KUALA LUMPUR: Generation Z consumers in Malaysia don't bother to differentiate between the online and offline worlds and may even feel more comfortable chatting with friends via apps than face-to-face, according to a new report.

A study by OMD Malaysia, Media Prima and Epinion looked at the behaviour, attitudes and media habits of this group, based on a survey of 325 online respondents aged 13-21.

This found that the majority of this age group owned a mobile phone, including 79% of 13-15 year olds, and described it as having become "an extension of the person, a body part of Gen Z" and a gateway to the wider world.

Their reliance on this device is such that they were dubbed "digitally popular, physically awkward", as they enjoyed staying at home with family and being online.

That awkwardness also manifested itself in the discovery that they were more at ease talking to their friends via an app than in person. But even there half (52%) reported that they preferred to express their feelings via stickers, emoticons and emojis.

"It's vital for us to remember that Gen Z doesn't distinguish between a digital world and a physical world, they simply blend into one," said Margaret Lim, managing director of OMD Malaysia.

"Whereas Gen X or Y may have looked to physical human interaction and human connection to validate their behaviour, Gen Z looks mainly to their online world – it's through this world that their behaviour and personalities are being defined," she told Marketing Interactive.

Gen Z is very active on social media, using an average of 3.75 social networks per week. And 91% also said they followed brands on social media.

TV remains an important connection to the physical world, as 31% of respondents listed this as their main source of news and current affairs, while 37% said it was their main source of entertainment. And while the latter might be unexpected, the report cautioned that "we must remember that they go where the content is".

Data sourced from Marketing Interactive; additional content by Warc staff