Shift Your Focus: Marketing to Generation Z

Just when you thought you had everything figured out to market to Millennials, along comes the next generation. Generation Z, those born between roughly 1996 and 2010, is gaining power as consumers. And unlike millennials, most of whom witnessed the start of the internet revolution, Gen Z has grown up in an entirely digital world, giving them a totally new outlook that marketers are now racing to understand.

We grasped just how large the millennial generation is –  more than their parents and the baby boomers; however, Gen Z is even larger by most measures, coming in at about 2.6 billion members globally. About 60 million members of Gen Z reside in the U.S., a million more than millennials, according to demographic data firm Social Explorer researcher Susan Weber.

Before we know it, Generation Z will comprise 40% of all consumers and command $44 billion in buying power. What is very surprising is that 93 percent of parents say their Gen Z offspring influence household spending.

Although data is vague, there are some trends that have been observed, and taking advantage of these trends represents the best way for marketers to get a head-start on their competition. So, let’s just jump in.

Online, Mobile and Social

For Generation Z, retail is online, on mobile and on social media. Brands that don’t want to get left behind will prepare marketing strategies that include the social media outlets Gen Z is turning to before making purchase decisions. As they continue to enter the labor force, their buying power will increase.  Furthermore, it appears Gen Z is unconcerned with price and is more likely to buy luxury brands than millennials.

Mobile, Mobile, Mobile

It’s not like this is the first time mobile has been front and center, and it is probably not the last. According to an IBM study on Gen Z for the National Retail Federation,  mobile is the number one device used by Gen Z. As a matter of fact, this generation is connected all the time. Furthermore with a phone continually on their fingertips, they are impatient and  expect things to be there when they need it.

Speak Their Language

To get the attention of Gen Z, marketers must speak their language. A key point of consideration here is that this generation isn’t quite as verbal as the ones before them. Images are predominantly effective, and all wording should be brief and relevant. You need to keep email messages image-heavy and text-light. Gen Z will use images as a device to quickly filter through messages – scanning for visuals as they skim content. In addition to pictures, adding video to emails will make content even more scannable and shareable — not just on email but other visual-based platforms.

Finding Gen Z

Gen Z needs social media to build their personal brands, but they do not want to be defined by it.  They seek social validation and inclusion but are looking to differentiate themselves professionally. Companies that understand this tension will provide Gen Z the tools they need to reconcile and better manage their personal and professional brands

Facebook: Used by teens to keep track of the happenings of extended family and acquaintances.

Instagram: Unlike older Millennials who use Instagram like personal photo journal, Gen Z shares interesting visual moments their followers will like.

Twitter: Used to stay informed and to follow trusted digital curators of culture and information.

Snapchat: Used for a more quick, silly and more private mode of communication This “inner circle” of friends– whether online or offline – provides teens a place where they can let their guard down and relax their concerns about how their actions might be perceived.

YouTube: The primary destination for video for 80% of GenZ. 32% watched video for at least an hour a day, while 30% view for two hours, and 21% view for three hours.

Yik Yak: A semi-regulated place to vent, post jokes or share personal concerns that this generation wouldn’t feel comfortable posting publicly.

Keep in mind, Gen Z spends a great deal of time online, According to the IBM study

  • 73% spend time connecting to family or friends they also hang out with in real life.
  • 36% would create digital content for a brand, 42% would participate in an online game for a campaign and
  • 43% would participate in a product review if it would be a worthwhile relationship
  • 60% won’t use apps or websites that load slowly or are difficult to navigate

It’s important to note here that every social media platform offers a different value proposition and creates a unique set of expectations. These differences are what dictate the types of “followers” they  are seeking and the tone and quality of content they decide to share through each one.


Gen Z is much more influenced by Instagram (44%), Snapchat (21%) and YouTube (32%) than other generations.

The IBM study found that social media more broadly had a big impact on younger shoppers, with more than 80% of Gen Z influenced by social media in their shopping and 74% of millennials


63% of Gen Z members prefer REAL people to celebrities when it comes to advertisements.

There is a need for real people highlights the importance of both transparency and trust to this generation of shoppers. Influencers can still be effective spokespeople for brands targeting Gen Z, but they must be speaking from an authentic place that aligns with the brand’s own values.

Keep in mind, this generation cannot remember a world where the internet wasn’t available to them. Millennials, although highly proficient, didn’t have consistent, reliable and fast internet access until they were well into their teens. Moreover, millennials did not receive the first smartphone until they were in high school. The experience of Gen Z is completely different. We have all heard that we have approximately eight seconds to leave an indelible impression on a potential customer. With Gen Z, cut that time in half. As a brand you can’t waste one second. And, once you have their attention be prepared to be responsive and engaging if you want to keep it.

Putting it Together

Being a generation that spends a lot of time on social media, Gen Z are actively seeking pockets on the internet where they can be unfiltered, speak the language of their peers and worry less about making mistakes. Generation Z take in information instantaneously. It’s critical that we recognize Gen Z’s differences and meet them where they are, rather than where we want them to be. Without empathy and understanding, brands risk being filtered into obscurity.

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