Generation Z: What Brands Need To Know.

Generation Z are growing up…fast. Despite their young ages (born between 1996 and 2010), members of Generation Z (Gen Z’ers) already hold unprecedented influence over family purchasing decisions and wield enormous economic power.

So, who is Gen Z and how can brands peak their interest?

First, it’s important to recognise Gen Z are not an iteration of Gen Y. They are ambitious, but they also have a grounding sense of realism. Where Gen Y were told “if you dream it, you can do it”, Gen Z were advised to embrace their strengths. They grew up during the GFC, so financial stability is paramount; their definition of success is a conservative one based on education, hard work and career advancement. That is however, where the traditionalism ends.

Raised by Gen X parents and educated in diverse classrooms, Gen Z are advocates of tolerance and freethinking when it comes to issues around gender, sexuality, race and religion. Add to that, Gen Z have never known a phone that wasn’t ‘smart’ and it’s clear this generation is both socially savvy and technologically intuitive. Now entering adulthood at a crucial moment in the globe’s history, Gen Z are the generation to watch.

Let’s roll through three take-outs brands and advertisers need to know in order to connect with Gen Z:

1. Digital is physical, and physical is digital

According to research, 74% of the Gen Z cohort spend their free time online, with 25% of those spending five hours or more online each day. Regardless of this seemingly intense love affair with the online world, unlike their millennial brethren, 67% of Gen Z’ers prefer to shop the old-fashioned way. I’m talking the kind of shopping that makes your feet hurt, inside physical, bricks and mortar retail stores. A further 31% prefer shopping in physical stores ‘sometimes’. That’s big news for the long-suffering traditional retailer!

That said, Gen Z place significantly higher expectations on their physical retail experience than that of older generations. Due to the bespoke nature of online shopping, they demand the same in-store. They seek out personalised interactions, value quality over price and want to engage with brands on their own terms.

A recent study by IBM found that despite changing consumer demands, only 19% of physical retailers can provide a highly personalised, digital-like shopping experience. To stay relevant, retailers must not only anticipate the shifting preferences of their customers, but be fluid enough to embrace them.

Trailblazing the retail category in this area are brands like Kylie Cosmetics and Uniqlo who understand how to bring the digital experience in store. They also understand how to manipulate the product release schedule, adopting the sales strategy known as the “drop”. This is where sellers control the release of a new and exclusive item outside of traditional product cycles; cleverly marketing its impending arrival to build demand.

2. Social etiquette is key

Having grown up with technology at their fingertips, Gen Z have written their own rules on communication. There is a distinct social etiquette that brands and advertisers are expected to follow if they are to have any success.

For one, brands must be fluent in the rules of each platform to tailor your narrative accordingly. Facebook may be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ social solution for older generations, but Gen Z are more discerning, using it for blog-like posts and messaging. They prefer to use darker platforms out of reach of their parents and relatives. Where Snapchat is a casual space for quick snaps amongst friends and followers, Instagram is aspirational; filled with carefully edited images that tell a pre-determined social story. When it comes to Gen Z, the idea is to play in their world – not disrupt it.

3. Influence happens when they’re in the driver’s seat

A recent study by Kantar Millward Brown found that many Gen Z’ers say they are overwhelmed by the amount of advertising they see, particularly online. Interestingly, they prefer cinema, TV or outdoor ads because the messaging is ‘fresh’ (that is, not directly related to whatever they happened to be googling earlier).

That’s not to say digital doesn’t get a look-in. Gen Z just prefer to be in control. They’re more positive when given a choice to play or not play an ad, or happier to engage if they’re likely to receive rewards for viewing. On the flip side, Gen Z are far less forgiving of invasive ad formats like pop-ups and must-watch pre-rolls.

So, how can YOU take advantage of Gen Z?

For any brand or advertiser, no matter how ‘mass’ your offering, the one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Target audience demographics alone, are a defunct measurement. Layering generational insights and psychographics on top of any audience profile is critical; empowering tactical insights to ensure you are truly playing an effective role in the life of your audience.

For brands and advertisers trying to reach Gen Z, the choice is simple. Support their ambition, respect their views and play by their rules…or be ignored.