Generation Z, roughly defined as those born between 1995 and 2006, will soon become the largest generation in the U.S. They currently represent $44 billion in direct buying power, with about $255 billion when you include spending from parents and grandparents. “If a company is just marketing to Millennials, it’s missing a huge market,” notes market researcher Sarah Weise, founder and CEO of market research firm Bixa and author of InstaBrain: The New Rules for Marketing to Generation Z.
While both Millennials and Gen Z grew up with technology and embrace social media and instant communication and information, they are very different in their attitudes, values, goals and purchasing habits. Gen Z has grown up in a time of economic uncertainty as well as increased diversity. Constant visual stimulation and online interactions have resulted in shorter attention spans but greater caution and awareness of the pitfalls of online interaction and content sharing. Gen Zers are more socially liberal but financially conservative than Millennials, believe everyone should be treated fairly regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or identity, and are expert multitaskers. And according to Weise, 61% of Gen Z have expressed interest in starting their own business.
What does this mean for marketers?
Clearly communicate the value of your product or service.
In order to spend money, Gen Z needs to be convinced of the value of what they are asked to purchase. Show how your product or service has benefited its users. With interest in entrepreneurship high, aligning your product or service with the values of hard work and career advancement will resonate.
Understand how Gen Z uses each social media platform and tailor your content accordingly.
Weise notes that Gen Zers use Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration, Twitter for news and announcements, YouTube for learning new skills (ex: DIY videos, tutorials) and Snapchat for fun messaging with friends. Text messaging is the preferred option for private or time-sensitive communications. While Gen Z uses Google, its purpose is to find the answers to specific questions (ex: homework). When searching for information on locations, hobbies or other items of interest, Gen Zers are more likely to utilize social media as well as consumer review websites. Facebook is used for engaging with parents and other family members.
Weise advises brands not to post the same content on each platform. Gen Z expects brands to understand how they use each platform and wants to see content that aligns with their expectations. Make sure you provide enough content and enough variety to help Gen Zers research and learn about your brand.
Be authentic and bring the human element.
Weise emphasizes that Gen Z follows people more than brands. They would rather connect with a person who they trust than a celebrity influencer. Tell your brand stories in a conversational tone and be honest and transparent. If you use influencers to promote your brand, Weise advises using local or nanoinfluencers – fans of your brand with a small, but loyal, following. These influencers could have as few as 1000 followers, but achieve high levels of engagement with their posts and stories.
Have a compelling hook.
Gen Zers’ attention spans are shorter than those of Millennials – an average of 7-8 seconds for Gen Z, compared to 12 seconds for Millennials, according to Weise. They scroll at high speeds, so posting images that load quickly is critical. In order to keep Gen Z reading and engaging with posted content, marketers need to grab their attention at the start. However, Weise notes, once Gen Zers are hooked, they will “deep dive for days” to learn more about your product or service. Which is another reason why varying content across channels is essential. “Gen Zers want authentic and personal insights,” says Weise. “They are looking for unique pieces of information and need unique content in different places. If you want them to follow you on all of your channels and engage with your brand, you need to engage them with a variety of content.”
Gen Z is more wary of online interaction than their Millennial predecessors, but they are willing to give personal information (location, interests) to brands they trust in exchange for personalized content. Set up a mechanism to collect that information and be prepared to provide personalized content feeds based on what your followers want to see. Organize your social media pages with stories and images grouped by category. And create content that your Gen Z followers will want to capture in a screenshot and save on their phone, and potentially share with their social networks.
To learn more about Generation Z, read this article from McKinsey. For more insights from Sarah Weise on marketing to Generation Z, check out her book on Amazon.