Featured In: Forbes | What Your Brand Needs To Know About The Next Wave Of Consumers
February 15, 2018
What Your Brand Needs To Know About The Next Wave of Consumers
By Kelly Ehlers
Generation Z, iGen, Gen Z. Whatever you call them, consumers born after the mid-1990s are coming of age with digital solutions to nearly every pain point. They’re seriously smart about money and they are hyperaware of their options in how and where to spend their estimated annual purchasing power of $44 billion. Brands focusing their attention solely on millennials need to make room in their strategy for this generation of precocious consumers. It all starts with a little homework and a lot of communication. Here’s what your marketing team needs to know about Gen Z:
Their Minds Are On Their Money
While other generations took their time warming up to financial management and payment tools like Venmo, PayPal and Mint, Lincoln Financial’s 2016 M.O.O.D. survey found that Gen Z is using these money-minded apps at nearly the same pace as millennials. While they’re engaging in non-traditional transactions and generally spending at an early age, Gen Zers are also looking ahead to accrue interest on their hard-earned weekly allowance. This informed generation is starting financial planning conversations (on average, by age 13) and looking to trusted sources for everything from investment advice to product reviews.
They're Shopping Smarter
Shoppers under 16 no longer need a ride to the mall to spend their allowance and recent developments in social shopping have taken mobile e-commerce to the next level. Platforms like Instagram and Shopify are teaming up to provide shoppable branded content for a seamless user experience. Whether they’re online or in-store, it’s evident that Generation Z is interacting with consumer touchpoints at an early age. Research continues to indicate that the iGen looks to ratings and reviews before buying. Digital marketing requires best practices when it comes to handling reviews. At my agency, we acknowledge all public comments and reviews and we encourage social media users to continue conversations with us via direct message. By treating comments (the good, the bad and the ugly) with the same practices, we’re maintaining transparent standards. Transparency is quickly becoming an integral part of the shopping experience, from customer ratings online to product reviews by influencers.
Under The Influence Of Influencers
Influencers communicate at the intersection of authority and authenticity, quickly developing their audience’s trust. That’s the keyword when it comes to influencers and, in general, marketing to Gen Z: trust. For this generation, influencers are somewhere between a peer, a mentor and an older sibling’s cool friend. In other words, their opinion means everything. These tastemakers help consumers understand not only if, but how, a product works. My agency has partnered with a range of influencers across platforms, from new brand ambassadors on Instagram and Facebook to verified macro-influencers at activations and on YouTube. Regardless of the client’s commitment to influencer strategies, one constant has been user-generated content. User-generated content is relatable and authentic. For brands, it’s a cost-effective way to reach out to the community and develop relationships with future influencers. Today, with Facebook’s newsfeed update prioritizing the visibility of personal profiles over brand pages, the influencer is at an advantage as both a content creator and an individual. When it comes to Gen Z, brands need to look ahead.
Preteens, Privacy And Parents
Parents know that kids watch our every move. The toddlers who used to mimic how mom answered the phone are now pre-teens with their own mobile phones. Today, users as young as 13 can create personal accounts on leading platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and, with parental permission, YouTube. Social media age restrictions were created with the intention to protect younger users from cyberbullying and content beyond their cognitive development. As a parent, I bring this insight to work with me with an honest approach to social content creation. To ensure that the brands my agency represents earn the trust of both Gen Z and their parents, I take preemptive measures like posting community guidelines and targeting ads to the appropriate age group. I also find inclusive strategies can sustain a user’s connection with a brand through lifestyle changes like parenthood.
Make Room In Messaging
Many of the youngest members of Gen Z are parented by millennials, and today’s family portraits aren’t just for the mantelpiece. They’re for mom’s blog. When I learned that a client’s beauty products, which were not explicitly designed for families, started gaining popularity with millennial and Gen Z moms, I decided to restrategize. The results? Our newly integrated content performed just as well alongside the original concepts. If I had chosen to ignore that growing demographic, avoiding any family-inspired messaging, it likely would’ve alienated a large segment of intergenerational women. Consumer identities have always been more complex than the checked-off boxes that represent them on surveys. What’s new is how well millennials and Gen Zers articulate their identities and how they expect brands to do the same.
Their Values Are Invaluable
Gen Z has inherited a culture of marketing that increasingly speaks to their identities and values. As Goldman Sachs put it, diversity is a defining feature of this generation. Inclusive messaging and a strong sense of identity aren’t just perks -- they’re expectations. For Gen Z, the products and services they support are a reflection of their own personal brand. These savvy shoppers consider what a brand stands for, especially when it comes to interacting online with shares, likes and tags — and they recognize that they have options. They’re thinking outside the box’s label and asking questions on everything from campaign casting to ethical manufacturing. Brands have a unique opportunity to share a look behind the scenes, whether that’s a peek at a CEO’s favorite philanthropy or a product’s thoughtful ingredient sourcing. Transparency builds trust, and it’ll pay to earn Gen Z’s brand loyalty.
Generation Z is teaching brands the same lesson young people have taught grown-ups for years: Play nice and just be yourself.
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