When it comes to digital fluency, one generation trumps all others: Gen Z. To understand the group’s expectations of the internet, the Center for Generational Kinetics and WP Engine conducted its third annual study, “Generation Influence.” Though responses were recorded before the pandemic, the findings are still very much relevant as brands are thrust into rapid digital transformation.

Understanding Gen Z’s digital-first world is key to reaching the group. So it should come as no surprise that 58 percent of Gen Z said they couldn’t go more than four hours without internet access before becoming uncomfortable, up three percent since last year. On the other hand, 27 percent of boomers reported being able to go up to 24 hours without the internet.

One belief that separates Gen Z from other groups is that personalization isn’t creepy. In fact, 41 percent said they’ll leave a website if it doesn’t predict what they like, want or need and 75 percent are more likely to buy a product if they can customize it.

Other factors that influence Gen Z’s buying behavior include online feedback and purpose-driven messaging. For example, 55 percent said positive online ratings and reviews build their trust in a brand while 33 percent believe the opinions of online influencers more than their friends or family. Plus, 72 percent said they’re more likely to buy from a company that contributes to social causes.

Gen Z’s bond with the web runs so deep that 64 percent believe the internet will be so predictive it will determine what they do on a daily basis. Likewise, 41 percent of Gen Z will forgo security/privacy concerns and provide their data in return for a personalized experience.

When asked about ads, 82 percent of Gen Z said they trust a company more if their ads feature images of actual customers, while just 45 percent said they trust a company if the images in their ad are aspirational. These preferences reflect Gen Z’s appreciation for authenticity, one of the reasons social media is so appealing to them.

The ways which generations use the internet differ as well. Whereas Gen Z primarily uses the internet for entertainment and socializing, millennials, Gen X and boomers use it to access information. Fifty-six percent of Gen Z said they have friends online that they’ve never met in real life and 23 percent said they trust someone they meet online more than a person they meet in real life.

What all groups can agree on is the increasingly important role video will play in the future. Over 70 percent of each generation believe video rather than text-based content will dominate the internet in the next five years, implicating video experiences will be paramount if brands want to engage these groups.

Gen Z’s view of the internet is less skeptical than other generations: 79 percent of Gen Z compared to 70 percent of boomers think the internet has made people more connected. This openness towards the web also signals the likelihood that Gen Z will be early adopters of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, which 64 percent of Gen Z think will have a positive impact on the world—compared to 46 percent of boomers. In addition, 77 percent of Gen Z believe virtual reality will see increased adoption in the next five years.

The findings are based on an online survey distributed to 1,252 US respondents ages 14-59 including a 250-person oversample of Gen Z, from September 2019 to October 2019.