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A diverse group of teens looking at mobile phones.

Gen Z: The Latest Generation of Purchasing Power


In 1994, Netscape Navigator was launched, the first ever online purchase was made (for a Pizza Hut pizza), and Doom was the most popular video game. It was also the year I was born, putting me right on the cusp of the latest generation label that now lives in an increasingly digital world. While it’s debatable whether I’m part of Generation Z, I definitely have close friends and family members who are. And let me tell you, they think and act differently than Millennials. They scroll, and engage, and shop differently, and they will be a whole new focus for marketers as they gain purchasing power.

1. Constantly Connected

Gen Z is the youngest generation, beginning with teens and young adults born somewhere around 1995. This group grew up in an extremely connected world, and while we often call Millennials Digital Natives,” Gen Zers take this to the next level, often struggling to think of a world where they could not connect and accomplish tasks online. Gen Zers interact with an average of five screens every day, and a staggering 22% of them say that, even at their age, they’ve found ways to make money online. They’re entrepreneurial, and they trust in technology’s ability to improve their lives. But on the other hand, having grown up in such a connected world, they are more wary and more in-tune to digital messages attempting to sway or convince them, like banner ads or blatant product placement.

2. Relationships through Content

Given the fact that in just over a year Gen Z will represent 40% of consumers, it’s extremely important for retailers to understand how to communicate to them. But do most brands know how to get through to the new generation effectively? TotalRetail puts it best:

What Gen Z desires is an ad that doesn’t look or feel like an ad. This group delights in ads that blend seamlessly with their Instagram feeds and Snapchat stories.”

If Millennials are Digital Natives, Gen Zers are Content Natives. As Millennials changed the game for marketers by introducing us to a digitally native generation, Gen Z will challenge us even further by celebrating native content and what that means for integrated brand messaging. They’re constantly consuming copy, videos, podcasts, and more, therefore standing out in the crowd is tough for brands without an effective strategy. What smart marketers seem to have figured out is that it is not wise to simply promote their products and services, but to cultivate relationships with potential customers and build a following based on shared interests. Tell a story, provide value, engage viewers, and create novel experiences (whether physical or digital). Just as people maintain relationships with their friends online through content, brands have to build and maintain relationships in the same way. Playing the long game here can be similar in cost to a traditional marketing campaign, and can pay huge dividends as younger consumers build brand loyalty and identify with your company, becoming repeat customers.

3. Combating Infobesity

Gone are the days of simply promoting a product and watching it sell. This traditional wisdom dominated for decades and brought us countless classics like Volkswagon’s Think Smallcampaign. But as America’s buying power shifts younger, retailers are going to have to shift their efforts. With information bombarding Gen Z constantly and the very real effects of infobesity” looming, brands need to invest in creating quality content that will build relationships.

On a high level, this seems like a relatively straightforward task once a brand commits to a content strategy. However, over the next three posts, we’ll look at the specific ways to build relationships and trust with members of the youngest generation on social media and blogs, and through events and in-person experiences. We’ll look at companies killing it in the influencer marketing game, like Groupon’s embrace of comedian Tiffany Hadish; brands hosting highly sought-after events, like RXBAR’s exclusive party in LA; and companies enjoying the benefits of building amazing media brands, like Red Bull’s endorsement of all things that give you wings.” We’ll also look at how e-commerce brands are adopting the form as well, like Ably Apparel’s approachable social marketing.

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These examples and more will give us insight into how to cultivate brand loyalty and, eventually, impact your bottom line with Gen Z audiences. Stay tuned!

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