How Four Generations Embraced & Led A New Digital Normal


New study shows changing habits across online shopping, work, school, and entrepreneurship.

AUSTIN, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The fourth annual, international study of Gen Z, conducted by The Center for Generational Kinetics and commissioned by WP Engine, reveals new data on how Generation Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers adapted to digital in their own unique ways during the COVID-19 lockdowns. These ties to digital reveal insights for brands on how to reach these important audiences in different ways.

Embracing the new normal

Millennials and Gen Z are already a powerful economic force. With the resurgence of the economy and unprecedented spending, their influence grows every day—and will continue to do so for decades to come. To win more share of wallet from Millennials today and Gen Z’s $143 billion spending power, companies will need to create new customer engagement experiences powered by responsive, modern, scalable businesses and technology. Business leaders who adjust their approach to match these new market realities will have a tremendous advantage in reaching their customers now and into the future.

Understanding and winning Gen Z and Millennials now leads to winning every other generation, too. Failing to adapt to these influential trendsetters at this critical time eliminates two potent drivers of growth but also means you run the risk of losing existing customers, too. Recognizing the outsized impact and influence of Gen Z and Millennials as trendsetters is why it is critical for leaders to separate generational myth from truth about them as customers and then take the appropriate action.

“Missing from the conversation on how to understand and best serve consumers, clients, and marketplaces now is statistically accurate data that specifically uncovers how generations have changed and adapted their specific online behavior during the last year, including throughout the pandemic, and trends and behaviors that will shape the next 3-5 years following the recent surge into the digital world,” said Jason Dorsey, President at The Center for Generational Kinetics.

“Last year was memorable for a host of reasons, but one of the most significant is how the use of digital by generation has fundamentally changed,” said Eric Jones, VP of Corporate Marketing at WP Engine. “Understanding what makes each generation unique in their behavior online is the foundation for building the compelling, effective, and innovative digital experiences of the future.”

The empowerment of entrepreneurship

Gen Z has often been described as the most entrepreneurial generation ever. According to the study a whopping 61% of Gen Z plan to start their own business. That’s a striking difference between the one in nine Americans who are self-employed today according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Entrepreneurial plans remain strong however, one interesting change from years past is the types of businesses they plan to start has changed. Gen Z has shifted away from tech (down 30% from 2019) toward entertainment (up 30% from 2019). Meanwhile beauty and wellness make Gen Z’s top 3 list for the first time in 2021, displacing retail (20% in 2019 to 12% in 2021). One area where tech remains strong is with Millennials who are now thinking about starting a business in technology more than twice as much compared to 2019 (10% in 2019 vs. 22% in 2021).

According to the Harvard Business Review, 70% of teens are working entrepreneurial jobs like teaching math to younger students, editing videos for neighbors or selling items on platforms like Thredup or Depop. Through these activities they’re learning valuable skills, setting them up to become tomorrow’s innovators. Several other stats speak volumes about how Gen Z and Millenials are increasingly setting themselves up to truly take charge of their careers:

  • Website ownership: In less than 2 years, website ownership has gone up 300%.
  • Perfectly balanced: 49% of Gen Z and 59% Millennials believe work life balance has improved.
  • Remain remote: 48% of Gen Z and 65% of Millennials would prefer to continue remote work after the pandemic

The digital habits of every generation are forever changed

According to the national study, over 1/3 (36%) of Gen Z tried online video chatting and had their first online class experience (37%) for the first time during the pandemic. Also, 1/4 of Gen Z tried online gaming (26%), online food delivery (27%), online grocery shopping (24%), online digital money transfer (28%), and online doctor visits (22%) for the first time over the past year.

  • Enduring Digital Habits. 57% of Gen Z and 68% of Millennials expect to maintain their digital habits after the pandemic.
  • Telehealth: 25% of Boomers said they will continue telehealth moving forward.
  • Pay Later: 24% of Millennials want the ability to split bills into multiple payments.

How digital connected a locked down generation

Gen Z and Millennials are much more dependent on the Internet compared to older generations. 48% of Gen Z and 46% of Millennials can’t go more than 4 hours without Internet access before they become uncomfortable, significantly higher than Gen X (40%) and Boomers (28%).

  • Information v. Entertainment: 43% of Gen Z rely on the internet primarily for entertainment while the other generations use it for information.
  • Streaming generation: 70% of Gen Z increased the amount they were streaming video.
  • Life online: 66% of Gen X say they rely on digital now more than ever.

To read the complete “GENERATION RESILIENCE: HOW THE PANDEMIC CHANGED DIGITAL FOR EVERYONE” study, please visit where you can learn more about the results and download a copy of the ebook.

Survey Methodology

Survey participants in the national longitudinal study consisted of 1,255 U.S. participants ages 14-59 including a 250-person oversample of Gen Z (ages 14-25). The longitudinal study consisted of benchmark questions from 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2021 allowing for a year-over-year analysis of consumer behaviors and generational trends. The sample was weighted to the U.S. Census for age, gender, geography, and ethnicity allowing for a statistically valid and highly accurate “snapshot of consumers” across the United States.

About WP Engine

WP Engine, the WordPress technology company, provides the most relied upon and trusted brands and developer-centric WordPress products for companies and agencies of all sizes, including managed WordPress hosting, enterprise WordPress, headless WordPress, Flywheel, Local and Genesis. WP Engine’s tech innovation and award-winning WordPress experts help to power more than 1.5 million sites across 150 countries.

About The Center for Generational Kinetics

The Center for Generational Kinetics (CGK) is the leading research, speaking, and strategy firm focused on Millennials, Generation Z, and solving generational challenges. CGK’s team of PhD researchers, strategists, and keynote speakers help leaders around the world solve tough generational challenges in areas ranging from employing multiple generations and recruiting Gen Z to selling and marketing to Millennials and across generations. Each year, CGK works with over 100 clients around the world, from car manufacturers and global hoteliers to insurance companies, hospital chains, and international software firms. CGK’s team is frequently quoted in the media about the effect of generational differences and emerging trends on everything from shopping and parenting to work style and social media. Learn more about CGK at


WP Engine

Eric Jones

The Center for Generational Kinetics


About Author

Barb Rogers

Barb has worked within the digital advertising and marketing space for over 20 years. Over the years, she found it difficult to find information on the simplest of subjects tied to the digital marketing space, so she decided to embark on a journey to create a space that others may appreciate.

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