Keeping Up with Generation Z

Gen Z kids are ready for business and will encounter for 40% of total retail in 2020, but marketers struggle to build a relationship with them. We’ve put together 5 practical ways to connect with the 'plasma kids'

Adebisi Adewusi
November 21 2017

Move over millennials, Gen Z is here.

Gen Z consumers (born around 1995 or later), are approaching adulthood and you can’t afford to ignore them.

That this tech-savvy, creative and innovative generation, has a spending power valued at $44 billion and will account for 40% of consumers by 2020.

Though Gen Z is ready for business, retail marketers struggle to build a relationship with this demographic who disregard ‘old school’ advertising techniques and can’t seem to sit still.

If you’re finding it difficult to connect with Gen Z, we’ve put together 5 practical ways to keep up with the younger generation.

#1 Practice Authenticity

Gen Z doesn’t appreciate gimmicks and can smell marketing bullshit a mile away. So the salesy approach won’t get you very far.

Gen Z grew up in a world where advertisements are ubiquitous. They have low tolerance for over saturation and only engage brands with who are transparent, honest and authentic.

Here’s how to remain authentic:

  • Have a strong brand voice- The tone of your communications and copy should be consistent, engaging and reflect the truth about your brand.
  • Tell a story- Everyone likes stories, including Gen Z. Your brand story should be short, personality driven and express your brand’s passion, strengths and goals.

House of Fraser’s social media Emojinal campaign attempted to reach a young audience using emojis, but instead, consumers wondered if the brand’s social media account had been hacked. Needless to say, this was a failed effort.

The point behind authenticity is to be yourself. Embrace your brand identity and Gen Z will be quick to shop with you and spread the word about your business.

#2 Think Mobile

This generation has never known a world without mobile devices and Internet. Staying connected is second nature for them.

Data from GlobalWebIndex states that Gen Z spends an average of 3 hours and 38 minutes online via their smart phones, almost 50 minutes longer than the average internet user.

The generation also converts twice as much as any other generation on mobile and 80% are influenced by social media when making decisions.

These statistics make digital engagement a must if you’re looking to reach Gen Z.

Noting the importance of mobile devices for Gen Z, German sporting brand Adidas, says its ditching television ads to emphasize on mobile based marketing in order to reach their audience. Although Gen Z put mobile first, they are turned off by invasive online and mobile formats and are significantly more likely to skip ads.

But this doesn’t mean they skip ads and shun mobile advertising altogether.

The ads that spark engagement? A sense of humor.

A study by AdReaction Video confirms that humor in advertising is the primary way to prevent Gen Z from avoiding ads and shifting their attention to something else.

Ads like the fruit2go campaign in Germany and McDonald’s ad that featured characters from the Despicable Me movie were a hit with Gen Z.

Just remember to stay sympathetic to cultural nuances when incorporating humor.

Engage with Gen Z where they spend the most time (mobile devices) and you’ve got a shot at forging a relationship with them.

#3 Stand by a Cause

According to research by Marketo, 60% of Gen Z want their work to impact the world and 79% are concerned about humanity’s impact on the planet.

So for Gen Z, it’s not enough for your business to sign another check and carry on making profits.

You have to integrate social good and cause marketing into your business and company culture to get their money.

Pick a cause that is close to the heart of your audience and connects with your business. This will give your brand legitimacy and earn this customer segment’s trust.

60% of Gen Z-ers support brands that take a stand on issues they truly believe in, so choose a social good effort that aligns with your company identity.

By contrast, Gen Z will punish brands that do not follow through on their social claim.

Starbucks was the focus of a major controversy when it released its “Race Together” campaign.  The campaign focused on diversity, but consumers on Twitter were quick to point out that diversity was not a core value of the company.

One brand whose cause marketing resonates well with Gen Z is Toms “One for One” campaign. The footwear retailer’s mission is to supply footwear to populations without access to shoes. As the brand’s central products are shoes, they created a seamless connection between their cause and the company’s vision.

In crafting cause marketing adverts and content, avoid stereotypes and negative descriptions such as racial profiling and .

Remember Gen Z’s thoughts on Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi Ad?

Gen Z wants to change the world. If you want a piece of their money, you must contribute to a cause.

#4 Invest in Social Media Influencer Marketing

Instead of relying on traditional marketing communications for direction, Gen Z seeks feedback from real people (like YouTube stars) to provide honest opinions on whether a product is any good.

To stay current and reach their audience, brands are investing in social media influencer marketing.

Social media influencer marketing is an effective method for brands to build relationships and connect with Gen Z more directly and organically.

In 2016, advertisers received $11.69 in Earned Media Value for every $1 they invested in an influencer marketing program.

The value of social media influencer marketing can be seen in Lord & Taylor’s partnership with 50 influential Instagram fashionistas to introduce and promote their Design Lab Collection to potential customers who followed these .

The result?

The dresses sold out by the end of the weekend.

A few things to note when using influencers to market to Gen Z:

  • Pick influencers that speak to your core demographics
  • Allow influencers to produce their content. The authenticity associated with influencers are what Gen Z trusts the most.
  • Make sure influencers clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationship with your brand when promoting or endorsing products through social media
  • Consider forming long-lasting relationships with influencers rather than one-off sponsored posts. Gen Z won’t believe an influencer who switches between brands.
  • Measure all earned media and identify which influencers and topics lift your brand the most

Done right, influencer marketing can drive greater awareness, retail traffic, sales conversion and loyalty.

#5 Thank them with rewards

Gen Z has a lot of options when shopping, so when they shop with your brand, you have to reward them.

The question is, how do you reward a generation that’s difficult to please?

In rewarding Gen Z, consider the following:

  • Offer personalized and economic rewards such as members-only coupons/discounts and members-only perks such as free shipping and samples
  • Loyalty programs must provide genuine value and an individualized customer experience
  • Reward for both spend and engagement
  • Simplify your rewards-for-spend strategy so that earning points is frictionless across all channels
  • Appeal to the digital aspect of Gen Z through gamification. Almost 40% of Gen Z ranked games as their preferred way of earning points as part of a loyalty program.
  • Integrate your loyalty program seamlessly with mobile apps and leverage data for a more customized experience

The more you reward Gen Z, the more reason you give them to stick around and engage with your brand.

It’s a Wrap

Appealing to Gen Z can have a positive impact on your company’s revenue, and ensure long-term customer retention and brand loyalty.

It is important you engage with this emerging generation of consumers by being authentic, investing in digital marketing strategies, spreading goodwill, connecting with them through influencer campaigns and rewarding them for engagement and spend.

To keep these customers on board, you better keep up.

Adebisi Adewusi

Adebisi Adewusi is a freelance B2B writer and a Huffington Post Contributor. When she’s not creating compelling content for businesses, you’ll find her capturing moments with her Nikon d600.

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