New Gen Z research reveals brand preferences, spending trends for today’s teens

by | Apr 11, 2023 | Public Relations

Investment bank Piper Sandler Companies has been surveying teens about discretionary spending trends and brand preferences for many years, and has now released its 45th semi-annual Taking Stock with Teens survey, in partnership with global high-school-student network DECA, receiving input from 5,690 teens across 47 U.S. states with an average age of 16.2 years.

The survey reveals solid teen spending, up 2 percent (self-reported) from the firm’s last report, with male spending up 6 percent. Food remained the top spend category for males, and apparel remained top for females. Among shopping categories, beauty (which includes cosmetics, skincare and fragrance) grew by nearly 20 percent as everyday use of makeup continues to trend upward, and beauty brand e.l.f. remains the dominant player among females.

New Gen Z research reveals brand preferences, spending trends for today’s teens

The clothing and apparel category is dominated by Nike, which remains strong at No. 1, with lululemon—No. 1 in the last report—dropping to No. 3. Nike also remains on top for footwear, with UGG, Crocs and Hey Dude ranking among the top 10 brands.

TikTok remained the favorite teen app in Spring 2023, although its popularity declined vs. Fall 2022, with SNAP coming in second and Instagram in third. Amazon remained the top destination for shopping, with Nike, SHEIN, lululemon, and PacSun taking spots No. 2-5.

Coach remained top among handbag brands, with Louis Vuitton coming in at No. 2 and Michael Kors dropping to No. 3. Favorite teen restaurants remained Chick-fil-A, Starbucks and Chipotle. Goldfish remain the most preferred snack brand, with Cheez-It following.

Gen Z is a conscious generation and appears to care more about social justice and the environment compared to older generations. Teens this spring cited the environment as their top concern. Racial equality moved up to the No. 2 concern, followed by abortion, inflation and The Willow Project.

New Gen Z research reveals brand preferences, spending trends for today’s teens

Additional Spring 2023 findings:

  • Video games are 12 percent of male teen wallet share (vs. 14 percent LY), and 32 percent expect to purchase a NextGen console within 2 years
  • SQ’s Cash App ranked No. 1 most preferred peer-to-peer money transfer app at 41 percent vs. PYPL’s Venmo at 39 percent
  • Apple Pay ranked No. 1 for payment apps used within the last month at 39 percent, followed by Cash App at 25 percent
  • Of the teens surveyed, 42 percent consume or are willing to try plant-based meat, vs. 49 percent in Spring 2021, while 40 percent either consume or are willing to consume plant-based dairy
  • 68 percent of teens have used Spotify for streaming services over the last 6 months, with 44 percent of teens opting to subscribe/pay for Spotify services
  • Teens spend 31 percent of daily video consumption on Netflix (+100 bps vs Fall 2022) and 28 percent on YouTube (-200 bps vs Fall 2022)
  • Phone is the No. 1 preferred method for customer service interaction; Text/SMS shows the best multi-year gains
  • 87 percent of teens own an iPhone; 88 percent expect an iPhone to be their next phone; 35 percent own an Apple Watch

Piper Sandler’s Taking Stock With Teens survey is a semi-annual research project that gathers input from 5,690 teens with an average age of 16.2 years. Discretionary spending patterns, fashion trends, technology, and brand and media preferences are assessed through surveying a geographically diverse subset of high schools across the U.S. Since the project began in 2001, Piper Sandler has surveyed more than 239,000 teens and collected over more than 58 million data points on teen spending.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter