Gen Z: 15 years and younger. Born after 1997. 68 million of them. Only 54% are Caucasian.
As the oldest of this blooming generation approach the end of high school (or according to some demographer, begin university) marketers are keen to get greater insight into their psyche, to help combat some of the horrifying effects that accompany being a digital native (ie cyber bullying) and understand how to engage with Gen Z as purchasers and primary influencers.
Gen Z has never known a world without the Internet. The majority of them have only lived through some kind of downturn and global turmoil (dot.com bust, 9/11, Great Recession, Newtown Shooting, Kenyan Mall Massacre). They’re also the first generation to have truly diverse social circles from relatively early on (a blur of male/female, different socio-economic groups, ethnicities and gender fluid friends).
Societal changes since 1997, and the more individualistic orientation of their Gen Xer parents are shaping Gen Zers attitudes to brands. And the relationship they want with them is distinct from even the youngest of Millennials.
So based upon our CultureQ research and day-to-day interactions with Gen Zers, we’ve formulated a quick action guide to help you deepen your connection with them:
1. Involve them in the purchase decision now, rather than think of them as a future purchaser.
Traditionally brands have seeded relationships with younger audiences as a way to capture their future purchasing power. This is now shifting. Gen Zers as diligent researchers use technology to identify brands that could benefit them and their family members. More than other generations have in the past, they’re shaping their parents brand choices across categories, from technology to cars to watches, from sports equipment to handbags, from flight operators to family vacations, even in home décor and furniture. So it’s important to set up communities that acknowledge Gen Zers influence.
2. Service has to be super-fast and accessible to all. Converse & curate while they wait.
Gen Z. Digital Natives. Gen Now. Perhaps the latter is the most apt name. Technology has set their expectations. For them, everything has always been instantly available, anytime, anywhere. Even the standard 3-5 days delivery time can be an eternity likely to create enough Armageddon to close the bank of mom and dad. Whether it’s Nike sneakers, Rainbow Loom, Disney Infiniti, Skylanders, a new iPhone 5 - next day delivery as standard, please. Or utilize big data to fill the void - interactive games, movie clips, or “how to/did you know” tutorials to keep them feeling positive while they wait for UPS. Help Gen Z parents out and do the curation for them.
Think about how aligned your off and online experiences are. Gen Zers see no distinction between the real and virtual world. Integrated experiences (look and feel, pricing, stock inventory) serve to increase their trust and loyalty in a brand.
3. Create shareable, covetable experiences.
Gen Zers are a fickle bunch and typically have low brand loyalty. The viral nature of technology dissipates new product trends quickly and can shorten a product’s lifecycle when not backed up by a brand based on something more meaningful than just a one-off trend. After being a Skylanders loyalist diligently collecting figures from Series 1 and 2, a Gen Zer will quickly switch to Disney Infiniti, and the Portal of Power is displaced without a backward glance.
To be continuously collectable brands have adapt to new trends and be covetable. Gen Zers gain comfort from interacting with a well-known brand their peers will recognize; however, they want these brands to introduce them to interesting takes on existing products, or discover new ways of interacting with a product that gives them talking points within their social circles.
4. Deliver a highly visual brand experience, aligned off and online
Email is the technological equivalent of a sinkhole for Gen Z. It’s purpose is purely functional – often a pre-requisite to get store coupons, or a virtual receipt depository.
Millennials use text or Facebook. Gen Xers use Facebook or email. And Gen Zers prefer face timing to phone time. Vine and the like are shaping a generation of visual thinkers whose brains are being rewired as they habitually move away from auditory experiences. Gen Zers view their smart phone not as a phone but a vehicle for real time show and tell. And unlike Millennials, who enjoy brands that help them feel connected to other generations, Gen Zers want brands that reflect their generation’s unique MO and voice. So they’re likely to reject social media and other brands they associate with their parents.
5. Help Gen Zers use technology responsibly and productively
Speech and language therapists are supposedly making hay. Educators attribute this to the amount of time Gen Zers spend online - their main and most natural way of communicating. More so than even Millennials, Gen Zers spend minimal time interacting with offline sources (ie, TV, phone, radio), and traditional conversational moments are on the wane (ie, dinner without the smartphone).
Although popular with Xer parents, technology amnesty – a concept growing in part because of worries about cyber-bullying – is a concern for experts. They wonder how Gen Zers will complete their school assignments and fear potential isolation because of lack of familiarity with using traditional forms of communication. Responsible brands will set clear boundaries for usage that mitigate cyber-bullying. They’ll have pledges in plain English that replace the lack of transparency of the small print, and they’ll work closely with Gen Zers to help them use technology positively.
In today’s world, there’s no lack of information available. Critical thinking is a primary skill over the ability to find information. As such, Gen Zers need brands that help nourish their imaginations, push their creative ability and involve them in their communities. Brands that have sincere intentions and live by these qualities will earn Gen Z’s loyalty, as well as make them feel secure through reliable, fast and honest customer service and responsible business practices.