Marketers have developed a series of catch-all terms to try to characterize the consumer patterns of certain groups. They are usually based around age. The most obvious one that has been with us for some time is “Baby Boomers.”
The most recent age group that has been decided upon is Generation Z, born after Millennials, the cut-off point of which is 2004 for some people, and the late 1990s for others.
Businesses need to look toward the future to survive and thrive. It’s easy to target Boomers and Millennials because clear trends and patterns have emerged. The new up-and-coming generation, however, can be rather confusing. But they are the new baby boom, so ignoring them would be to leave money on the table.
In this guide, we will be looking at who Gen Zs are, and how they different from Millennials.
Who Are Generation Z?
Generation Z is the newest group of consumers to market to. They are over 18, and in college or just graduating. They are starting to learn about their purchasing power. They also “spend” their time in several ways. Knowing what they spend money and time on can create some excellent opportunities to market to them effectively.
They are also getting ready to enter the workforce, which has the potential to mean more buying power if they are not lumbered with a pile of student debt.
The 21st century baby boom also means there are going to be an increasing number of them over the next 5 to 10 years, which has the potential to increase your income, and for your business to sustain that growth over time. By 2020, it is estimated that Gen Z will make up 40% of all consumers.
It may require some shifts in thinking and creativity but adding Generation Z content to your marketing mix can yield impressive results.
Where should you start? The answer is, with research about the main characteristics and habits of Gen Z so you can start marketing to them where they already are, while they are doing what they do. It will also help to understand the main differences between Millennials and Gen Zs. Let’s look at this next.
What Are the Main Differences between Millennials and Gen Zs?
A lot of marketers can be forgiven for thinking all individuals under the age of 30 are “young people” with the same interests and habits. This is true in part, but there are some distinct differences that can be teased out in such a way as to help you market to Gen Z more effectively.
For example, Gen Zs are probably the first for whom technology is completely native. They owned smartphones at a younger age and grew up with them as teens. They are therefore completely comfortable with all types of electronic devices. They use mobiles all the time and tend not to use desktops very often. This would be an important distinction if you were running ads on certain networks, for example.
Because they spend a lot more time on the small screen compared with Millennials, they also have no time for clunky websites that are not mobile-friendly. They also have a short attention span because they want the information they need, and they want it NOW. Studies have shown the average attention span of a Millennial is 12 seconds, but the average for a Gen Z is only 8 seconds.
They also use more digital platforms at the same time, with Millennials using three screens at the same time, and Gen Z an average of five.
Millennials appreciate customer loyalty programs and building a relationship with the brands they use. Gen Z are not that interested in loyalty as much as in positive interactions with a company – without that they are gone.
Generation Z also lean towards influencer marketing more than Millennials do, with 7 out of 10 people valuing the feedback of, for example, YouTube creators, compared with only 4 out of 10 Millennials. They value the opinions of peers and ordinary people, compared to stars or to companies producing online marketing materials. Knowing this could be a great opportunity to look for influencers in your niche or industry, or to start becoming an influencer yourself.
The most important differences are where Gen Z spend their time. Let’s look next at a few of the top places.
Where Gen Z Spend Time Online, and What They Use
Every marketing generation tends to have their favorite social networks and tools. There are more than two billion users on Facebook, but the chances are slim that Gen Z are spending a lot of time there.
Facebook – Depressing and Depressed Statistics
Facebook should not be your top priority when it comes to marketing to Gen Z. Facebook has lost more than a quarter of all 13- 17-year-olds who used to use the platform, and the number was never very high anyway.
Those who do use it might do so as part of a family account, and to keep up with their own family’s connections. Some might connect with friends through those friends’ family accounts. But in general, while Facebook is growing in terms of all other marketing generations, Gen Z usage is declining.
Part of the decline can be accounted for by new anonymous apps that allow users to pretty much be whomever they say they are. Facebook gives away a lot of personal data, and those who are pretending to be someone they are not are usually exposed eventually.
Gen Z, on the other hand, use Secret and Whisper to conceal their identity. But this makes it tough to try to market to them, because they haven’t given any personal or demographic information away.
Fortunately, there are a few ponds to fish in, which you know will respond thanks to the power of targeted marketing. Marketing campaigns designed for Gen Z should be used where they spend the most time:
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
The Gen Z platform of choice is Snapchat, with more than 70% of them using it every day. About half of those daily users access it a staggering 11 times per day. If you are not already promoting sponsored content on Snapchat’s discover page, it might be time to put this task at the top of your to-do list.
Even if you don’t have the budget for it, at the very least it’s time to create an account to boost your brand exposure. Add pictures and videos to your account every day. Try to create interesting new campaigns. Actively encourage followers. Consider hiring Snapchat experts at Fiverr.com to promote your content and create geofilters that will show your content to audiences in a certain location. For example, if you are in New York City, you will see different content from those who are in Seattle.
Remember, your content on Snapchat will vanish as soon as it gets sent. Consider creating content that is “evergreen,” that is, will not go out of date. To repost it in the future, go to Memories and upload the content as needed. Remember, your number of connection will keep growing over time, and many will never have seen your great content unless you repost it periodically. It’s also a handy way to use your best holiday-themed content each year.
Instagram is popular with Gen Z as well – particularly the stories, which are like Snapchat in that you create temporary content that will disappear within 24 hours. As with Snapchat, you can post photos and videos. Instagram stories are more popular than Snapchat’s and this trend is likely to continue now that Instagram is owned by Facebook.
Instagram is therefore also now part of the Facebook ad network. You can run ads for both sites through your Facebook dashboard.
Use Instagram stories to share exclusive content with your followers. Post both ordinary content and stories to your account, at least once a day.
As we mentioned above in relation to influencers, certain ordinary people have become known for their opinions and content posted in relation to certain topics. Consider inviting them to take over your account for a day and post some of their great content. Ask them to promote your brand on their personal stories as well. They might even let you take over their account for a day if they think you have a lot to offer.
What kind of content will their followers be interested in? As we said, Gen Z want quality interactions, not to be sold to all the time. Consider videos that take your followers behind the scenes in your company. Display your staff as real people. Show off your products indirectly through interviews about how you all get your ideas and what motivated you to start your own business. Make your company look human, rather than just marketing robots who talk at or down to consumers.
By now, every business should have a YouTube channel with informative content related to their niche or industry. More than 75% of YouTube users look for “How to”-type content. It’s not all about crazy cat or strange goat videos.
Generation Z loves YouTube. They watch an average of two to four hours of YouTube content each day. This means they watch it more than cable TV, which only accounts for about a half an hour of viewing time each day.
This being the case, we can see that TV ads will in general not reach Gen Z. YouTube videos and ads will.
You can increase your presence on YouTube in several ways. You can embed videos into your site, share them via email and social media, and create how-to and demonstration videos your target audience will really need and enjoy.
Organize your content into sub-niche playlists, and it’s possible that your target audience will watch not just one video, but all of them.
Teaching Them How to Become a YouTube Influencer
One of the things many YouTube users in this age group are interested in is starting their own channel and becoming an influencer themselves. If you can offer courses, hints, and tips on how to start a channel, grow it, and monetize it, your products could be exactly what these aspiring entrepreneurs are looking for.
Tapping into a Trend
One of the biggest trends on YouTube is content related to video gaming. Around two-thirds of all YouTube users from 6 to 11 years of age cite video gaming as their main interest. They also own more gaming systems and games than Millennials. This being the case, it’s worth it to try to tap into this market if you can.
Many Gen Zs want hacks, hints, and tips on how to do well at certain game, such as Minecraft. One of the most successful online products ever created was a game guide for World of Warcraft (WoW), generally suitable for children 12 and up.
You can certainly comment on influencer pages. You can also run ads related to video gaming. But of course, whatever content you produce needs to be relevant. For example, if you sell electronics, advertise them for video game usage. Things like microphones, headsets, Wi-Fi hubs and extenders, routers and more are all essential tools for avid online gamers.
But of course, life isn’t all fun and games when it comes to life as a Gen Z. Let’s look next at some of their motivations as a clue for how to market to them successfully.
The Motivations of Gen Z
Younger Gen Zs will of course want to do well in high school. They might also wish to do well with college board exams, college application writing and interviews, and even job interviews.
One of the reasons why giving an insider look via video into your business and motivations can be a powerful draw for a Gen Z audience, is that most them aspire to start their own business as well. Studies show that more than 70% of teens say they want to start their own business one day. In fact, more than 60% of that group stated that they wanted to start their own business as soon as they get out of college.
Another significant shift is in attitudes to college education. While more than 70% of Millennials plan to get a college degree, only 64% of Gen Z make this a priority. This too can cause a significant shift in consumer spending patterns.
What might be the reasons for this change? It could be the rising cost of tuition. It could also be that easier access to education means they can always work first and go to college in the future. It could also be due to the drive to grab business opportunities that are available now. The sooner they get started, the sooner they can start earning.
And perhaps some feel that these days, they really don’t need a college education to be successful at what they wish to do. After all, how many people get a job that is related to what they studied at college?
This entrepreneurial spirit amongst Gen Z could mean big money for your company if you offer information products, courses, and products and services designed to help them gain the skills they need to succeed in running their own business. Profile people who are hugely successful yet never went to college. Create coaching programs that can help young people succeed in your niche.
Offer guidance on filling out application forms, preparing for interviews, writing your own business plans, and more. Think basic level that any teen to 21-year old can understand. Use screenshots to illustrate the how-to or create videos. Consider learning how to use screen capture software for onscreen demonstrations.
The older the Gen Z consumer, the more spending power they will generally have. But this is not to say you should forget about the younger end of the spectrum completely.
The Influence of Gen Z on Spending Patterns
It is important not to underestimate the impact of Gen Z on spending patterns. The truth is, from the moment the baby is conceived, it influences what its parent/s think, buy, and do.
Gen Z represent a buying power of $44 billion. They influence an additional $600 billion of family spending. Studies have shown that they influence their parents spend habits a good deal more than Millennials did, including more than 70% of family food choices, and 80% to 90% of items purchased for them.
The parents will make key decisions about things like diapers and formula in the early years, but as the child becomes more aware of products, the inevitable long Christmas list and increasing consumerism will follow. Demands for designer goods and the latest trends will increase over the years, and as we have said, no teen (or tween) can really do without a smartphone.
Gen Z also heavily influence their parents in terms of important financial decisions like which car to buy and where to go on vacation. An SUV with leather seats is essential for soccer moms and families who like to travel by car. But a quick look at ABC stations in the US will also show a range of Disney resort and cruise ads that are aimed both at parents and children ages 8 and up.
They will want an “adult bedroom” eventually, meaning a sad farewell to Winnie the Pooh and hello to NASCAR or the latest bold colors and patterns that express a child’s personality.
As Gen Zs get older, they are more willing to research products and prices, read reviews, and comparison shop than their parents. Even though they don’t usually have the money to buy a plane ticket or home goods doesn’t mean they don’t know what they want and like and are often determined to get it.
Some will get work permits in the US from the age of 14 up. Others will have an allowance that they will save or spend depending on their goals. The family budget will often be centered around saving money in general, and for college. This will also influence what families buy, and again, educated Gen Zs can help sway which products are determined to be the best value.
Going away to college often means dorm life and essentials like bedding, clothes, their own computer/printer, and so on. Their first (usually shared) apartment once they start to work will also trigger some “nesting” expenses to make their new place habitable.
Gen Z Want to Make a Positive Impact on the Planet
Contrary to popular belief, Gen Z aren’t interested only in fun and games. As a group, they are conscious of the environment, green issues, and significant social concerns.
Surveys have shown that 60% of Gen Z state they wish to change the future of the world in a positive way, as compared with only 39% of Millennials. In fact, around 25% of teens are actively involved in volunteer work. Many more are getting involved in activism, including US teens protesting gun ownership after a series of horrendous school shootings and the mass shooting in Las Vegas that left hundreds dead or severely wounded.
They are also concerned with global warming, animal welfare, not testing on animals, and conservation of endangered species. If your company is actively involved in any of those things, even if it is not your core mission, it can be a great way to connect with Gen Z.
If you work with certain charities, talk about it. For example, you might do fundraising by donating part or all the proceeds to animal rescue, as they do at Hendrick Boards, which started out selling surf boards but has since branched out to clothing, jewelry and more.
Do your employees volunteer? Where, and why? How does your company stay lean and green? Does a purchase trigger a donation to a person in need, such as Nothing But Nets? For every $20 spent, a company might decide to donate $10 to provide a net to protect those in areas where there is malaria. Every two minutes, a child dies from malaria, the result of a bite from an infected mosquito.
You could also work with The Water Project to run a challenge to raise funds to provide clean, safe drinking water to those in need.
Don’t be afraid to admit to and follow your passions if they are important to you and not going to be offensive to others. Gen Z will like feeling as if they are part of something bigger than themselves and dealing with a business which has ethics and principles. The best spending decisions for Gen Z are those which can make the world a better place.
Check out the Greater Good network (https://greatergood.com/) for ideas on sustainable products and Fair-Trade products as well, which enable small farmers and craftspeople from all over the world to sell their wares for a living wage.
Gen Z Values Quality of Interaction, Not Loyalty
Most businesses focus on brand loyalty to try to get customers as cheaply as possible, then try to keep them coming back for more. A case in point would be super-cheap mobile phone and internet service offers to get people to switch. But then of course, the price goes up significantly at the end of a year, often to even more than they were paying previously. The assumption is they will like the service so much, they will remain loyal.
If this is like your current marketing strategy and tactics, it might work on Millennials, but it probably won’t work on Gen Z. They are more discerning than you might think in relation to comparison shopping, but they value quality interactions even more. If they don’t think you offer good value, they will not hesitate to make a change.
Since it is harder to retain them, try to come up with different ways to make Gen Z loyal to your brand. We’ve discussed how your mission and values might do this to some extent. Another possibility is to get them to join in with your mission.
Gen Z enjoy following influencers. Become one yourself through various content strategies, and they will stick with you and share your content.
Offer opportunities for user-generated content, such as at your blog and on social media. Invite your top commenters to be guest bloggers. Poll them about new products and services you are thinking of adding. Ask them to contribute ideas for new products, designs, colors, information products and more.
Create surveys such as at SurveyMonkey. Ask them to rank your ideas from 1 (the best) to 5 (the least interesting). But also give them a spot to put in their own ideas. Interview them, and be available for them to ask you questions, such as on live video, Google Hangouts. If they feel you are taking their input seriously and can even see the results in the form of an all-new product, they will feel more connected with your brand and remain loyal to it because they feel they have more vested in it.
A Generation of Online Shoppers
Studies have shown that 55% of Gen Z prefer to buys clothes online, and 53% prefer to buy books and electronics online.
Gen Z Are Open to Other Brands
Millennials tend to be more loyal to brands they try, and stick to them. This can be a double-edged sword: great for the brands they choose, but not great for others like yourself who are trying to get a marketing share.
By contrast, more than 60% of Generation Z consumers are open to new brands, including start-ups. They often love the challenge and excitement of trying to build something or try something new and different. This is good news, because it means even companies that are just starting up now could compete with, and even overtake, established companies that have been in business for years.
Just look at what Amazon did to bookselling in a short space of time and you will see how your start-up could revolutionize your niche or industry with the help of eager Gen Zs.
Sell through Features and Benefits, Not Hype
In the olden days of marketing, ad executives were taught to, “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.” These days, it just won’t work. Consumers are so used to sizzle, buzz or hype, they tend to switch off.
In addition, Gen Z are much more savvy consumers. Their main question is, “Where’s the beef, and how much of it is there?”
They are looking for real value in all areas of their lives, or else they will tune out. If an information product doesn’t give them the answers they want, they will ask for a refund and keep seeking other solutions.
If they buy a product, they are often willing to pay for top of the line and a top design. Look at the way the Apple company has dominated the electronic gadget market in the last 20 years or so: iPod, iPhone, iPad, apps, and of course, laptop computers. Gen Z want to do things better, faster, cheaper if possible, and/or experience something superior.
Gen Z Are Looking for Real Experts, Not Just Those Who Claim to Be
No matter how much of an expert you claim to be, if your website looks old and does not work on mobile, you stand no chance of grabbing their attention and selling to them.
Gen Z Want Community, Not Ads
Gen Z are savvy about ads, marketing ploys and gimmicks, so the usual hype is not going to work with them. They want to feel that you understand them, value their input, and are a real person, not just a marketer.
Gen Z Want Help, Not Hype
Gen Z don’t want to be sold to all the time with Buy Now buttons all over the place. They want a clear understanding of what your products and services can do for them. And they had better work. Otherwise, they will not hesitate to ask for their money back.
Gen Z Are Looking for a Work-Life Balance
More than any other generation, Gen Zs want to have a good work-life balance. They are prepared to work for what they get, but they are not prepared to work around the clock or stick with a job that makes them miserable just for the sake of a paycheck. Any products and services that can help them with their aspirations will be a winner.
Convenience Is the Name of the Game
Gen Z may not have as much money (yet) as Millennials, who have been in the workforce longer, but they place a much higher value on convenience and are willing to pay more for solutions that really work.
Now that we have covered Gen Z in broad strokes, how can you use all this information to formulate marketing campaigns that will resonate with them? Creating a marketing persona could help.
Gen Z Marketing Personas
Top marketers create a persona for every ideal customer they would like to sell to. A persona is like a mini-biography of a typical customer interested in your niche.
In the case of Gen Z, we can divide them into male and female to focus on their typical hobbies and interests in more detail. But otherwise, we can assume the following about Gen Z customers:
Age: 16 to 18, 18 to 21, 21-24
Marital status: Single, dating, possibly living together with a partner rather than roommates/friends
Living: at home, in dorm, in shared housing, perhaps starting to “nest”
Hobbies and interests:
- Shopping (especially online)
- Video gaming
- Watching YouTube videos
- Socializing with friends on apps and social networks
- Starting their own business
- Volunteer work/charity work
- Real people as influencers
- The chance to become an influencer themselves
- Smartphones and apps
Where they spend the most time online:
Values and Ethics:
- Products not tested on animals
- Products that have a low impact on the environment
- Charity work/raising funds for worthy causes
What they want from the brands they do business with:
- Brands that listen and ask for input
- Brands that value their feedback
- Brands that let them create user-generated content
- Brands that are open to design, color, and product suggestions
- Brands that offer real value, or something high quality and unique
- Brands that seem to value them and offer quality interactions, not de-personalized sales talk, and hype
- A mobile-friendly experience with a fast-loading website
- Brands that understand their attention threshold is 8 seconds, so things had better be clear and concise, and “snackable”
- Brands that use video to market to them and offer real information
We can also split the Gen Zs into those who want to go to college versus those who don’t. This can lead to a strong differentiation in your marketing depending on what you sell. For example, if you sell information about acing college applications and college interviews, you will struggle unless you are targeting the college-bound group.
Gen Z are also growing up in a different world than even Millennials due to the more open discussions/controversies about various issues, including:
- Living in a multi-cultural society versus “white supremacy”
- Living in a more tolerant society in which LGBT issues and marriage equality are non-issues
- Appreciation of gender differences and the blurring of lines between typical gender roles
- Sexual harassment versus consensual relationships
- Not being afraid of change; pro-active about creating it
- Knowledgeable and keen on innovation and technology
- Dreaming big and following one’s passions, rather than playing it safe
- Independent learners, who have the desire and ability to find the information they need and gain an education without being in a classroom
- Idealists who want to create a better world, with less gun violence, for example, or ways to make the planet cleaner and greener
To sum up, Gen Z want everyone to get along and have a good life. No one must lose just for them to win.
Marketing Methods That Work with Gen Zs
So, what marketing methods will work with Gen Z? We’ve already discussed social media, the importance of video, and various ways they can connect with you online, especially through surveys and user-generated content. The one thing we haven’t mentioned is email.
Yes, it does still work, but since the 8 seconds to grab attention rule applies, you might be better sending a meme or image and a link to an interesting URL with a video or lots of other images on it than to try to get them to read a long email. This is the generation of the emoji, after all.
Having said that, be sure to check with your email marketing platform’s metrics, and their best practices, so you don’t trigger any spam filters in general, or those of popular email clients like Gmail and Yahoo! mail. Images are still suspect to send malicious code or viruses, so check before you overhaul all your email marketing just to try to get to Gen Z customers. A better strategy might be a great giveaway to get them to opt in to a new list you’ve created and take it from there.
Right now, Generation Z are still a relatively untapped market, but as they come of age and take their place as adults, they are going to have an even more significant impact on spending in the US and around the world than they already do as influencers for their parents’ purchasing decisions.
There are of course rules and regulations with reference to marketing to those under 18, and anyone under 13, but even being sensitive to these issues and steering clear still leaves huge opportunities for your brand to target these consumers in a meaningful way.
Learning all you can about how Gen Zs behave, think, consume and shop can give you a significant advantage compared with those marketers who just lump Gen Z in with Millennials. They may have some overlap, but the two groups have enough differences to make it worth your while to tease them out and explore them in marketing campaigns at the sites they spend time at, such as Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube.
Draw up a marketing persona for Gen Z and use it whenever you plan new content, or any new marketing campaign.
Track and test your campaigns at each of the sites Gen Z love to spend time at. See what gets the best response. If you have a budget, also use sponsored content and ads and see what gets the best click-throughs and conversions.
You may have to get creative when it comes to marketing to Gen Z compared with Millennials, but the results can be highly profitable if you are willing to dig in this newly-emerging gold mine.
To your success!