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Exploring the attitudes and behaviour of Gen Z students towards branded mobile apps in an emerging market: UTAUT2 model extension

Shana Axcell (Department of Academics, UCFB Wembley, Wembley, UK)
Debbie Ellis (School of Management, IT and Governance, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa)

Young Consumers

ISSN: 1747-3616

Article publication date: 5 January 2023




With the increasing mobile activity of the Generation Z market (born after 1994), marketers’ interest in this social group is rising. This research paper aims to uncover the relatively unknown attitudes and behaviour of the youth market in an emerging market, South Africa, towards branded mobile applications (apps). Previous studies on mobile marketing have focused on Generation X and Generation Y and generally with a quantitative focus.


This study is based on the theoretical framework of the unified theory of acceptance and use of technology model 2. The study used a qualitative framework with stratified focus groups, aged between 18 and 21 years old at a private tertiary institution in South Africa.


The findings indicate that these South African Gen Z participants mainly used WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, Uber and Snapchat. The participants had more positive than negative attitudes towards mobile apps. The findings also showed that privacy was a major concern for the participant’s attitudes and behaviour towards mobile apps. The findings supported the UTAUT2 model, but also discovered new themes. As a recommendation, the issue of privacy and its effect on mobile app adoption is a factor to be researched in the future. The research also provides recommendations for marketers and app developers.

Research limitations/implications

This study was of a qualitative nature, and thus, the sample size was smaller than that of a quantitative study. Future research could add to this study by increasing the sample size and adding a quantitative method such as surveys.

Practical implications

Marketers of mobile apps targeted towards the Gen Z market should aim to be convenient for their users, as well as be entertaining, functional, time-efficient while avoiding excessive in-app adverts, being honest upfront about their pricing strategy, incorporate an element of connectivity into the app and respect their privacy. This paper also provides practical recommendations for mobile app developers (targeted towards Gen Z users) including minimising notifications and updates within the app, developing a mobile app that requires less usage of data (due to the high expense of data in South Africa for the price-conscious Gen Z market) as well as less usage of memory space on the phone and incorporating universal symbols within the mobile app.


This study supported the UTAUT2 model effects of performance and effort expectancy, social influence, facilitating conditions, hedonic motivation, price value and habit on the behavioural intention of users towards a new technology, i.e. GenZ students’ attitudes and behaviour towards branded mobile apps in South Africa. However, an additional condition was discovered in this study, i.e. privacy and its impact on the attitudes and behaviour of GenZ mobile app users. Therefore, this study extends the UTAUT2 model framework. Furthermore, this study uses a qualitative design, which has not been used in previous studies, with a focus on the under-researched Gen Z market, and in particular in an emerging market, such as South Africa.



Axcell, S. and Ellis, D. (2023), "Exploring the attitudes and behaviour of Gen Z students towards branded mobile apps in an emerging market: UTAUT2 model extension", Young Consumers, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



Emerald Publishing Limited

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