Each new generation brings a fresh set of challenges for marketers. Born between the mid 1990s and late 2000s, most of Generation Z is still under the age of 18. However, by 2020 they will make up around 40% of consumers and will wield huge spending power. Tech-native and marketing-savvy, Gen Z represents a challenge but also potentially has the highest lifetime value of any consumer segment. Understanding Z-typical behaviours and preferences is crucial for any brand looking to get this generation to engage.

Physical retail is trending

A report by Accenture established that 60% of Gen Z prefer purchasing in physical stores. In the current economic environment this presents a challenge for many retailers but also highlights the value that this cohort places on the buying experience. The expectation is of “phygital,” the merging of physical and digital, which offers Gen Z shoppers the opportunity to interact with their phones to enhance the in-store experience. Fashion retailer Zara, for example, introduced an augmented reality app last year that enables shoppers to access interactive content via a phone while in a Zara store. Features include in-app purchasing and using the app to activate store displays.

Selling isn’t about products anymore

Or, at least, the marketing isn’t. Gen Z is much less likely to engage with marketing designed around products because this is a group very focused on benefits and results. Instead, the smart messaging is channeling what can be achieved with the product, what results can be generated and the benefits that buying or using it can deliver for the consumer. For example, Vodafone recently launched new mobile network Voxi, aimed at Gen Z mobile users. The focus of the marketing isn’t on the product itself but the “endless possibilities” it offers e.g. users can access apps like Snapchat and Messenger without affecting their data.

Gen Z loves social media

This is the generation that grew up with technology and does not know a world without smart phones or social media. While Millennials spend 8.5 hours a day engaging with content online (the overall UK average is 6.5 hours), Gen Z spends 10 hours of every day doing it. For Gen Z, just over half of that time is spent consuming content via their phones, much of it on social media – these consumers are much more likely to click on a social ad than any other type. So, for those brands looking to reach out to this group, social media is where you will find them. However, Gen Z has a very specific relationship with social media, especially when it comes to using it to interact with brands. They expect two-way, personalised conversations, straightforward messaging and content that emphasises what’s in it for them while making them feel valued.

What else defines Gen Z?

  • A short attention span. This generation is used to making decisions quickly, so messaging and value propositions need to be succinctly and swiftly communicated.
  • The desire to be entertained. Content aimed at Gen Z needs to be entertaining and delivered in multiple formats (videos, images, stories etc).
  • Expectations of transparency. Gen Z can research any brand in minutes so there is nowhere to hide – they expect transparency on products, values and origins, and consistency in terms of messaging.
  • Betterment. Gen-Z will happily pay more for products and services offered by companies who demonstrate commitment to positive social and environmental impact.

Gen Z is often criticised for being tech obsessed and having a limited attention span – and that has made many brands nervous of this group. However, the reality is that this savvy generation is reachable for those willing, and able, to get on their wavelength.

Jeremy Braune

View posts by Jeremy Braune
Jeremy specialises in delivering market research and consultancy programmes that enable organisations to maximise the impact of their brands, products and services, communications and customer experience delivery.His company, Brandspeak, has offices in London and Bristol and since 2004 it has been helping companies all over the UK and globally.Jeremy has also been a guest lecturer and speaker on London Business School's acclaimed MBA course, on the subject of Brands and Branding.

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