Just when businesses think they’ve gotten a handle on millennials and how to market to them, a new generation comes of age. Gen Z has arrived and quickly taken the stage. The trouble is, they are even more difficult to market to than millennials. As jaded toward traditional marketing as the millennials are, Gen Z isn’t even slightly moved by it. Your digital marketing strategy has to be a little more creative to attract Gen Z.
Who Is Gen Z?
So what do we know about this new generation? They were born between 1996 and 2015, so the oldest members of this generation aren’t just kids anymore. They are entering their mid-20s, meaning they are beginning to progress in their careers, and with that comes spending power. Specifically, they have $143 billion in spending power. That number will only rise as more of this generation enters the workforce and their annual earnings increase.
So, it’s crucial to start grabbing their attention now, which, as I said, won’t be easy. You have to start by understanding the traits of their generation. Looking at the world they grew up in, it becomes easier to understand who they are.
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For years the world has discussed how technologically adept millennials have been. They got used to new, advanced technologies at a very young age, from social media to smartphones. Gen Z takes it further, though. To paraphrase Bane from The Dark Knight Rises, Millennials adopted technology. Gen Z was born in it, molded by it.
Millennials don’t want to go back to life before smartphones, but Gen Z never knew life without a smartphone. They may not remember homes with landlines or dial-up internet. So much changed so fast, and they were born during or after much of it.
Gen Z has grown up surrounded by screens, absorbing large amounts of information at an incredible rate. While millennials grew up with one screen at a time, Gen Z was used to laptops, phones, and TVs all vying for attention at once. They may be texting and playing a game on their phone or shopping on their computer while looking at customer reviews. Alexa may even be playing background music. Their brains are wired to take in enormous amounts of information quickly, leading them to prefer short, quick, to the point messaging. If you take too long to make your point, they’ve already moved on.
They Are Great at Research
Having grown up in the digital sphere, Gen Z understands how to use the Internet to find what they need. An important digital marketing trend to note is the amount of research customers, especially Gen Z, are doing before making a purchase.
Before committing to any purchase, even something as menial as a pair of sunglasses, they conduct extensive research to make sure they are getting what they are looking for. 91% of Gen Zers will thoroughly research a brand before purchasing from them.
Gen Zers will dive deep into Google and Yelp reviews, among other websites, to understand what customers feel about products after they buy them. They don’t want to buy something unless they are confident it’s the right product for them. They aren’t just checking how many stars a product has; they read reviews and look for consistent complaints. If they find a new microwave the like, but the popcorn button doesn’t work right, they want to know before they buy it.
Gen Zers know what they are looking for. Let’s say they want a new camera for a wedding photography business, but a camera they are interested in has bad reviews because it doesn’t film videos very well. They may still want the camera because they don’t plan on using it for video production. However, if the aperture doesn’t adjust very well, they will look at other options.
Gen Z doesn’t just research products, though. If they are buying from a company, they want to understand who the company is and what they stand for before giving that company their business. They will need to see a social media presence, a high-quality website, and reviews of your company to be convinced. Lacking any of these is a bad sign to Gen Z, and a fully-formed digital footprint should be part of your digital marketing strategy.
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They will also scour the internet for news on your company. They don’t want to associate with companies tangled up in scandals or lawsuits, especially if those cases put your company on the opposite side of their convictions. Meanwhile, if they see your company is pushing for diversity, equality, or standing for other issues that resonate with them, they will stand by you for the long haul. To Gen Z, purchasing from a company means you align with their values. The brands they buy from are part of their identity. If they disagree with your values, they will find out and steer clear.
Being digital natives means they don’t see the need for services they can get online. Only 25% of Gen Zers use cable TV because they don’t see their purpose. They have so many television shows and movies to stream that aren’t available on cable anyway. They can watch it at their leisure without worrying about using commercials for their bathroom breaks or how much storage space is on their TiVo (anyone else remember TiVo?).
They’ve had mobile phones, and probably smartphones, their whole lives, so they don’t see the purpose of a landline. You can only answer them while you’re home, and they don’t nearly have the capabilities of a cell phone. And it would confuse anyone they contact anyway because you can’t send a text or instant message to a landline.
As is always the case, it’s important to build long-lasting consumer relationships with the younger generation while they are still finding their place. If you can establish a relationship with them, you can have consistent, reliable customers for decades. And Gen Z is willing to commit to a brand if it meets their standards, which is by no means easy.
What’s Important to Gen Z?
The values of Gen Z are vastly different from other generations when they were young, even Millennials. In some ways, they are more distant from Millennials than other older generations. It’s essential to understand what traits they look for in their favorite brands to develop a top digital marketing strategy for Gen Z.
Quick and Timely Responses
Gen Zers grew up in a highly connected world where things happen fast, almost instantaneously. No waiting for letters to send and get a response. They grew up with instantaneous messages between emails, texts, and IMs. So naturally, when they reach out to your company, they want to hear back fast.
An important digital marketing trend is to respond to customers across various channels from customer support emails and phone calls to Twitter. If they send a message to your customer support, they expect to hear back soon to have the issue solved. If they tag your company in a tweet, they expect some acknowledgment on your end within a few hours. No matter how they reach out to you, they expect the brands they invest in to get back to them promptly.
Gen Z isn’t just being impatient, though. They see the company-customer relationship as that, a relationship. The brands they choose to interact with is a highly personal choice. They mean something to Gen Zers. They want the brands to show them they care about the relationship too.
Gen Zers want to see that companies care about keeping them as customers by putting effort into the relationship, which means not wasting their time. Gen Z wants to see things efficiently, and if they are having an issue, they want to see that a company will step up and work efficiently to resolve the issue.
Transparency and Accountability
Another important aspect of a relationship: honesty. Gen Z wants to give their money to companies that are transparent about their values and accountable for their actions. Gen Z doesn’t want to waste their time and money on two-faced companies that say one thing and either doesn’t follow through or does the opposite.
Transparency has become increasingly important in the fast-paced information age, and Gen Z is looking for it. They actually pay attention to your mission statement and want to see you follow through on it. If you claim to care about giving back to the community, they want to see social media posts where you are doing fundraisers for local non-profits. If you claim to care about the environment, provide environmentally-friendly options for travel, kitchen waste, etc. Say what you mean and do what you say.
Gen Z also acknowledges that no one is perfect. People, and companies, make mistakes. That’s okay. What Gen Z doesn’t see as ‘okay’ is trying to cover up mistakes to avoid the consequences. When a company makes a mistake, Gen Zers want to see the company hold itself accountable for its actions. They want to see companies acknowledge their shortcoming and make an effort to improve, usually through employee training or giving and engaging with the groups they hurt. If you put out an offensive tweet, don’t just delete it or tell others that they are wrong. Sometimes, the best digital marketing strategy is a bit of good old-fashioned PR.
To utilize the latest digital marketing trends, your brand needs to have a personality. Gen Zers don’t want to only hear about what your company does, why you’re better than the competition, and why they need your product. They want to know what shows you are bingeing and your go-to late-night snack. Anything that gives you color and feel like a fully-formed personality.
Because they value having a relationship with brands, it’s essential to do more than just push products and promote yourself. Customers, even the ones that live and die with your brand, get tired of that quickly. When marketing to Gen Z, you don’t just market your products. You market your brand, and if you can show a clear, concise personality that they identify with, they will look forward to your posts and new product releases.
Gen Z wants to have a conversation with you like they would with one of their friends. A key digital marketing strategy for Gen Z is to give your brand some personality and life. Brands can utilize this strategy by taking on current trends, creating a specific voice, and leading with your values.
Giving your take on current trends can be a fun way to show your brand’s personality, as long as you don’t go crazy with it. There is no harm in contributing to a conversation, for example, letting everyone know what color you see on the dress. Touching a light topic like this allows you to give your brand a bit of personality.
That said, it’s best to do this for digital marketing trends that are relevant to your brand and audience. The day all Meta social platforms, from Facebook to WhatsApp, shut down, Twitter seized the moment. With just about every other service offline, they welcomed the whole world with open arms in a way true to their brand voice. Comments like these are welcomed and celebrated by Gen Z and will help remind them why they love your brand.
Establishing a clear and recognizable brand voice is vital to maintaining an audience and showing what makes you different. The Onion has spent many years refining their voice to sound exactly like a traditional news outlet while writing about various mundane or ridiculous topics. Your voice will keep your audience, especially Gen Z, coming back.
There are few things Gen Zers love more than clearly established values. By taking a stand on a topic or issue, your brand can become a rallying point for your audience and help draw positive attention to an issue and your brand.
Calm, the mental wellness and meditation app, makes clear that they believe in and support mental health. When tennis star Naomi Osaka refused to attend media time during a tournament, citing mental health, she was subsequently fined $15,000.
Seeing this, Calm released a statement of support for the star, offered to pay the fine for any other tennis stars that chose not to attend media appearances for mental health, and promised to donate $15,000 to Laureus. This organization helps young people’s mental health through sports. This show of support, capturing a moment, and standing by their values is what Gen Z wants to see from all the brands they support.
Gen Z doesn’t want to have a relationship with a faceless company. How can they? Having and expressing a personality is a crucial part of humanizing your brand, but there’s something else that can tremendously help you: a face.
Embracing the digital marketing trend of influencer marketing can help your brand have some added personality and give you authenticity. Gen Z trusts smaller, micro-influencers more than highly recognizable, widely appealing celebrity endorsements and partnerships. 52% of Gen Z social media users trust the advice of influencers on products and brands, and 22% have made a purchase inspired by an influencer’s post. They feel more authentic, like a friend telling them why a product is great, so it’s closer to word-of-mouth advertising than an ad.
One of the most significant differences between Gen Z and other generations when they were younger is their commitment to quality. Usually, younger generations look for the cheapest, most attainable products, but not Gen Z. Instead, they would save their money and invest in quality products that they will love and last for a long time.
Gen Z makes sure they get the products they want. Their tendency to research products thoroughly before making a purchase only emphasizes this. Getting tricked into buying an inferior product from a company isn’t something to just brush off. It’s a betrayal, they are investing in the company, and the company gave them less than what they were looking for.
The recent digital marketing trend toward privacy isn’t going away, as Gen Z highly values their privacy online. They’ve seen how making everything public online can hurt you, and they want to keep their information and reputations safe. Most importantly, they want control over where their data is online.
They are bombarded with enough information every day, and they want to limit the number of unsolicited ads they receive. Gen Z is hesitant to give away their email addresses and phone numbers to just any company that asks for it. When asked for information, the first thing Gen Zers want to know is how you will use it.
To market to Gen Z, give them clarity on how you’ll use that information, so they don’t assume you’re going to share or sell it for a profit. Giving them transparency about how you’ll use their information and providing assurances that their privacy is secure with you will help them rest easy with giving you personal information.
Gen Z wants to use online platforms to express themselves, but not at the expense of their reputations. They saw how previous generations were hurt personally and professionally because of online posts. Between employers turning down job candidates because a friend tagged them in a photo from a party and families getting torn apart for posting about their political beliefs, Gen Z wants to be a little more cautious.
Especially on platforms like Reddit or Instagram, they’ll have multiple profiles to separate their different interests, usually without using their name in most of them. They may have a professional account, a personal one for their family, one for book reviews, and another to rant about their unfiltered political views. And, of course, their pets get their own accounts too.
This way, they can control who sees their profiles and know that only people interested in their book reviews see that account. They also prefer private social media channels like Snapchat or Whisper. It focuses on private communications, so not everyone can see what you shared, only the people they want to share it with.
Engage With Gen Z
So, we know what Gen Z is like and what they are looking for in a brand. All important stuff. But how do we market to them specifically? What are some tips and tricks? The key to creating marketing strategies that make Gen Z excited about engaging with you is to stand out from the crowd and make the messaging feel personal.
Personalization is possibly the biggest part of developing a top marketing strategy for Gen Z. As we’ve noted quite a few times (sorry, but it really is worth repeating), Gen Z doesn’t just buy things from companies. They have relationships with brands. That means the messaging needs to feel like a one-on-one conversation.
Let’s start by throwing out general messages to your audience. They’ll see right through that and ignore whatever you sent. The current digital marketing trend is segmenting your audience. Look at your whole audience and cut it into pieces that make sense. Who are the super-loyal customers? Who hasn’t made a purchase in a while? Who likes purchasing your Disney-themed throw pillows? By grouping your customers, you can cut down the number of messages you send everyone, so they only see messages they are more likely to engage with.
Segmenting your audience also helps with like-products. If you release a new line of punk-rock-themed succulent pots, and you’ve grouped customers who love punk rock and bought succulent soil before, sending new product information to them may yield better results than sending them to everyone in your customer database. Investing a little time to group customers will improve engagement with your messages and increase your customer’s excitement to get your messages.
Personalization doesn’t just have to apply to marketing messages. Gen Z also wants to show their unique flare, so giving them the ability to personalize your products can help them get more excited. Flexibility in ordering to help them get precisely what they want helps make Gen Zers long-lasting customers.
Gen Z Marketing Tip: It catches your audience’s attention if you use their name in messaging. Personalized email subject lines are 22.2% more likely to be opened.
Quick, Clear Messaging
As the information age continues to speed up, with no sign of braking, messaging has to be shorter and more efficient. Gen Z grew up around so many screens bombarding them with so much information that they have an attention span of about eight seconds. That’s not a long time to grab hold of their interest, so you have to make every syllable and every frame of video count. They don’t have time for long anecdotes, only clear, concise messaging.
Your digital marketing content strategy needs to build around short, punchy content. If you can’t say what’s going on within a few seconds Gen Zers will lose interest and move on. It’s not about them not being able to concentrate; they just feel like you aren’t valuing their time if you take too long to make your point.
It doesn’t mean that you should spend less time writing or making videos. On the contrary, you should spend more time on it, carefully choosing each word to give the exact message you want in the right tone. There isn’t room for wasted space when marketing to Gen Z.
Video content has always been a ruling force on the internet. To this day, YouTube is still the second largest search engine. The latest digital marketing trend, short-form videos, has emphasized the power of video. The advent of Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and TikTok have been significant drivers of short-form video popularity.
Snapchat isn’t as popular as it was a few years ago, but Stories and TikTok seem to have staying power and only continue to grow thanks to their popularity with Gen Z. Stories have been attempted by other social media platforms (it doesn’t always go well) and have been shown to be an excellent tool for engaging with an audience. They aren’t long, only a few seconds, which helps hold your audience’s attention for quick, digestible content.
TikTok amplified this formula and made it even more successful. These videos can’t be longer than 30 seconds, so your audience knows they don’t have to commit too long to a video. Their short, punchy nature makes them more enjoyable because there’s no time for wasted space, and then they can scroll to the following video. They can continue to consume short, bite-sized pieces of content for as long as they like, and because they are short and to the point, it’s easy for viewers to keep enjoying ‘just one more video.’
Utilizing short-form videos for your Gen Z digital marketing strategy can help you create an incredibly strong relationship with your audience. Short-form videos are best used when they aren’t super developed like a TV ad or even a video you’d put on YouTube.
Unlike traditional videos, they are shot vertically since most short videos are watched on mobile phones. They are also shot directly on a phone rather than a high-quality video camera. These two factors make short-form videos easy to make, edit, and add effects, music, or sound effects. Because they are short, have a simple editing process, and don’t look high-budget, Gen Z sees these videos as more authentic. They look like something they’d make with their friends to have fun, because they are, rather than a highly produced video only for selling products.
Because TikTok videos aren’t highly produced, they are cheaper and easier to create and post than other types of videos. Less time and effort are needed for planning, producing, filming, and editing a project. On top of that, the digital marketing trend of raw, homemade-looking videos have the potential to be much more effective at engaging with Gen Z and getting them excited about your brand or products.
However, it must be noted that to thrive on TikTok, you must fully invest in it. The video content on that platform must be explicitly made for TikTok, not just rehashing videos meant for another site. Brands that thrive on TikTok focus on engaging with the audience and not just trying to push the products they want to sell. Fostering community by engaging in TikTok trends and showing your human side will excite Gen Z and get them to become life-long fans of your brand.
Selling products on TikTok is difficult, as Gen Z can see right through and will lose interest in an obvious sales video. The best way to sell a product on TikTok is to showcase it in a way that encourages engagement. For example, let your followers show off how they decorate, organize, and use the desk you sell. This enables Gen Zers to show their individuality and show off their flair. Focusing on them and how they use your product rather than what makes it great will generate more robust engagement and a higher return on your marketing investment.
Speaking of individuality, adding touches of personalization is key to successfully marketing to Gen Z. They don’t like to get generic or the same product as everyone else. They love to take something and make it their own.
Adding ways to personalize products, whether that is monograms, photos of pets on coffee cups, or getting a unique pattern for furniture. Gen Zers want the products they buy to show their personality, be head turners, and maybe even get some compliments. They don’t want to go small. They want to flaunt who they are and stand out from the crowd, and they want products they buy to help them do that.
Building and fostering a community help excite and retain your Gen Z audience. They want to interact with other customers as excited about your product as you are. They want to share how they use your product, why they love your brand, and how you’ve affected them. It’s all good stuff!
No form of advertising, marketing, or sales will ever outperform word-of-mouth advertising. So, helping people who are all excited about your brand connect and share how they use your product, or even tips and tricks, is essentially just expanding your reach for free. You cannot do better than that.
Gen Z loves feeling connection and community. They believe in choosing their family. They want to surround themselves with people who share their values, which could be through a brand with values similar to theirs. Utilizing live events, tags, and hashtags, especially branded hashtags, can give Gen Z customers online meeting places.
Branded Hashtags and Local Tagging
Utilizing branded and local hashtags are excellent tools to foster online community growth. Including them in your digital marketing strategy for Gen Z can give them places to congregate and show how they interact with your brand or products.
The digital marketing trend of branded hashtags can encourage customers to share their experiences with your brand. Customers can get excited to use them and share their experiences, knowing there’s a chance that their post will get more views and engagement, even a shoutout from you. Gen Z loves the opportunity to expand their reach on social media, especially by getting it recognized and shared by a brand they love. User generated content like this is free to use, creates a higher engagement, and can be more easily gathered through a branded hashtag. Who knows, you may even find your next influencer this way.
Using location features also helps encourage growth. Especially after years of lockdowns and limited gatherings, Gen Z wants to gather in person. Location features can be used for pop-up events and show how they interact with a brand in that area.
If your candle company has a tent at a local farmer’s market, using the location tag can help show your online community where you are. Your followers will be encouraged to join you and inspire them to post about your pop-up. They can then share it with their audience, drawing in more customers. If you have a brick-and-mortar location, location tagging can show off your store’s aesthetic and your customers’ favorite sections in the store.
Want to use effective hashtags to expand your brand’s reach?
Even in an age of streaming and play-on-demand, live events and time-sensitive offers still have their place. Nothing fosters community quite like everyone interacting with the same thing at the same time.
Live events have become very popular across social media platforms from Twitter to LinkedIn. They encourage networking and community building, learning, and a unique opportunity to engage with influencers in real-time. Participants can react and leave comments on platforms like Instagram or ask questions that the hosts can answer and respond to. It is an exciting proposition to get a shoutout for their account and a genuine interaction with an influencer they look up to.
While it’s an older tactic, limited-time offers are still a great addition to your digital marketing strategy for Gen Z. They don’t want to miss out on an opportunity. Yes, limited-time deals of 30% off or two-for-one deals are great to boost sales, but they have a secondary effect. This digital marketing trend generates buzz and excitement around your brand. Timely offers make customers excited and get them talking about your brand and bringing it to the forefront of their minds. Customers are more likely to remember your product in the future if they spend time focusing on you and interacting with your brand for a sudden, limited-time offer.
Getting the proper influencer endorsement is a huge part of having a top digital marketing strategy for Gen Z. Many marketers are still grappling with how influencer marketing works and fits into their budget, but it’s clear that influencers are here to stay.
Influencer marketing is undoubtedly inspired by, but very different from, celebrity endorsements. Bluntly, Gen Z doesn’t trust celebrity endorsements. They see them as mass-appealing money grabs and don’t trust what the ad is saying just because Jennifer Garner is talking. Influencer marketing is more nuanced and personal than that.
Influencer marketing resonates well with Gen Z because it feels more personal to them. They follow influencers, also known as creators, because they are fans of their content, which resonates with them. They may be inspired by the influencer’s journey to living healthier or recipes they come up with. Gen Z feels connected to the influencers they follow, having a deep investment in their lives because they see them more regularly. They may know the dog that barks in the background by name and their child’s favorite subject in school. It’s a deeper, more personal connection than traditional endorsements.
Influencer marketing works best and is most efficient when the messaging comes from smaller, micro-influencers. Micro-influencers have smaller followings, but their followers are more engaged and take the influencer’s word more seriously because it feels more like a friend giving them a recommendation. Sure, the temptation is to go after the influencers with millions of followers, but their reach doesn’t translate to high engagement and results worth the cost.
When partnering with influencers, the key is to be picky and only partner with influencers who naturally fit your brand. Gen Z will notice if the partnership doesn’t feel natural, leading to negative results. Partnering with an influencer who is already interested in your products, or is already a fan, can yield excellent results. For example, if you sell custom kitchen chairs, it’s best to partner with an influencer that focuses on home design and décor who prefers an aesthetic similar to your products. Then when they promote your chairs, it won’t feel out of place or like an ad; it’s something they’d naturally recommend to their audience.
The final key to influencer marketing is to let them be themselves. Give the influencer freedom to be creative in how they highlight your product. They tell their followers about a product they like in a way that feels casual and natural, and their highly engaged followers try out the product—even thanking them for the recommendation when the product works well for them. If they can be themselves, it will also feel more like a personal recommendation rather than a paid advertisement, which is why influencer marketing is effective in the first place.
Gen Z doesn’t want to just sit and consume content. They want to be immersed in it. Articles, or even video content, will only hold their attention for so long. If you’re going to keep their attention and get them more excited about your brand, interactive content will help.
To effectively market to Gen Z, they need to feel like they are interacting with your brand, not just being spoken to. Social media platforms offer a variety of ways for the audience to interact with your brand and even give feedback. Stories offer polls so the audience can react to specific posts or give their opinion of future content.
Who doesn’t love a quiz? Your audience will always be excited to take an online quiz, whether it’s something helpful or just fun. The quiz can be which type of shoes best matches your personality or which purse works best with your lifestyle. These quizzes make the customer excited to see their results and will keep them on your website longer. They may even take the test multiple times just for fun! It also gives you a chance to learn about your customer through valuable first-party data.
Gen Z is a unique generation with a lot of spending power, and they are very picky about how they use it. However, if you can resonate with them and keep them engaged with your brand, you’ll win valuable, lifelong customers. To start developing your Gen Z digital marketing strategy, set up a meeting with us today!