Gen Z & Millennials

Meet Southeast Asia’s Gen Z

Written on:
March 23, 2022
Sonia Elicia D'Silva

Generation Z (Gen Z) has grown up in a digital world, saturated by technology - Their ability to connect, convene, and create disruption via their smartphones and keyboards is making global impact. The cultural forces that affect the lives of Gen Zs are intensely powerful, whether it’s to meme-responses or TikTok dance challenges or embracing music that resonates with their values — the ways in which these digitally native, highly engaged individuals are responding is, in turn, shaping culture. In this study, we uncover quick insights that have gone into shaping Southeast Asia’s Gen Z – their digital habits, attitudes about technology and general lifestyle behaviour. This influential generation embraces their own influence and march toward change, finding allies at every turn. 

The endless scroll

As the digitally native generation growing up with smartphones and social media, constant innovation in technology has prompted Gen Zs to develop their own behaviours and preferences - They are connected, unrestrained by geography or time zones.  Our study found that 60% of Gen Z individuals across Southeast Asia spend more than six hours on their mobile phones every day. Daily uses of the device include watching videos on YouTube (88%), scrolling through Facebook (76%), Instagram (71%) and TikTok (63%).

Our study also showed that majority (80%) of those that follow the news regularly use social media as their primary source to stay updated.  The use of social media as a news source has sparked concerns, with its spread of fake news and the ability for anyone to act as a reporter - And just above half (53%) of Gen Zs have expressed that they ‘’somewhat trust’’ the mainstream media.

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Regular online messaging doesn’t come as a surprise - Popular apps like Facebook Messenger (61%), Instagram Messenger (43%) and WhatsApp (40%) are being regularly used on average across SEA. However, certain home-grown messaging apps like Zalo are used by the majority (79%) in Vietnam. 

Our study also showed that 61% of Southeast Asian’s Gen Zs prefer using mobile apps instead of browsers. However, the reality is that most mobile apps tend to get orphaned if there is no continuous need for them and it is crucial to devise a strategy that encourages repeated use, with optimal UX/UI

In-person connections mean just as much

Being digital natives doesn’t mean Gen Zs are digitally exclusive – they value in-person connections just as much, with 94% regionally expressing that maintaining physical interactions with friends and family is very or somewhat important to them. In fact, 83% have a group of friends that they meet regularly (at least once a month). 

81% of Gen Z survey respondents agreed with the statement “I value personal time more than the money I earn.” This sentiment may evolve as Gen Zs take on more life responsibilities. However, the value system is evident and should be a focal point in understanding how to communicate with this influential demographic.

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Consumer Preferences

Gen Zs are now setting the pace for popular culture and trends, making brands and marketers track this generation closely. By 2025, they will make up a quarter of the Asia–Pacific (APAC) region’s population. Our study showed they have distinct preferences and their relationship with retailers has moved decisively online (66%) and a significant part is mediated through mobile (85%). In fact, 78% of Gen Zs regionally expressed that they strongly/somewhat agree that ‘it is best if everything can be purchased online in the future.’ Our study also highlighted that these digital natives predominantly purchase clothing & accessories (63%), beauty products (44%) and food & beverages (40%) online regularly. 

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We received mixed responses across the region when respondents were asked if they preferred local or international brands —perhaps indicative of the globalized market they have experienced their entire lives. Supporting local is more apparent in countries like Vietnam and Philippines. However, in Singapore, those who care about where the brands are based typically have a preference towards international brands, even despite the Singapore government's efforts to promote supporting local in recent years.

Word of mouth and peer recommendations influence new places to dine

Gen Zs in Singapore dine out the most regularly amongst its Southeast Asian counterparts with over a third (36%) dining out at least 3 times a week. However, those in Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines predominantly dine out less than once a week, with just over a quarter dining out 1-2 times weekly. 

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Gen Zs connectivity is not to be rivalled – Recommendations from family/friends (57%), Online reviews (44%) and reviews on social channels (30%) top the list on how Gen Zs look for new places to dine. 

These are just a few takeaways from this influential demographic. More can be found on Milieu’s consumer profiling platform, Portraits, providing detailed insights that have gone into shaping Southeast Asia’s Gen Zs - their behaviours and attitudes, their view towards media and brands, the future of work and what it means to organisations seeking an understanding to their retail consumption and technology trends. 


Based on Milieu surveys with N=500 16-25 year olds each in Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and The Philippines (Overall N= 2,500) conducted in February 2022. Margin of error is +/- 4 per cent with a 95 per cent confidence level.

Milieu Insight is one of the leading online survey platform and market research companies in Singapore, assisting businesses in thriving amidst data-centric strategies.

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