Since the dawn of social media, it seemed like the world (and marketers) centered on millennials — their tech savviness, participation trophies, urge to create an impact, and more importantly, their economic significance. But an even younger generation is about to enter the workforce. And while it might be easy to confuse them with their screen-attached brethren, it’s crucial for marketers to understand the significant differences between Generation Z and millennials.
Gen Z (those born 1995 and after) is coming of age, currently making up more than a quarter (25.9 percent) of the US population, contributing $44 billion to the American economy, and are expected to make up 40 percent of all consumers by 2020. Those numbers only look to increase in the coming years.
Here are some key traits of Gen Z:
This stems from the different economic climates the two generations were raised in. While millennials grew up, mainly, during an economic boom — their younger counterparts were raised during the recession.
This translates to a marked shift in mindset. While millennials are often labeled as entitled, perhaps due to growing up during a time of prosperity and opportunity, 70 percent of Gen Z expect to work harder than previous generations. According to Sales Force, this has also led to the younger generation tending to be more interested in saving money. Purchases that maximize the value of every dollar is more appealing to Gen Z — as opposed to millennials who lean towards the entire experience of buying a product.
Gen Z didn’t witness the evolution of the technology and platforms (internet, instant messaging, social media) that shape today’s world — they were born into it. And because a lot of them have been on video calls since they were practically toddlers, 74 percent of Gen Z say that they prefer to communicate face-to-face with colleagues.
Similarly, while millennials have an increasing preference for online shopping, Gen Z prefers to shop in-store. Tied to their innate pragmatism, they like to feel and see a product in person to make sure that they’re purchasing something high quality. As well, unique experiences in stores (sneaker cleanups, makeup tutorials) are what makes visits to physical stores more appealing to Gen Z than simply adding to cart.
While studies have suggested that Gen Z’s attention spans are less than that of a goldfish, that’s not necessarily the case. Because they are digital natives, they have developed an ability to sort through and assess massive amounts of content. As pointed out by Fast Company, they use different tools to cut their option set to a more manageable size.
And once they do find something they deem worth their time, Gen Z can become fully dedicated to learning more about that particular thing. Understanding the layers of this filter is key to getting Gen Z’s attention.
Being authentic and keeping it real has been an ingredient for success for brands marketing to millennials. And this preference is only heightened with Gen Z. Messaging that reflects their own lives resonates with this new generation.
This is what made Gen Z gravitate toward ephemeral and live content that provide behind-the-scenes, and candid looks at brands. Provide them with real images of real people doing real work — this makes you relatable to them.
According to the Center for Generational Kinetics, close to 40 percent of Gen Z say social media directly impacts their happiness. This means that for brands to catch this generation’s attention, they have to find ways to make them feel good about themselves.
As noted by a Huffington Post article, this is the main reason why brands like Dove and Ciroc have teamed up with DJ Khaled. Khaled has one of the most-viewed Snapchat stories, mostly because it contains simple motivational phrases like, “There will be roadblocks, but we will overcome them.” Empower Gen Z, and they will be inclined to trust your brand.
Similar to authenticity, Gen Z places an even higher value on social responsibility. As pointed out by Huffington Post, 60 percent of this generation want their jobs to have an impact in the world, while 80 percent are more inclined to buy a product that has a social or environmental impact.
If you are able to provide a product/service to Gen Z consumers where they feel their purchasing decision makes the world a better places, you’re positioning yourself for marketing success. Boxed Water, for example aligned its entire product and brand with a good cause — taking away the wastes brought by bottling water, while promising to plant 1 million trees.
There is no doubt that in a few years, Gen Z will be the most important marketing segment. Beginning to understand what makes them different from their predecessors will greatly aid marketers in catching their attention, and creating valuable interactions.
Equally important to marketing to Gen Z is understanding they invest interest in. Combine grasping what they are, and what they like positions you to tap into this lucrative market.