name, that is) is creating a rising tide in different ways than that which precedes them. According to a recent series of Bloomberg reports regarding multiple consumer habits of Generation Z, this demographic “already accounts for a quarter of the global population. And early indications suggest that this socially conscious, always connected cohort will have even bigger implications for companies [than Millennials]”.


The Big Picture


Understanding and catering to this demographic can prove quite challenging. As a recent article in The Art Newspaper pointed out, what the youth wants is less obvious than that which they do not want. This often equates to any branding, labels, or other associations with huge, corporate America. They tend towards socially conscious, smaller businesses and since they are “social media native,” they are able to actively and quickly wade through a sea of imagery, targeted sales pitches and marketing schemes. Additionally, and similarly to their Millennial counterparts, they wish to have transparency through marketing, which means clear and available pricing, which can be rare in a somewhat opaque art market. In order for the art industry, and all of corporate America, to woo the up and coming generation, it will need to closely monitor how Gen Z receives, disseminates and absorbs information. Adam Grant, CEO of Campus Commandos—a marketing agency based in Detroit and catering mostly to marketing campaigns geared towards college students—notes: “they prefer word-of-mouth (preferably through meme or post or video) when it comes to enlightenment about what to buy. What’s better than learning about a product or service than your friend?” The emphasis on which outlets of social media are also more refined- they prefer Instagram and YouTube to Facebook and email.

Regardless of their strong attachment to the internet and social media, an April 25 Bloomberg article found that Gen Z often prefers brick and mortar stores to online shopping. A recent survey conducted by an International Council of Shopping Centers indicated that 95 percent of them visited a physical shopping center in a three month period in 2018 (opposed to 75 percent of Millennials and 58 percent of Generation X), and they prefer an interactive and personalized shopping experience. 


...they prefer word-of-mouth (preferably through meme or post or video) when it comes to enlightenment about what to buy. What’s better than learning about a product or service than your friend?


Too Prevalent to Ignore


In reference to Millennials and Generation Z, Lily Tischner, a 21 year-old gallery employee and art collector observes: “despite limited space and limited funds, research shows that our generations have driven up the value art because of the value we attribute to it. Our generations see art as both a financial and personal investment and believe in its aesthetic power to better our lives. Our generation is buying art for the sake of art, but it’s also an effort to support community and friends.” Bloomberg News writer Tiffany Kary noted in her March 29 article that because this generation is more interested in being independent and entrepreneurial than being involved in large commercial capitalism, they also shun big-name branding and corporate mindsets. “They’re ethnically diverse, socially tolerant, globally connected, environmentally aware. One nickname for the group: Philanthroteens.” This is why they, as a generation, may be the windfall that smaller businesses, including galleries and startups, need to thrive and grow more profitable.