InScope: How Brands are Using Apps to Drive Purposeful Use of Devices Amongst Gen Z

Briony Lewis is a Data Analyst for OMD Create Melbourne, helping to unlock data leading to robust insights and more effective campaigns.

In Australia, Gen Z (aged 9-23) are the most digitally connected generation. However, as we know from X psychologist Jean Twenge, this is coming at a price to their wellbeing. Gen Z will account for 40% of global consumers by next year, and many brands have had to find new ways to engage them with more purposeful device usage.

According to ‘The Big Shrink 2018 Youth Study’ by Vice, 60% of young Australians are feeling anxious, and as a result, are distracting themselves with digital content. Phone and internet addiction is also strong amongst Gen Z, as they also have the highest smartphone penetration in Australia. Paradoxically, this demonstrates to brands that while digital is the most effective way of reaching Gen Z, it can also be very damaging to their mental health.

So how do you engage a consumer who is digitally dependent, but in need of tactics to use devices in a more meaningful way? How do you demonstrate your brands purpose, without encouraging frequent screen time? Some brands have answered this by creating apps that both align with Gen Z’s digital habits, while rewarding them for taking some quality time out.

Online fashion giant, The Iconic, has created the Sport Challenge, an app aimed to reward consumers for being active with gift card and activewear prizes. Qantas has also recently created the Qantas Wellbeing App, a product of their health insurance offering. The app awards frequent flyer points to users who exercise and put their phone down 45 minutes before bedtime. 

On a global scale, Sweatcoin has become one of the highest downloaded health and fitness apps. Once downloaded, users connect this app to their smartphone’s health and GPS data. The app then tracks users’ steps (only counting steps taken outdoors) and rewards them with ‘sweatcoins’. These sweatcoins can be accumulated and later traded for fitness gear, gym classes or even iPhones. Users also can donate their sweatcoins to charity partners.

Data acquisition and conversion are clear objectives for these brands. However, this strategy also has the power to benefit the habits of these brands’ future customers, Generation Z, and inform their brand preference as a result. Not only will this provide integral insights, but it will demonstrate to Gen Z that these brands have an investment in the future health of society.

As quoted in the WP Engine Gen Z report, in order to effectively engage Gen Z, brands “must embrace new technologies, experiment with new forms of communication, and internalise the nuances in how Gen Z seamlessly blends their analogue and digital worlds.”

Within the ever-evolving technological space, digital device usage amongst Gen Z is only likely to increase, and whilst brands cannot limit this usage, they do have the power to influence how these devices are used. So how can your next campaign engage Gen Z with devices in a more meaningful way?

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