If you haven’t been paying attention to the next generation of consumers — the tweens, teens and young adults you see glued to their mobile devices, it’s time you did! Gen Z, born between about 1997 and 2012, is the developed world’s largest-ever generation of consumers. Many haven’t even earned a paycheck yet, but these economic powerhouses wield more influence over how their parents and peers spend money than any previous generation. A 2018 Barkley study found that Gen Z’s buying power lands in the stratosphere of $143 billion — yes, billion, in direct spending, plus another few hundred billion in influencer spending. So, who are these young consumers, and how are they different than previous generations?
Gen Z Explained
Gen Z is the first generation to grow up in an entirely post-digital world where smartphones, social media and free Wi-Fi are the norms. In contrast, some of their predecessors, Millennials, came of age when many of these technologies were still in development or just emerging. Here are a few noteworthy Gen Z traits research has revealed:
- Gen Z has never known a time when they couldn’t simply Google something or ask Siri when they needed answers.
- Gen Z is likely to be the most photographed generation yet.
- Gen Z is on track to be the most educated and racially and ethnically diverse generation yet, according to a 2020 Pew Research Center study.
Gen Z on Social Responsibility & Equality
Research has repeatedly revealed that Gen Z cares deeply about gender, racial and LGBTQ equality, ethics, and social responsibility. Gen Z “puts their money where their mouth is” in that they support brands that align with their values. These globally connected buyers want brands to take a stand on social responsibility issues. They have grown up with instant access to information and value transparency. As a result, they know immediately when a brand makes a legitimate or perceived mistake — and they won’t hesitate to turn their backs on such brands.
The Takeaway: Make a genuine commitment to transparency and equality within your organization. Now is the time if you haven’t engaged in cause marketing (aligning your brand with a logically correlating nonprofit or cause).
Gen Z Lives & Shops Online
Gen Z lives online and doesn’t necessarily differentiate between online-only friends and in-person friends. Marketers should take note that Gen Z shops online — a lot. A 5WPR 2021 Consumer Report found that 77% of Gen Z survey respondents said “shopping online allows them to buy products from new or small companies they couldn’t find in-store.” They are also turning to reseller sites such as Poshmark.com where they can buy gently used clothing. Thrift stores have also seen an uptick in Gen Z buyers as well. We’ll explain why in a moment.
The Takeaway: Be where Gen Z shoppers are on social media and make mobile browsing and shopping seamless. However, don’t hesitate to offer combined virtual and in-person marketing experiences.
Gen Z & Brand Loyalty
Gen Z differs in their brand loyalty from Millennials and previous generations in how they find value. Millennials tended to be very brand conscious and displayed their fashion sense by the brands they wore and supported. Pinning down value for Gen Z is a moving target for a few reasons. For some, value simply means low-priced. The constant pressure to rock a new look for each of those countless social media photos and posts means that many of these consumers are buying “fast fashion,” cheap clothes that they wear a few times and then discard. They are also pragmatic — unlike Millennials who grew up during fairly prosperous economic times, Gen Z saw the 2008 recession’s impacts on their parents and community. Due to their savvy online search skills, they can instantly compare pricing and make price-driven buying decisions.
Finding unique bargains on reseller sites and thrift stores also enables them to update their look frequently and avoid overspending. However, they can also find value in products they believe are worth the investment — and are willing to spend a bit more. Because they are price-conscious and seek bargains, brands will have a more challenging time securing their loyalty.
The Takeaway: Offer competitive pricing, unique and/or high-quality products.
Gen Z & Individuality
Thrift stores, smaller brands and reseller sites are doing well with Gen Z because they crave individuality and uniqueness. They are turning away from mass-market brands because they don’t want to dress and style themselves like everyone else. They also need opportunities to personalize their shopping experience and to interact with brands. Experiential marketing such as product sampling and pop-ups are an excellent way to engage with these consumers. They want to give feedback, make suggestions and have opportunities for innovation.
The Takeaway: Provide opportunities for Gen Z to interact via social media contests, polls and feedback. Launch an experiential marketing campaign and enlist the help of influencers.
Need help designing and implementing a Gen Z experiential marketing or influencer campaign? We can help! Contact us today.