Generation Z Opts for Personalization Over Privacy

Generation Z is comfortable sharing personal data in order to get a more personalized experience.


Security is of great concern for anyone who uses the Internet. Whether you’re creating sites or just visiting them, security is always top of mind.

Generation Z is comfortable sharing personal data in order to get a more personalized experience.

Large breaches can make you think twice before buying something online. However, the way people view online security changes with age. Every day we see another brand hurt by a security issue. A recent Ponemon study revealed brand reputation is hurt more by a security breach than even a scandal involving the company’s CEO.

A study of over 1,200 people in the U.S. ages 14 – 59 conducted by the Center for Generational Kinetics for WP Engine, explores the mindset, preferences, and expectations of four generations of Americans (Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers) for their current and future digital experiences.


“The Future of Digital Experiences” study found that for Generation Z, the youngest generation, the digital experience is their human experience. These digital natives expect to have constant access to the online world and want their digital experiences to be free, authentic, transparent, personalized and especially secure.

This new way of thinking about security, particularly how it impacts privacy and personalization, has implications for how website developers go about creating sites and selling products.

Who is Generation Z?

Generation Z is made up of people born after 1996 and is about 25 percent of the population meaning the oldest members of Gen Z are 21 years old. It’s been estimated that they control approximately $44 Billion in purchasing power already. According to the study, 27 percent of Generation Z doesn’t feel comfortable going an hour without accessing the Internet, and 57 percent said that the Internet determines what they do on a daily basis.

These numbers show that the Internet isn’t just a tool for Gen Z, but truly a way of life. Unlike previous generations, Gen Z sees digital experiences are all around them – they price shop on their cell phones in stores, hang out with their friends and loved ones while waiting on line and watch their favorite online videos together with a thousand of like-minded friends. Unlike their predecessors, they don’t see the digital world primarily as a source for information, but rather as a way of being entertained. Brands would do well to heed the advice that to connect with this generation they need to build experiences that are fun before they begin to sell anything or even try to establish a connection.

Personalization over Privacy

One of the biggest takeaways from the study is that everyone, regardless of age, wants the web to be safe and free. However, the ways each generation views safety vary.

All agree that they want to be protected from malware, ID theft, and fraud. The main distinction comes down to privacy. According to the study, older generations are concerned about anonymity online and making sure their data and personal information is kept private.

This is in sharp contrast to Generation Z who is comfortable sharing personal data in order to get a more personalized experience. In fact, millennials and Gen Z are over 25 percent more likely than Gen X and Baby Boomers to opt for a predictive Internet. The study goes farther finding 50% of Gen Z would stop visiting a website if it didn’t anticipate what they needed, liked or wanted.

Though all four generations greatly value security, Generation Z is more concerned about personalization and having an experience that is tailored to their needs and wants, than keeping their information private.

For site developers, this is a key point. While security should always be top of mind, Gen Z customers are willing to give more to create a personalized or even better predictive experience online. This means online shops should be thinking about how to implement more options into their sites. Whether that means having profiles where customers can add as much information as they want, or beginning with a quiz to find the best product fit. Giving customers a way to add as much or as little information as they want will benefit you in the long run.

In much the same way that innovations in brake technology paved the way for truly fast cars, security will become the enabler for better, richer and more predictive digital experiences in the future. Thus, it will become even more of an imperative for marketers to work with trusted partners to ensure customers’ data is secure.


Overwhelmingly, Generation Z is looking for authenticity. 49 percent of Gen Z respondents put a lot of stock in customer reviews. Specifically, they wanted a guarantee that the reviews were written by real and genuine people. This was only a concern for 23 percent of Baby Boomers.

This goes a step further, not only do Generation Z want to know reviews are authentic, they want every online interaction to feel that way. If your site does have a security breach, Gen Z is more interested in how you react and handle the aftermath of that, than whether or not it happened. Because Generation Z shares so much of themselves online, they expect the same in return. Talking to a real person is a huge priority among this group.

Because of this need for authenticity, the old rules of marketing to younger generations no longer apply, in including the use of celebrities to sell products. Only 7% of Gen Z said celebrity endorsements would appeal to them in brand advertising

Members of Gen-Z is made up of the first true “digital natives” according to the Goldman Sachs report. Shuttestock.

Because Generation Z grew up using the Internet, their habits are vastly different from those of older generations, and if brands and website developers want to remain relevant, they would do well to factor the needs and wants of this new generation that is, according to a Goldman Sachs study, poised to eclipse millennials as an economic force in the U.S.