Best practices for conducting Gen Z research: How to engage youth audiences in surveys

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Posted May 03, 2023
Bridget Milnes

The exuberance of youth! It is refreshing and their passion and excitement about the world and their interests permeate the older generations as they drive the future. The youth of society has been a driving force for cultural change since time immemorial. 

In the market research industry, we have been trying to predict how generation after generation will change our world. We can’t see the future, but we can get closer to understanding what could be by collecting deeper insights into younger generations that are beginning to make buying decisions,  like Gen Z, who, born between 1997 and 2013,  currently range from ages 10–25. To do that properly, it’s important to conduct well-thought-through and effective research. That begins with us creating surveys designed for youth audiences.

How do you do, fellow kids gif

Tips for conducting research with younger audiences

Younger people like being asked their opinions on things. They want to be involved and provide feedback, especially about subjects they care about. The big BUT is that younger generations are digital natives and are accustomed to things that will grab and hold their attention for a short period of time before moving on to the next thing that captures their interest. Younger respondents are also more likely to multitask while answering survey questions, thus splitting their attention. Therefore, fielding surveys with teens and younger kids is more successful when the questionnaire is written in an engaging and simple manner to ensure you’re collecting the best data possible. 

Brevity

Try to use a “less is more” approach if you can. Eliminate unnecessary questions and strive to be clear and concise. Short surveys with basic, brief language are key here.

Engaging topics

It’s a lot easier when we keep away from distressing topics, but we can still engage young people on even more serious issues if we have parental permission. Oh, and it should go without saying to always treat the topics and the respondents with respect and dignity. 

Design for mobile

Remember that younger people are part of a mobile-first generation—especially when they’re on the go. It’s no longer a question that surveys must be easily viewed and completed on smartphones and tablets, so be sure to optimize for mobile!

Use engaging visuals

Pay attention to how your survey looks. It may be helpful to use brighter colors and eye-catching graphics to make your survey more visually appealing. Emojis, GIFs, and other multimedia elements can be a great addition to help catch and grab attention. 

Tap into the power of video

Video is huge with younger people. In fact, they love videos! Don’t be afraid to include them to help provide additional context—but try to keep things simple. Remember that higher loading times can create higher drop-offs, so stick with the essentials. 

Make it fun

Use interactive features like rating scales with emojis, stars, or something that can be engaging without being confusing. Take special care to meet younger respondents in their world and try to create a fun and delightful experience for them!

What to avoid in Gen Z research

Remember that younger respondents will likely have less patience for things that are boring. They won’t share their thoughts with you if you can’t engage them. 

So, say NO to a lot of your useful question types:

NO to lots of Likert scales

Gen Z audiences seem to find it boring and tedious to answer tons of Likert scale questions. Try breaking these questions up if you have lots of them in your survey or consider substituting some of them with slider questions instead. 

NO to lots repetitive questions

Similar to the first one, it’s best to simply avoid anything that may come off as repetitive. Even if the question feels slightly different to you, it may feel like the exact same question to a younger respondent. So try to approach this nuance from different angles and question types.  

NO to open ends

Open-ended questions can overwhelm younger respondents. They often struggle to come up with what to say. We suggest avoiding open ends altogether. But if you must, try to frame them in ways that feel conversational. Instead of asking, “What inspires you?”, try something like, “Tell us about a time when you felt really inspired.”

NO to long lists.

Long lists can be difficult for adults but for younger respondents, they can be absolutely daunting. It’s a good idea to try breaking lists up into shorter, more manageable pieces if you can.

NO to negative phrasing. 

Avoiding negative phrasing is a usual best practice but it’s even more important when surveying young people. Instead of asking a question like, “What do you dislike about this product?”, consider asking, “What could be improved about this product to make it even better?”

Remember to keep parents in mind

It’s also important to remember that you may need to get permission from a parent or guardian before handing the survey to an underage respondent. You may also need to depend on the parent to take the survey with the child’s input—which can help keep the child on task. In these situations, the parent can help guide the child or answer any questions they may have. 

In the US, for example, any children 12 and under must be recruited through the parent. Respondents who are 13–17 years old are generally available to be invited to surveys directly, as well as through their parents. For kids under 10, you should expect to design for a parent to take together with the child. Keep in mind, these age ranges can vary from country to country due to local online privacy laws for minors. All the same, thinking about the maturity level differences in ages between children, teens, and young adults is an important first step when designing your research and questionnaires.

Gen Z is the future

This is all a lot of words to say that we should be meeting the youth where they are in order to expect meaningful responses. Gen Z audiences require a thoughtful and engaging approach—something that’s fundamental to good research, regardless of who we’re interviewing. But by leaning into these best practices and avoiding common pitfalls, you’ll be able to capture fantastic insights from younger respondents. Just keep in mind that they have a lower threshold on what they’ll tolerate. 

And don't be afraid to ask for help if you’re unsure. At aytm, we can provide all kinds of support—whether it’s building a study from scratch,  or simply giving your survey a gut check before you launch! Don’t hesitate to reach out—we’re eager to lend a hand however we can!

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