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Think With Google: Gen-Z Teens Are Moving From Texting To Messaging Apps

It's part of the reason that chatbots resonate so deeply with the younger demographic.

A majority of Gen-z teens (52 percent) say they spend three or more hours per day on messaging apps — but texting doesn’t rank in their top three mobile activities at all, according to a new report from Think With Google.

It isn’t a surprise that teens are devoting their time to apps: In fact, over 80 percent of all mobile time is estimated to be spent in apps across the board. But the move away from texting and toward “messaging” — which can be either a primarily visual medium like on Snapchat and Houseparty or a text based one — does represent a significant shift in the way younger generations prefer to communicate.

“Teens are moving from texting to messaging apps and from shopping on desktop computers to shopping on their phones,” TWG’s report states. “While millennials were mobile pioneers, teens are mobile natives.”

The Chatbot Connection

So, what do brands need to know about communicating with these mobile natives based on their messaging preferences?

Real-time matters: Part of the appeal of messaging apps is the feeling of connecting in real time: Pretty much across the board, users can see when a photo or message has delivered, been opened, and when a respondent is typing or sending a response. Plenty also enable video chat.

This expectation for real-time, one-to-one conversation is part of the reason that chatbots have become so successful with teens in particular — and brands can take advantage. Take, for example, CoverGirl’s “KalaniBot,” a chatbot inspired by one of the brand’s key influencers. People engage with the bot to ask questions about products on social media — and the KalaniBot now sees 14x more engagement than the actual live Kalani did when she engaged in promotions on Instagram and Snapchat.

Mobile video is a must-have: We’ve seen how both these messaging apps and social media platforms with message functionality (Instagram Direct, Snapchat) are making communication more heavily image-focused. But the stats support the primacy of video in communications, too: 71 percent of teens spend three or more hours per day watching videos online — and many of those videos have a brand tie-in.

As such, embracing the visual aspect of brand storytelling is more important to capturing the attention of image-attuned Gen-z teens than ever. As thirteen-year-old Grace concluded in the report, “when you buy stuff online, you obviously look for pictures. You get more of a feel for something. Most times, I wouldn’t buy something if [I couldn’t see it in action].”