At IIeX North America in Austin last week, Holly Carter of Confirmit shared her tips for adapting surveys to the needs of Generation Z [which Pew Research defines as those born 1997 and later].

Some of Holly’s observations about Gen Z:

  • “They’re all about their mobile phones… They’re on their phones constantly.” Over 95% of Gen Z aged 16 to 20 years old have a smartphone.
  • “We tend to think of these kids as anti-social, and that is the furthest thing from the truth. They just do social differently than we did: they love their social media platforms.” Over 90% of those 16 to 20 use social media, and 51% report using social media constantly.
  • “And there’s been a change. Because there is no way in the world that they’re actually going to go on Facebook anymore. Now these kids are all about platforms like Snapchat and Instagram and YouTube and Twitter.” What do those platforms have in common? Rich media.
    • “Instagram is very much for family and close friends; it’s to share those life moments, the pictures that are happening with you.”
    • “Twitter is social activism… Twitter is very real time, and Twitter is also being used to share photos publicly.”
    • “How kids are using Snapchat is that they’re going to an event, and they’re sharing their experience and seeing the experience at the event from another person’s perspective and sharing that back and forth. All based on location tracking, which I’ll get to.”
  • “They like to talk online. They like to be heard. And that’s what these platforms allow them to do.”

“But in the end, we’re coming back to a survey, we’re coming back to a means of collecting data. So, if we can make our surveys, our data collection, more social, steal ideas from how kids are using these platforms, we can engage these kids to take surveys, since you’re not dealing with a generation who is going to do just checkboxes.”

Since Gen Z are such frequent texters, they’re comfortable typing long answers into a text box in a survey on a mobile phone. But they have to be nudged to do that. Dynamic open text questions can be configured to provide prompts to the participant as they type, based on length of response and keywords used. For instance, a short response would show a message, “A little more information would be appreciated” while other keywords might prompt messages like “Please tell us which item you have purchased” or “If possible, please state the names of staff who assisted you.” These prompts guide the conversation and turn this into more of a qualitative discussion. “We’ve found these questions increase respondent’s engagement and improve the respondent experience with shorter surveys. And real insights can be found in unstructured data.”

Given Gen Z’s penchant for selfies and recording videos, mobile surveys to Gen Z should provide opportunities for participants to take photos, upload images, and record audio and videos. After all, all the social media platforms they use are designed around these behaviors.

Location tracking is also important:

  • 4 out of 5 smartphone users (all ages) leave on their location tracking by default
  • 77% of smartphone users are willing to share location as long as they receive value in return
  • 74% of smartphone owners use their phone to get info based on their location
  • 69% of Google searches include specific locations
  • 30% of smartphone users have at least one social media account set up to include location in posts

If they’re using an app from your company, you can prompt them with notifications to take surveys when they are at locations you care about. “Make the feedback real, in-the-moment.”

Longer verbatims and collections of rich media require new analytical techniques. Such surveys are much more qualitative than in the past. Holly talked about speech recognition to transcribe audio and video recordings, facial recognition for videos, and text analytics on verbatim responses and transcripts.

In conclusion, “we need to take surveys, make them cooler, make them more fun, make them engaging, in order to actually get this generation to engage with us as researchers.”

Confirmit, a leading provider of software for market research and enterprise feedback management, is a sponsor of the course, Communicating Research Results, which teaches you how to turn market research findings into actionable recommendations.

Author Notes:

Jeffrey Henning

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Jeffrey Henning, IPC is a professionally certified researcher and has personally conducted over 1,400 survey research projects. Jeffrey is a member of the Insights Association and the American Association of Public Opinion Researchers. In 2012, he was the inaugural winner of the MRA’s Impact award, which “recognizes an industry professional, team or organization that has demonstrated tremendous vision, leadership, and innovation, within the past year, that has led to advances in the marketing research profession.” In 2022, the Insights Association named him an IPC Laureate. Before founding Researchscape in 2012, Jeffrey co-founded Perseus Development Corporation in 1993, which introduced the first web-survey software, and Vovici in 2006, which pioneered the enterprise-feedback management category. A 35-year veteran of the research industry, he began his career as an industry analyst for an Inc. 500 research firm.