Say hello to Gen Z: today’s newest, youngest, and largest consumer generation. The group generally includes those born from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s (aged 13–23). They number nearly 2.5 billion and represent $44 billion in buying power, which makes them the next consumer group that you’ll need to know how to interact with.
If you haven’t yet thought about who Gen Z is, where to reach them, and how to talk to them, it’s time to start. And we’re here to help.
1. Know who they are.
Half of this generation hasn’t even reached 18 yet. The other half is just starting to think about major life changes like choosing a college, finding a career, getting married, and deciding where to live once they move out of their parents’ house. They also come from mixed families and from a broad range of cultural and social backgrounds.
Like any other generation, Gen Zers are more likely to buy from you if your values align with theirs. 45% choose eco-friendly, socially responsible brands. They’re open-minded, they care about diversity and equality, and 60% of them want to change the world for the better. They’re also interested in entrepreneurship and finding success through a different kind of career. Your marketing should tap into that and show them how you can help them achieve their goals.
2. Understand their buying power.
Gen Zers watched their parents go through tough recessions, so they tend to be careful with their money and are more likely to have started working as teenagers. Younger Gen Zers may not be working yet (although they’re starting earlier), so their money comes from gifts, allowances, or part-time jobs. Over half of this disposable income goes toward clothes, books, music, apps, and entertainment. Keep that in mind if you’re trying to sell something different.
But don’t discount Gen Zers who are keeping an eye on their wallets—93% of Gen Z’s parents say their kids influence their family spending. This level of influence comes back to their ability to access information. They aren’t just looking at price tags: Gen Zers research peer reviews, online reviews, and product comparisons (most often food and drink, furniture, and household goods). Once they’ve found a product that satisfies them, they recommend it to their parents.
3. Earn their trust.
Gen Z’s attitudes have been shaped by news coverage. They’re growing up in a post-9/11 world, and they’ve seen a staggering number of other traumatic events, both locally and globally, in the years since. Social media has also given them more exposure to current events and world news during their formative years than any other generation. As a result, they value their online privacy and security even more than previous generations.
Gen Zers are wary of traditional advertising. In fact, 69% think ads are disruptive, and 67% actively tune them out. They’re also careful about sharing personal information (like health, location, and payment data) online. So how do you reach them?
The key is authenticity. When you’re advertising, keep it natural. Show your human side. Tell followers what you stand for and what matters to you. Use social media to start a conversation and look for ways to include real people and human diversity. Behind-the-scenes looks at your business are a great way to show the people behind the brand. If you support local causes, put a spotlight on that, too; people like having a reason to feel good about their buying behaviours.
4. Speed up your website.
People are impatient, no matter what generation they belong to. Having a slow-loading website or other digital experience is a big no-no. Our collective attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds over the last 18 years, and it’s only shrinking.
This is especially true for Gen Zers. They were raised with modern technology, so they’re used to a seamless experience. They’ve never known a world without the internet, so they’re more easily frustrated by technical glitches or delays. If a website takes too long to load, they’ll likely just leave and find what they’re looking for somewhere else.
To solve this, make sure your website is fast, content is concise, and people can reach you when they need to. If you’re selling a product online, you could also add a live chat feature to answer questions right away. And track how people are behaving on your site and identify what you can do better. Google Analytics is a great way to see how much time people spend on your site and how they move around it.
5. Spend time where they do.
Yup, we’re talking about social media. It matters more than ever for this generation, but you need to focus your efforts where it makes sense. While Gen Z is on Facebook, they think of it as a platform for their moms and dads. They tend to spend more of their time on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
But their platform of choice is Snapchat. Over use Snapchat at least 11 times per day, and 21% say that Snapchat affects their buying decisions. That’s more than twice as much as millennials. Generally, they prefer using messaging apps to keep people posted about their lives instead of making permanent status updates.
Social media marketing is a great way to reach Gen Zers. However, because Gen Zers are skeptical of advertising, you’ll want to focus on starting conversations and telling stories instead of going for the direct sell. The various platforms have adjusted their algorithms so users aren’t being bombarded with ads. If you want to be seen, you need to post relevant content that people want to interact with.
You can’t afford to ignore ads, either, but some platforms also have restrictions around directly advertising to people under 18. Organic marketing will help you avoid that problem until you can back it up with paid ads.
6. Keep it visual.
You’ve heard it before, maybe even from us: video is vital. That’s true for all audiences, really. When you’re developing a content strategy, account for the fact that Gen Zers would rather watch a short video than read long-form content. At the very least, you should be providing the same information in both formats.
On social media, you need to attract attention quickly while people are scrolling through their feeds. If your video doesn’t hook them immediately, they’ll move on. Keep it short, about 6–15 seconds. You can always post a shorter version and direct people to watch the full-length video on your website. Make sure you’re creating different video for different platforms, too: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all have their own video sizes.
And don’t forget to think about the difference between mobile and desktop. Mobile videos should be square or vertical, and desktop should be horizontal. You’ll also want to keep in mind things like font size, if your video includes text; it’ll be harder to read on a smaller screen.
7. Create a great mobile experience.
Gen Z is the first fully digital generation. They grew up with tablets, smartphones, and a high-speed internet connection. 75% of Gen Zers prefer using mobile to desktop, and they spend more than five hours on their phone each day. They use it for everything from texting, email, and social media to games, shopping, and entertainment. That’s why it’s essential to have a mobile-enhanced experience on all your digital platforms.
Think about how people will use the site on their phones and adjust accordingly. Your site should be responsive, which means it resizes itself to fit devices and browsers of all sizes. Make sure your calls to action are highly visible. If you have an app, it should be extremely intuitive. Simply put, make your digital user experience as easy as possible so people can see everything easily and don’t have to guess what to do next.
This information actually applies to everyone, not just Gen Z. The rest of the world has been quick to adopt smartphones, too. If you aren’t thinking about users’ mobile experience, you’re missing out on a huge segment of your current and potential customers.
8. Team up with influencers.
In the past, marketers used celebrity spokespeople to influence people’s perceptions. We still do that today, but with social media being so powerful, the concept of “celebrity” has taken on a new definition. Micro-influencers—as a general rule, people with at least 2,000 highly engaged followers—have emerged on social media and other digital platforms as incredibly powerful opportunities for brands to collaborate.
People don’t trust major brands as much as they used to. We trust people. In fact, peers are ranked as the #3 trusted source of information (right behind technical and academic experts) when we’re forming opinions about brands. Gen Zers are drawn to influencers because they see those people as peers; in fact, many influencers are Gen Zers themselves.
If you ask an influencer to publicly talk about your product or service, their followers can’t help but listen. The trick is to find an influencer who naturally fits with your brand—remember, the message has to be authentic!
Our goal is to help you understand how the Gen Z age group is likely to interact with businesses like yours. But it’s important to recognize that generations are just groups of people bound by shared social, economic, political, or technological events that shaped the society they grew up in. Gen Z may be young, and they may be better at Snapchat than the rest of us, but they’re also humans with an incredibly diverse range of beliefs, values, and motivations.
Instead of making assumptions about Gen Z as a whole, target a segment of that generation based on factors like motivations, goals, and behaviours. Talk to them, ask what they want from you, and put yourself in their shoes to figure out why they might want what you offer. At the end of the day, the best way to reach the group is to understand the individual.
Gen Z represents change, and change is constant. New platforms, social networks, algorithms, and technologies are emerging every day. Even Gen Z itself is changing over time: as they grow up, their values and behaviours will evolve. It’s hard to keep up with what’s current, but you have to if you want to stay competitive. We hope this article will help you do that!