It seems like only yesterday that we were all discussing how brands could capture the attention of millennial consumers. And suddenly, just like that, millennials are pushing 30 and there’s a whole new generation with their own income, their own tastes and their own needs. A marketer’s work is never done!
We’ll take a dive today into the many strategies marketers are using to communicate with this incredibly powerful and diverse group of young people. But first, let’s clear up a few things about who they are.
Mapping Out Generation Z
It’s important to establish who exactly we’re talking about when we refer to “Gen Z” before we discuss how to market to them. Who are the people making up this new generation?
Some of the key facts about Generation Z include:
- Sources vary on what specific birth years define Gen Z, but most place them in the approximate range of 1996 to 2010.
- They make up a quarter of the U.S. population and, by 2020, they’ll account for 40 percent of all consumers.
- Gen Z represents $44 billion of consumer purchasing power in the U.S., and that’s only going to go up as they enter the workforce.
- They grew up during the tech boom, many with screens in hand, and most can barely remember a time before smartphones.
- Smartphones are their preferred media devices, with the average Gen Z member clocking 4 hours of smartphone use per week.
- News outlets have tried out different generational names for them, such as “iGen” and “post-millennials,” but so far only “Generation Z” has really stuck.
In short: Gen Z is huge, influential and notably different from many generations who have come before. There’s a lot at stake there for any business, so how do you go about winning them over?
1. Tailoring your strategies to the platform
Social media is a powerful tool but treating it as a monolith is one way to quickly establish your brand as out-of-touch. Sure, Facebook is an advertising powerhouse, but studies show that its popularity is on the wane among users under 24. If you’re trying to reach Gen Z, it’s important to meet them on their turf.
For many advertisers, that means three big platforms: Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. These three are a mainstay of Gen Z’s social culture, and each has its own set of norms that can be confusing to navigate for those who aren’t steeped in them. The best way to dive in is to learn from the brands who do it successfully and build on—not copy—their techniques.
2. Making your marketing personalized
In the age of AI and hyper-segmented markets, there’s no longer any excuse not to be personalizing your advertising. A Salesforce survey reports that 75 percent of Gen Z and millennials want to do business with companies that offer highly personalized engagement and, in many cases, they’re willing to collaborate with marketers by providing their data for it.
The ad targeting that social media like Facebook and Instagram offer is a great start, but it’s old hat by this point and many brands are branching out further. Email marketing has become a hot option because of its ability to speak directly to a single consumer, even greeting them by name in the subject line. Heavy hitters like Amazon and Netflix have made sizable investments in personalized recommendation algorithms, and these are vital for marketers to understand because they offer a great way to get your brand in front of the consumer. Finally, customer loyalty programs are hardly new either, but they offer another opportunity to increase your brand’s personal connection with notoriously brand-agnostic Gen Z consumers.
3. Integrating your product, your marketing and your values
Many members of Gen Z have lived almost their entire lives in the public eye, and they’re not shy about expressing their opinions on a variety of social issues. So it’s perhaps not surprising that one survey found that 50 percent of Gen Z consider a brand’s social stances when choosing what to buy. Brands like Lush, TOMS and Beyond Meat have already swooped in and captured significant market shares by highlighting their social values.
However, advertisers should employ this strategy with great care—just ask Pepsi. When the soda giant released an ad featuring reality star Kendall Jenner handing out its product at a street protest, the Internet backlash was swift and merciless. If you’re not a member of Gen Z yourself, it can be difficult to gauge what will and won’t come off as inauthentic, so it’s important to align your marketing with your organization’s core values rather than simply choosing something that’s popular.
4. Offering convenience, safety and pragmatism
One common Gen Z trait that many didn’t see coming: risk aversion. These young adults and teenagers are significantly less likely to drink and use drugs than their predecessors, and they’re also building savings accounts at younger ages. For a generation that grew up as the American economy struggled through the Great Recession, it makes sense.
That doesn’t mean, however, that they want to work any harder than necessary to get what they want. Hyper-convenience is the new trend, exemplified by services like Amazon Prime and Postmates. If your brand isn’t making things as convenient as humanly possible for its customers, expect a cool reception from Gen Z.
These traits can actually work together quite well if your brand makes the commitment to addressing them. For one thing, omnichannel commerce is a virtual necessity in marketing to a generation that demands the things they want, when and where they want them. Also, pay attention to trends like the confluence in explosive growth between takeout apps and media streaming services. These trends increasingly point toward a preference for a comfortable and enjoyable home life over one lived in the limelight.
A new generation has arrived and they’ve amply demonstrated their willingness to spend on the products and services that enrich their lives. Winning them over will certainly require embracing new technologies, but it will also reward mastery of the marketing professional’s evergreen skill set: story-telling, self-awareness and empathy. Make sure you’re up to snuff on those, and the rest will follow.
Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.