By Jamie Miller

The digital age has transformed the consumer market by giving people the ability to browse and purchase items online at the click of a button. Companies are adapting to the new trends of online consumers by targeting those who are most fluent and active in the online world – the digital natives of Generation Z.

Generation Z is made up of those between the ages of 8 and 23, and according to Facebook for Business, they are projected to make up nearly a third of retail sales in the U.S. by next year.

Not only are Gen Z shoppers slated to have significant influence on retail markets based on their own consumption habits, but they are also greatly influencing the habits of their parents.

The “Uniquely Gen Z” report, co-sponsored by the IBM Institute of Business Value and the National Retail Federation, showed that “87% of parents say their children influence at least some aspect of their purchases, either for household items or for themselves.”

With those statistics in mind, companies have taken notice of Gen Z’s consumer habits.

Companies are tapping into these young consumer’s trends through digital marketing on social media. Advertisements, sponsorships and promotions flood platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Tik Tok, where many current college students spend most of their screen time.

In a world where clicking, snapping and posting are the norm, these advertisements are difficult to avoid, making financial management that much harder for college students on a budget.

Paxton Dobbins, a junior at the University of Georgia, said that the advertisements were a big reason why she decided to go on a social-media detox.

“It was like every time I clicked on Instagram it knew what I wanted to buy,” she said. “I had a hard time saying no to the constant clickbait that littered my feed, and I wanted to be in control and to stop ordering unnecessary stuff.”

Dobbins is not alone – many college students find it more difficult to manage their finances because of the enticing advertisements that crowd their social media platforms. The ease of purchasing an item from an Instagram ad is how many students lose sight of their budgeting goals.

Clair McClure, lecturer and undergraduate coordinator in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at UGA, noted that technology itself is an outlet that college students can use to make more informed financial and personal decisions.

“Just know that brands are using social media not only to communicate to you, but to listen to you. If you need to switch to something else because you don’t like what this brand stands for, or the price, or you want something more socially responsible…then look for it,” McClure said.

McClure said that although navigating personal finances in the digital consumer market may be challenging, Generation Z has a great asset: the power in their decisions and influence.

“I actually think that consumers are already in charge, and maybe they just need to know. I think there is that sense as a college student to be like, ‘Is anyone listening to me?’ Yeah, well apparently 87% of households are listening to you,” McClure said. “Brands are listening to you, and when social change happens it is [Gen Z] that is being listened to, which I am so proud of.”

Jamie Miller is studying journalism at the University of Georgia. She is a 2020 Cox-SABEW Fellow, a training program in partnership with UGA’s Cox Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management & Leadership.