For years, companies have been focused on marketing to millennials, but it’s time they also pay attention to Generation Z. Born between 1995 and 2005, this population cohort may still be young, but they're already fierce: They comprise an estimated 25 percent of the U.S. population and control $44 billion in purchasing power.
Furthermore, families have become more democratic in their decision-making, and 70 percent of Gen Zers surveyed for an IBM report said they believed they have a “strong” or “very strong” influence on their families’ purchase decisions. As these teenagers mature into adults, they are quickly becoming a powerful and influential consumer group. If marketers aren’t already thinking about Gen Z this holiday season, they should start.
When it comes to reaching these young consumers specifically, marketers should be striving to understand their preferred social media platforms, media-consumption habits, shopping preferences and world views.
If you're one of those marketers, before you start planning your marketing campaigns this holiday season, here are a few ways you can appeal to this particular demographic.
Experiment with new marketing channels.
It should be no surprise that the members of Gen Z are hyperconnected, digitally native and active on social media, but they have also witnessed numerous hacking scandals, data leaks and cyberattacks in their lifetimes. The result is that they are staunchly protective about their privacy and personal information.
It’s not uncommon, in fact, for this age group to create fake personas on Facebook and Instagram and save their real, genuine profiles for friends they trust. Understanding this “trusted circle” element is vital to how marketers can reach this group.
Specifically, Gen Z gravitates toward newer platforms like Snapchat and Instagram Stories because through those platforms they can send content to carefully curated groups of friends. Gen Z is also wary of trusting traditional advertising from brands. Instead, they rely more on recommendations from their peers, followed by those of social media influencers. So, consider using peer group influencers in your digital marketing rather than traditional celebrity endorsers.
Be cognizant of how they consume media.
Next up is media consumption. Gen Z's members still watch TV, but prefer watching on streaming services. Furthermore, Youtube is the most popular platform with this group; Gen Z watches an average of two to four hours of YouTube a day, and half say they “can’t live without it.”
To reach this younger audience, evaluate what your current media mix looks like and don’t be afraid to experiment with new channels.
Determine what percentage of your ad spend is allocated to traditional media vs. digital, and which social media platforms your brand is most active on.
Then, start testing different types of media for your ad buys, like streaming services, mobile apps, podcasts or gaming platforms.
Make shopping convenient and experiential.
Since Gen-Zers grew up in a digital world, they’ve never waited for web pages to load or for products to take more than a day or two to ship; therefore, they highly value convenience and take instant gratification to a whole new level.
When it comes to their shopping preferences, two-thirds say they’re comfortable shopping online, but still prefer to shop in-store for the instant gratification of not having to wait for their orders to arrive. Still, the shopping trend of buying online and picking up in-store is quickly gaining traction with this group.
If you’re a retailer, prioritize making both the in-store shopping experience and online and mobile user experiences as convenient and seamless as possible. Gen Zers often shop in physical stores as a social activity, so create in-store experiences that are engaging, social and entertaining. Many retailers have started hosting in-store events, incorporating interactive technologies into their fitting rooms and encouraging shoppers to share their experiences on social media.
Meanwhile, your online and mobile experiences should be easily searchable, shoppable and consistent across all devices because these youngsters are constantly splitting their time among multiple screens.
Adjust your messaging and involve them in the conversation.
Though Gen Z is young, they are a profoundly mature group. In their lifetimes, they’ve experienced terrorist attacks, economic downturns and shifts in traditional family structures. These cultural and social changes have shaped their world views and outlook on companies and other people.
Armed with nearly limitless access to information, Gen Z is the most diverse generation to date, and its members are open-minded, socially conscious and value-oriented. They are careful and deliberate when spending their money, and according to a Millennial Marketing report, 60 percent of Gen Zers in one survey said they support brands that align with their values and take a stand on social causes.
To cater to this audience, avoid telling them what to do, what to buy or what to wear. Gen Z shoppers have a strong sense of individuality and don’t want brands to define them. Fifty-eight percent say they want to make their own fashion statement and want brands to give them the tools to do so. When targeting this age group, don’t market to a certain stereotype. Instead, use messaging and imagery that represent different races, ethnicities, gender identies and body types. Design your products to accommodate an array of skin tones and sizes, too.
Finally, give Gen Zers a platform to express themselves and share their opinions. In an Accenture report, 40 percent of Gen Zers surveyed said they give feedback, such as online reviews, “very often.” Whether they’re reviewing products or experiences on websites or posting opinions on social media, they want their voices to be heard.
In your messaging, then, rather than make a demonstrative statement, pose a thought-provoking question. Pique their interest, and see how they respond. If you start an interesting conversation, odds are they will participate.
The secret to Gen Z is finding their watering holes and understanding their behaviors and mindsets. Avoid talking at them and pushing marketing messaging down their throats. Meet them where they’re at, involve them in the conversation and gain their trust. In turn, they will reward you with their dollars and loyalty.