Although the oldest Gen Zs are just now graduating college or entering the workforce, the newest generation is already having a major impact on all industries. Born between 1995 and 2009, Generation Z has developed distinct qualities that are making marketers rethink their strategies for the near future.
Most largely defined as the generation of digital natives, Gen Zs spend the majority of their time in their natural habitat: online. Their adolescence was shaped and documented through social media. As a result, they are constantly consuming content across multiple social media platforms and mobile applications and are very much attached to their mobile phones.
Due to their strong relationship with new technology and their mobile devices, Gen Z’s primary means of communication and content is through mobile applications or texting. They would rather receive a direct message (DM) or text message than a phone call or email. Additionally, as they are so engrossed in their phones, Gen Zs are notorious for short attention spans.
So far, sounds like a nightmare for marketers using old, tried-and-true marketing tactics. However, according to findings by Fast Company, Generation Z will make up 40% of all consumers by 2020. Therefore, marketers hoping to stay relevant and achieve success with this up-and-coming generation must take their unique qualities into account.
Although it may feel like marketers have just had to revisit their strategies to meet the needs of Millennials, Gen Z is vastly different than their older brothers and sisters.
How Gen Z Differs from Millennials
In addition to their use of technology being second-nature, there are many traits that set Gen Z apart from their predecessors, Gen Y – also known as Millennials. Although relatively close in age, Gen Zs are very different from Millennials in how they engage with businesses and the world around them.
Unlike Gen Zs who grew up using social media and mobile technology, Millennials (born in the early 1980s to 1994) spent the majority of their childhoods without cell phones or any kind of “smart” devices. Meanwhile, Gen Zs developed alongside the internet and formed their values through their online communities and connections across the globe.
As a result, Gen Zs tend to be more politically active than Millennials and are more concerned with the ethics of businesses than any generation before them. While they witnessed Millennials vote for the legalization of gay marriage and other social-political milestones, Gen Z was raised with revolutionary movements as the norm. Therefore Gen Zs have normalized expressing their views on social media and starting trends to spread the word.
Another defining quality of Gen Z is their relationships with brands and brand loyalty, or lack thereof. They are less brand loyal than Millennials who spent their teenage years wearing pricey, trendy brands such as Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch and Victoria Secret’s PINK line. Rather, Gen Zs are more concerned with their individuality and are comfortable trying global brands.
Contributing to their lack of brand loyalty is also the fact that Gen Z grew up during the Great Recession in 2008. They spent their childhoods during this difficult economic period and have become more concerned with spending and debt than Millennials and previous generations.
Additionally, Gen Z witnessed Millennials struggle through massive debt. Millennials were raised to believe a college education was the best route to a secure future. However, many entered the job force during the worst point of the Recession and scrambled to pay off their student loans. Due to this, Gen Zs are projected to attend less expensive colleges or not go to college altogether to avoid the same fate.
10 Ways to Market to Gen Z
Effectively reaching the next generation of consumers means better understanding their needs and strategizing how to modify your marketing to better reach them. Here are 10 considerations to help you advertise your brand to Gen Z.
Reach Them Where They Are
Gen Zs are the early adopters to all social media and are heavy users of key platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. As a marketer, it is crucial to be on these social media sites and actively make updates. However, it’s not enough to just exist on these channels. It’s important to cater posts and messaging according to the type of social media (such as engaging images on Instagram and entertaining 140-character tweets) and refrain from spamming people’s feeds with only sales-driven posts.
When crafting your advertisements, focus on the benefits of your product. As a frugal generation, they want to know the value of what they are being sold and are more concerned with the results. Rather than highlighting the features or quality of your offering, explain what it can do for your customers and how it will positively impact them.
Keep Your Content Fresh
Shorter attention spans mean marketers must continuously create new, engaging content to maintain this young audience’s attention. Video content is especially popular amongst Gen Z through channels such as Youtube, Instagram stories, and the all-new, video-based application Tik Tok. Tik Tok is a fast-growing app that supports 15-second video clips and combines the editing features of Snapchat with the format of Vine for entertaining videos that are easy to consume.
Related: Producing Content that Converts
With the popularity of short-form videos and gifs (made through Instagram’s Boomerang), it’s important to mix up your social posts with short videos, cool images or even sharing user-generated content. Give your target market a reason to follow your brand with updates that are entertaining and not just sales-driven.
According to the Economic Times, 98% of Gen Z owns a smartphone. They walk around with a computer at their fingertips at all times and marketers who fail to optimize their content for mobile devices are taking themselves out of the game from the get-go. Create a mobile-first strategy to produce blogs, videos, and other content to reach digital natives.
Generation Z tends to make more informed purchasing decisions and is more likely to buy a product if they know exactly what they are getting. Be transparent about your ingredients, business practices, and mission to help consumers get to know your brand and view it as more authentic. This is especially important as this generation is more likely to take action and boycott brands that they view as unethical or do not trust.
Share Your Company Values
This younger generation wants more from their brands than dynamic features or low costs. To them, ethical business practices or sustainability are not just nice to have, they are a requirement for brands. Allow them to get to know your company by sharing your story and speaking up for your corporate values.
To illustrate this point, think of health and beauty brands that have been pushed to become cruelty-free and speak out against animal testing. CoverGirl, a highly popular cosmetic brand, just became cruelty-free at the end of 2018. As a more cost-effective brand, this was a huge milestone for staying relevant to the powerful, young consumers.
Practice What You Preach
Tech-savvy Gen Zs value honesty and openness by brands. Make sure sharing your company values with consumers and being transparent are routine practices. Thanks to social media, this generation can smell smoke quickly and find mistakes brands have made years ago.
Always own up to past mistakes and welcome feedback from customers to show you are willing to improve your practices. Remember, honesty is the best policy with this no-nonsense group.
Optimize Customer Experiences
Direct selling strategies simply don’t work how they used to when it comes to this new generation. Pushes for one-time mass sales mean less to them as they are more concerned with how they view the brand they are purchasing from. Rather than trying to make a sale, marketers should focus on generating persuasive content and forging strong relationships.
Engage with Them as Individuals
The best way to connect with Gen Zs is by engaging with them as individuals. Make sure they feel that you are attentive to their specific preferences. As ongoing, individualized communication with consumers can be difficult to sustain, tools such as AI automation can segment your audience and help you cater to your brand’s messaging based on their needs.
Create a Community
Become a voice in your community of customers and facilitate communication between them on social networks with user-generated content. Gen Zs want to hear from each other about their experiences with your products and are more likely to trust recommendations from real people.
This is particularly popular on social media platforms, such as Instagram, where influencers endorse brands by demonstrating their use cases and sharing their opinions about their products. When looking for Gen Z influencers, search for individuals from diverse backgrounds with a following that embodies your target audience’s values. Additionally, try to build a long-term relationship with these influencers with two-way communication. The more genuine your brand interacts with the community, the more successful you will be.