Often mislabeled as millennials by many companies, Generation Z is defined as those who were born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s. Much like any other demographic, they have many characteristics that are indicative of their stage in life, but there is also one significant difference – Gen Z were the first to grow up with permanent access to the internet.
Growing up with MTV, PlayStation and MSN chat rooms, this generation are digital natives and, as a result, they have the best and most organic understanding of the modern day internet. To them, tech is normal and new innovations feel like natural progressions rather than the incredible feats that older generations often consider them to be.
This tech-savvy generation are continuing to make a huge impact on both our society and workforce. Today they are just teenagers but tomorrow they will be shaping the world as we know it.
Gen Z’s purchasing power currently stands at $44 billion, a figure that is expected to quadruple in the next two years, so leaders in CPG, financial services, tech and marketing can no longer afford to ignore them.
So how does a brand market to and communicate with the most digitally-savvy generation of all?
1 - The Power of Influencers is Real
Once upon a time, every brand was clamouring to work with a big name sporting hero or pop star but today we are welcoming a new wave of celebrities. Social media influencers are just as their name suggests: a group of individuals with a high-profile digital presence across various areas of interest (e.g. fashion or gaming) who have gained prominence online through their content creation.
An influencer’s greatest weapon is their ability to earn a consumer’s trust. Gaining it as a digital celebrity means their recommendations seem more like friendly advice to the consumer than a strategic marketing ploy.
And they really do have power. Studies show that Gen Zers are more inclined to relate to their favourite YouTube stars and Instagram influencers than traditional celebrities. 67% of those surveyed also said that they prefer to see real people in advertisements, which partly explains why influencer marketing is so impactful.
Brands that form partnerships with influencers are often viewed favourably by this generation, as they start to be associated with their favourite online stars. However, while they have come to expect that influencers will make money by partnering with brands, they still count on digital celebs’ authenticity.
Disguising paid posts as genuine endorsements will leave them feeling like the wool is being pulled over their eyes, losing their trust and custom. So, ensuring these partnerships are transparent is a must for winning their long-term loyalty.
An easy way to ensure your campaigns are authentic and effective is to enlist the help of an influencer marketing agency. Drawing on their expertise, you can find the perfect influencer to represent your brand and put your products in front of the right audience.
2- Ads Must Be Authentic & Meaningful
Gen Zers are tuned into the internet enough to realise when a brand isn’t being honest or authentic. Whilst they love to see your brand working with their favourite digital faces, overexposure can leave them disenchanted.
While it is important for brands to create sponsored content, relying too heavily on an influencer suggests a lack of ability to generate great internal content as well as potentially damaging the influencer’s reputation.
What’s more, as the only generation to have never experienced life without mobile phones or the internet, they are extremely switched on when it comes to digital advertising. Despite spending over seven hours a day on their phones, they don’t sit through ads and they don’t give sponsored content the time of day but they do care about value.
Whether it’s entertainment, information or tutorials, they look for the channels and websites that give them exactly what they need. If you make this too hard to find, they will simply move on to the next one.
3- Make Your Business Instagrammable
Being Instagram-worthy is now a fashionable thing for brands in the eyes of Gen Z.
According to Y Pulse’s statistics, 41% of 13-34-year olds have done something just to get a photo of it on social media, so why not use this to your brand’s advantage?
People have always been socially aware of what others think and digital media only serves to amplify this further. So, focus on making every touchpoint beautiful, easy to use and a conversation piece, so that consumers can’t help but snap a picture or two to add to their own personal profiles.
Whether you do this through an interesting art installation, a moving social media campaign or a PR stunt that gets everyone talking, make sure your brand speaks loud and clear, so that Gen Zers hear it above the noise.
4 - Experiences are the New Cultural Currency
It’s pretty simple when you think about it - experiences are more shareable than products. So, for younger consumers who grew up during the credit crunch, a unique event has more social currency than a new possession. In fact, according to Y Pulse, “91% of 13-33 year-olds say they would rather share a picture of an event on social media than buy new clothing or accessories.”
Retail brands that were once sought-after by young shoppers are now finding big experiences are their new competition. The idea of shopping as a leisure activity in and of itself is fading, with many Gen Zers saying they would be far more likely to visit stores if they offered a wider experience.
Having grown up around shopping centres that offer an array of activities, such as bowling, cinemas and retail shops, experiential brands feel like a natural progression for them. So, if you offer little more incentive to shop than only the product itself, you may want to reconsider your approach.
Ultimately, Gen Z know that online stores, such as Amazon, are a one-stop shop for practical purchasing, so they need a greater incentive to venture beyond it. For example, Nordstrom’s new store will serve beer and coffee but won’t stock clothes. They’re taking consumer experience up a notch in a bid to bring shoppers back to department stores (one of Gen Z & Millennials’ least favourite places to shop).
From setting up a coffee shop to running an occasional pop-up, ensure that your brand has something beyond pure retail to offer to those living within the experience economy. It is now becoming essential not only to young people themselves but also to the future success of bricks and mortar retail.
5 - It’s Not What You’re Selling, It’s What You Can Do For Them
Having grown up in a world filled with bloggers, vloggers and social media stars, many Gen Zers see the idea of pursuing a career as an influencer as a viable alternative to graduating from university. They’ve seen how easy it can be and the great fortunes it can bring, so they certainly aren’t afraid to go for it.
Therefore, with this new confidence to go it alone, they know that they are more than just consumers, they are potential business partners or even competitors. If they succeed in their quest for digital fame, these young adults may just be the people who provide you with access to millions of new customers, so always think of how you empower, help and collaborate with them.
6 - Keep It Short and Sweet
The average attention span of a Gen Z consumer is just eight seconds. That’s right. You have just a matter of seconds to capture their attention and explain why they should engage with your content.
Whether you want them to click through to your website, like your post or watch a video, you need to find the best way to show them why they should care about what you’re saying and how it helps or entertains them.
7 - Practice What You Preach
With this generation of young activists and ‘doers’, brands need to show that they practice exactly what they preach. For Gen Z, it’s not enough to simply say you care about the planet, it’s about what you’re exactly doing to save the planet.
In fact, one study showed that 76% were concerned about humanity’s impact on the planet and 60% want their jobs to impact the world. For them, it’s all about making a real change.
If you are thinking of running another big-talk campaign, think again. This generation are smart enough to know what is real and what is a marketing ploy. What’s more, if you can prove you really are invested in something meaningful, they are more likely to stand by your brand both now and in the future.
8 - They’re an Online-Only Generation
The idea that the high street is slowly dying is no secret. Over the last few years, we’ve said goodbye to major brands, such as BHS, and seen companies shut down a huge number of their stores. Why? Online shopping, of course, but COVID-19 could well accelerate the decline, as we’ve been forcibly accustomed in recent months to shop almost exclusively via the internet.
55% of Gen Z would rather buy clothes online and 53% would also opt to buy books and electronics from a website than in store. This is a huge statistic and provides a real insight into the future of the high-street. If brands continue to neglect the online world, there really is no hope of connecting with the generation of tomorrow.
As well as online shopping, experience also plays a huge part in consumer shopping activity. Whilst it is true that Gen Z prefer online shopping, experience stores are crucial in providing an experience and encourages shoppers into traditional bricks and mortar stores.
Huge brands and stores such as 5 Carlos Way, Selfridges and even Gymshark have all had pop-up spaces. And in doing so, these have gone on to create more personable relationships with customers and as a result, brand advocacy.
Overall, it’s important for brands to realise that Gen Z are more than just a bunch of kids. They are having a huge impact on society and it simply can’t be ignored.
Yes, they are harder to excite, their average attention span is far shorter than any generation before and they demand so much more but, if you pique and sustain their interest, it can be a key part of your future success. As a digitally connected generation, they can make for some of the most loyal and profitable customers.
So, next time you revisit your marketing strategy, consider how you’re reaching out to Gen Z and ensure you’re covering these key pointers.
Contact our team of experts today to find out exactly how to target Gen Z.