Generation Z–What Brands Need to Know

By Electric Pen

Without a doubt, Generation Z—loosely those born between 1997 and 2010—is more open-minded than any generation before them. They are far more tolerant of individual differences and preferences, celebrating the human spectrum in all its variations. They are racially and sexually diverse, extremely socially conscious, and hypersensitive to equality. Rejecting gender categories and reserving judgment, they are defined by their refusal to be defined.

According to the census, Gen Z will comprise about 32 percent of the world’s population by the end of this year. With an estimated 40% of all consumer shopping and close to $100 billion in spending, this undeniable buying power is mind-blowing!

Generation Z was born into a digital world, one where the internet was always available to them. Having grown up entirely with smartphones and social media, they are the most tech-fluent generation to date. With a uniqueness all their own, we, as marketers, need to grasp what makes them tick so we can reach out, and ultimately engage with, them. So, here are a few suggestions:

Be Human.

Generation Z demands authenticity. Gen Zers do not need a large number of followers on their social platforms, preferring smaller groups of close-knit followers. Micro-influencers—influencers who are real people with followings of 1,000 to 10,000—are more valued sources for Gen Zers than mega-influencers and celebrities. Their insistence for transparency and trust has led to a decline in celebrity endorsements. Gen Zers make friends both in-person and online and appreciate each type of friendship. This is why genuine interactions between influencers and fans are key to Gen Zers as they search for trusted sources to guide their purchase decisions.

Provide Value.

Growing up in a national financial recession has changed the way Gen Zers view money. They learned the meaning of money through watching their parents’ struggles and are more fiscally practical and realistic than previous generations were at their age. They tend to start saving money and paying off student debt as soon as they can. Highly informed, this generation demands that their brand deliver the best product or service at the best price.

Support Local Causes, Make a Difference.

Gen Z is the generation of tolerance and inclusion. They want their jobs to make the world a better place and are worried about people’s effect on the earth. Likewise, they care about how their brands contribute to the social good. Brands may need to consider developing more robust programs that help people, communities, and the environment. Show that you are inclusive and can see the bigger picture in today’s global world. Just make sure that if you are talking the talk, you’re marching the walk.

Be Everywhere, but Put Mobile First.

Gen Zers use, on average, five different devices: phone, laptop, tablet, desktop, and TV. Create mobile-friendly material that they can access across a variety of screen sizes. And keep in mind that if an ad appears on one device, they may likely turn to another.

Understand How They Shop.

Gen Zers tend to learn about new products on Instagram, with 45 percent using it for brand discovery. They then do product research, and once they decide to make a purchase, many head into brick-and-mortar stores, where they are likely to share their shopping experiences via Snapchat (AdWeek). To reach Gen Z, this means retailers need to make their in-store displays interesting enough to share. When shopping online, Gen Zers consider the entire purchasing experience—a visually appealing online presence, speed of delivery, and the ability to give feedback.

Don’t Waste Their Time.

Gen Zers don’t have an eight-second attention span but rather an eight-second filter. This superpower to avoid info overload enables them to swiftly determine what has value and relevance. To accommodate this, you need to engage them immediately, quickly get to the heart of your message, tell them why they should care, and how it will help/entertain them.

Gen Zers are highly discriminating and advertising-adverse; if you put too many obstacles in their way, they’ll move on. According to Forbes, the ability to find things quickly is a critical aspect of Gen Z shopping so brands must ensure that their online runs effortlessly and intuitively. They want what they want (whether it is information or entertainment), and this leads to extremely high expectations for any brand that covets their business. Focus less on how you can sell to them and more on how you can help them.

Provide Exceptional Customer Care.

Customer service—in particular, timely and individualized care—is incredibly important, especially on social media. This will become even more critical as this generation grows into its buying power.

Give Them a Reason to Trust You.

This post-911 generation has grown up in a world of high-security, where lockdown drills are standard protocols at school, making them inherently cautious and alert. When making purchasing decisions, the naturally skeptical Gen Z uses discretion and practices caution. To win a Gen Zer’s trust, brands need to focus on proving why they are deserving of it.

Recognizing and meeting the needs of Generation Z, brands need to put integrity first and form relationships with them that are anchored with respect. Your message must be intelligent, thoughtful, and inclusive. The brands that truly understand what drives them as human beings will be the ones with an advantage when Gen Z fully comes into their own.