Your Introduction to the Gen-Z Consumer

    With their online savvy and serious spending power, Gen Zers are fast becoming a focus for international luxury brands. Here's what you need to know.
    Gen Z understands the importance of staying informed, and this knowledge formed their beliefs that brands should adopt socially and environmentally responsible practices. Photo: Shutterstock
    Adina-Laura AchimAuthor
      Published   in Macro

    In spite of their general resistance to marriage and procreation, millions of millennials have nonetheless embarked upon the adventures of family life. Yet once they embrace parenthood, their priorities and spending habits change from a focus on frivolities and leisure activities to parenting products and services. Therefore, the luxury industry came up with a contingency plan by turning its focus toward Generation Z. Both generations remain relevant, but Gen Zers are credited with bringing new blood into streetwear culture while helping to modernize classic brands like Gucci and Saint Laurent.

    According to Campaign Monitor, “Generation Z is one of the most powerful consumer forces in the market today. Their buying power is 44 billion and expands to 600 billion when considering the influence they have on their parents’ spending.” But despite their incredible potential, marketers remain baffled by this consumer segment. This is understandable to a certain extent, given that Gen Zers have unique traits that make them both appealing and frightening as an audience.

    They are indeed the first true digital natives, but this aspect has particular implications and challenges because not every brand is fluent in social media lingo or is up-to-date with the latest technology. Furthermore, this generation is a result of the strict enforcement of China’s “one-child policy.” Because of this, Gen-Z kids grew up in households free from sibling rivalry and were pampered by older relatives. Some critics argue that this situation has created a generation of “little emperors” or “narcissistic and weak-willed children spoiled by parental attention and newfound material comfort.” The narcissism is debatable, but we can acknowledge that Generation Z has unique characteristics that impact their consumer behavior.

    The fastest way to a Gen Zer’s heart is with engaging video content.

    Another Gen-Z trait is that they are even more socially conscious than millennials. According to a report by MNI Targeted Media, 56 percent of Gen Zers “consider themselves to be socially conscious and more than 50 percent report that knowing a brand is socially conscious influences their purchasing decisions.” Moreover, as the most educated generation in history, Gen Z understands the importance of staying informed, and this knowledge formed their beliefs that brands should adopt socially and environmentally responsible practices.

    Ultimately, Generation Z is a generation like none that has come before it, and marketers feel pressure to redesign their whole marketing strategy to engage it. For this reason, we outlined the best strategies for brands to implement so they can build long-lasting connections with Gen Zers.

    Authenticity and brand honesty should become the core values for brands who are interested in Gen Z#

    As mentioned earlier, Zers are intelligent consumers. They will cut right through advertorials, branded content, and sales tricks. So instead of creating ads, brands should focus on creating value.

    Marketers serious about winning Zers over should promote transparency and honesty. This implies elevating the interaction with the consumer through thoughtful dialogue. International retailers need to listen to what’s important for their buyers while also offering incentives. Successful examples include turning loyal brand customers into advocates (Apple) or offering discounts and promotional offers to users who post product reviews on social media (Amazon, Alibaba). In short, retailers need to elevate their service offerings and shopping experience through a tactful, honest and genuine approach.

    Diversity and inclusion#

    According to a recent report, 60 percent of Gen Zers want to positively change the world through their work, and a study by Ernst and Young highlights that when working in a team, 63 percent of interviewees “feel it is most important to work with people with diverse education and skill levels” and “an additional 20 percent think that having people of different cultures (ethnicity/origins) is the most important element to a team.” We find the same ideas even in Facebook’s "Getting to Know the ‘Me Is We’ Generation" report, where it’s noted that Gen Zers see diversity as an asset. Meanwhile, according to Ryan Jenkins, 77 percent of Gen Zers look at the company’s level of diversity when deciding on a career move. That means brands emphasizing diversity and building an inclusive culture will surely win the hearts of this demographic.

    Nike, for instance, went through a complete rebranding when it reorganized its management team and dismissed executives whose behavior was “inconsistent with [the company’s] values.” The company’s efforts were noticed, and the new branding was also beneficial for sales: When Nike unveiled its “Just Do It” campaign with former football quarterback and political activist Colin Kaepernick, online sales jumped 31 percent.

    Experiential marketing#

    Zers crave experiences more than owning material goods. For this reason, Inphantry says that Zers can be reached at “music gatherings, art exhibitions, product launches, brand activations, gaming conferences,” and other unique events, while traditional marketing bores them. Therefore, international brands should follow Alibaba’s lead and promote the “retailtainment” model. The Chinese giant is using multisensory experiences “to help buyers develop and forge an emotional connection to the brand.”

    Video content#

    The fastest way to a Gen Zer’s heart is with engaging video content. Jessica Baron from Forbes calls the phenomenon a “rise of visual culture” and she’s right: This generation has a very short attention span (about 8 seconds compared to millennials, who clock in at around 12 seconds). That’s why brands should seriously consider their video content because they won’t get a second chance to make a first impression with Gen Z.

    Creating effective and engaging video content for Nice, Tencent Video, and DouYin (TikTok) is key for any successful marketing campaign in China. DouYin, in particular, with its quirky mix of content, is becoming a goldmine for marketers. According to WalkTheChat, 43 percent of DouYin users are in Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities and are predominantly young (20 percent are younger than 19, and 32.8 percent are 20-24.)

    Given these particulars, it may seem difficult to engage with Gen Zers, therefore, international brands shouldn’t do things half-heartedly if they want to win them over. Only retailers that are genuine, inclusive, and dedicated to a socially responsible agenda will be able to count on this highly lucrative segment.

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