Embracing Gen Z

Embracing Gen Z
Maria Topken
Embracing Gen Z

While the oldest Gen Z member may only be about twenty-five, this young group is wise beyond their years and a force to be reckoned with. They are determined not to repeat the mistakes of older generations, even in the face of Covid. This is a unique group, and for brands and retailers to win with Gen Z, you must be:

  • Authentic/Transparent
  • Inclusive of all
  • Mobile-focused
  • Sustainable
  • Convenient
  • Powered by purpose

Who is Gen Z?

While Millennials were raised by protective parents who believed there should be a trophy for everyone, Gen Z was raised by Gen X parents who taught their kids to figure it out. Gen Z was born between 1995-2012 and is 74 million strong in the US. While some question their loyalty, it’s likely because this group is more skeptical than others. This generation was headed on the right track, and then the pandemic hit. Unfortunately, Covid may have a long-term impact to their earnings potential given major setbacks in the job market.

How has Covid changed them?

  • While Gen Z has had access to tech since birth, they would tell you that going to school virtually has its downside. Like many, they are missing the interaction with their friends and teachers.
  • Because of online schooling, several Z’s are opting for a “gap year” during college. If they can’t have the experience of living on campus, many have chosen to take a year off from school, thus graduating later.
  • More than 70% of those seeking mental health care during the pandemic are under the age of 24. This may be a result of becoming an adult during a period when the future looks uncertain.
  • According to Pew Research, about 26 million Z’s have found themselves back living with their parents – not by choice, but by necessity. At work, being “low man on the totem pole” sometimes means the first to be laid off. Also, many Z’s had jobs in the hospitality and retail sectors, which were the first to take a hit during the early months of the pandemic.
  • On the positive side, being stuck at home meant having time to develop new hobbies such as learning to play an instrument or trading in the stock market.

How do they choose their favorite brands?

  • Typically skeptical of brands, Gen Z votes with their wallet. They buy from local, Black, & minority-owned businesses – more so than other generations.
  • According to Morning Consult, 72% of Gen Z somewhat agree/strongly agree that corporations have a responsibility to play a role in addressing racial inequality in the US.
  • Netflix, Google, YouTube, Amazon.com, and Amazon Prime are the top 5 most-loved brands for Gen Z according to Morning Consult’s research. Gen Z is more interested in how fun and entertaining a brand is vs. how long a brand has been around.
  • In YPulse’s August 2020 research, Gen Z reported their top favorite retailers for clothing are Walmart, Nike, Ross, American Eagle, with H&M and Amazon being tied for fifth place. Not only did Walmart win with their comfortable, yet very affordable clothing, those clothing purchases were convenient because people were in the retailer buying other essentials.

How can brands & retailers win?

  • Authentic/Transparent
  • Influencers are chosen over celebrities due to influencers’ more intimate social presence.
  • Southwest Airlines is an example of a brand that prides itself on transparency, or “Transfarency” as it says. This airline’s campaign focuses on no hidden fees or extra costs.
  • Inclusive of all
  • Gen Z grew up with a black President, and now we have the first female VP. They grew up in an inclusive culture.
  • No surprise that we saw this generation rise up over Black Lives Matter.
  • Mobile-only
  • Gen Z are the first true digital natives, having unlimited information at their fingertips.
  • A brand has 6-8 seconds to catch their attention, so bite-size info is best.
  • Memes and emojis are worth a thousand words.
  • It used to be a driver’s license gave a teen “freedom” to go see their friends. Now “freedom” comes in the form of interacting with friends without leaving the house.
  • Sustainable
  • Environmental issues play into their purchasing decision. Those brands not focusing on sustainability are feeling the effects of Gen Z’s purchasing power. Forever 21, a “fast fashion” retailer which has historically used cheaper materials, is hoping to turn things around and be more appealing to this group with better quality items.
  • Interestingly, Z’s are willing to pay for sustainability. “Buy less, make it last.”
  • Convenient
  • Quality, convenience, and service will keep this generation loyal to your brand.
  • Sharing product information and simple delivery methods are important to this group. No surprise, Amazon is a big brand for this group.
  • According to LaserShip’s post-pandemic survey on How Retailers Can Stay Ahead of Consumer Expectations, Gen Z ranks free return shipping, free standard shipping, and the ability to track orders in real time as their top needs from retailers.
  • Powered by purpose
  • Gen Z supports those brands that give back and have committed to improving the community. Toms Shoes and Bombas live this well by donating a free pair of shoes or socks for every shoe/sock purchased.

Where to reach Gen Z?

Right message, right place, right time are still key for brands looking to capture Gen Z. According to Google’s Cool Book, the top steaming platforms for this group are YouTube, Netflix, Spotify, and Hulu. Also, while Z’s enjoy social media, to them social media is for consuming and connecting, not sharing. And be sure to check the messaging in your ad. Don’t make the mistake of running a generic-type message to this group.

Morning Consult reports that 85% of Gen Z say their future is determined by choices they make or things they can control. I am not giving up on Gen Z. I love what they stand for and I am confident things will turn around for them post-pandemic. Any brand who is not watching, listening, and connecting with them now, may find its own lifespan short-lived.