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From Glasto to Freshers – the virtual events rocking Gen Zs’ world

The release of pent-up demand is in full swing across the US and the UK. And while Zoom quizzes may be a relic of the past, there are a few larger virtual events that Gen Zs intend to take into their futures

Having spent many pivotal moments in their living rooms – from graduations and prom to new years’ eve and the start of college – it’s not surprising that Gen Z students are raring to get back into the world. In fact, 80% of students who kicked off their college experience in the pandemic say they’ll take part in welcome events designed for the year below.

That said, the pandemic has taught us that digital-first need not be a limitation. As well as it being the safer option, many young people have expressed a preference for working or studying from home. Some forward-thinking institutions have even agreed to embrace the digital-IRL hybrid in a post-COVID world.

a zoom call

Turns out, though, Gen Zs were way ahead of us all. As a generation born into a world with increased connectivity, they’re more adept than most at switching between digital and “real-life” encounters. They’re digital natives – which doesn’t mean they spend their lives online, but does give them an innate knack for flexibility.

What does this mean? In short – things won’t go back to normal right away, at least not for Gen Zs. They’ll likely ease back into IRL, mixing and matching in-person and digital experiences. Here are just a few for you to be aware of. 

Virtual festivals

Last month, the world-famous Glastonbury Festival found a way to bring live music back into our lives – minus the usual mud, tents and crowds. The festival beamed an evening of acts around the world via a series of localized livestreams, with artists such as Coldplay, HAIM and Michael Kiwanuka taking to the stage at an otherwise-empty Worthy Farm. It was a chance for festival fans the world over to come together – and at least for now, it’s a sign of things to come.

Live music is certainly one experience that can’t be recreated digitally – but for Gen Zs, with their capacity for connectivity, these virtual gigs and concerts could exist as a companion rather than an alternative to IRL activities. With more virtual festivals coming up in the next few months, no doubt they’ll become a viable, accessible option for introverts, tech heads and more.

some young people point at a screen

Virtual freshers

At an early glance, starting college in 2021 is set to be bigger and better than ever. 77% of US students and 80% of UK students plan to take part in in-person events this year.

 Having said that, a year of digital-first life has given young consumers a real appetite for online shopping. 64% of UK students plan to continue to buy things online that they used to buy in store, and in the US, the figure is 70%.

With this in mind, young people will be on the lookout for a digital experience that still encapsulates the experiential retail that they love. Gamification is one way for brands to do this – particularly in Freshers and Back to School, when digital sharing is likely to be rife. Student Beans will also be running an interactive digital experience – the National Online Freshers Fair. More on that soon…

Student spending post UK lockdown

Virtual learning

Last but not least on the list of digital habits Gen Z students are excited to continue: virtual learning. The UK working population has reported an increase in productivity and a lack of distraction during the past year of working from home. And it’s a sentiment that’s echoed by students. Out of all the things they’re excited to resume post-lockdown, returning to in-person classes frequently comes in at the bottom of the list. Many Gen Zs – including Margaret, a nursing student – have expressed a desire to keep up a mix of in-person and digital learning even after the pandemic subsides. It’s a future-focused approach that sits well with a generation known for their mental health advocacy and digital prowess.

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