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Are You Ready for Gen Z?

By Kate Tyndall

November 9, 2020

Do you feel like you’re finally getting a handle on marketing to Millennials, and recouping some financial rewards for doing so?

Well done. But don’t rest on your laurels yet. Gen Z is entering the marketplace, and this group has some marked differences from Millennials. They are more pragmatic, cost conscious and debt averse, and they value stability, and are more apt to be influenced by their parents than their Millennial counterparts.

In a presentation at TISE 2020, marketer Irene Williams says this diverse group, just now coming of age, is poised to have an even greater influence on society—more than any generation ever.

The Pew Research Center considers those born between 1996 and 1981 Millennials, with Gen Z members those born between 1997 and 2012. The oldest Millennials are coming up 40, while the oldest members of Gen Z are now 23. The Gen Z cohort is the largest segment of the consumer marketplace, and their desires and cultural touchstones will help shape the marketplace and workplace for decades to come.

When it comes to marketing, Gen Zers are the first true digital natives, and social media is a powerful tool for them. They expect a purchasing experience to be fast and easy—if it’s not, they’ll go somewhere else. They often prefer to research a potential purchase on apps and social media rather than asking store associates, and they want the in-store products they’re searching for to be easy to find. Nonetheless, 76% of Gen Zers say the in-store experience is more enjoyable than online purchasing, a finding that surprised Williams, founder of the marketing firm Msg2Mkt. With that statistic in mind, retail operations can shape their in-store experience to take advantage of the Gen Zers’ preference.

Williams says they prefer the endorsement of influencers rather than celebrities, another preference that retailers’ can use to help shape their marketing strategy.

What drives Gen Zers crazy? Slow websites, says Williams.

If that describes your website, fix it. While you’re at it, make sure your website is optimized for mobile devices. She says Gen Zers also want great visuals when it comes to advertising and they love video. They expect speed and personal service. “For us as business owners, that means you should be instant messaging and using chat bots,” Williams says.

“Be aware that when you sell to Gen Z, you are marketing to marketers,” she says. They are very savvy and have a real nose for the inauthentic. “Gen Zers don’t want to be sold to but shared with. Your messaging is very important,” Williams says. “Make your content attractive so they will share it,” she advises. “That’s a great boon to you.”

Thriftier than the Millennials, Gen Zers are looking for deals and reward programs, and will often wait to purchase a wanted item until it goes on sale.

While both Millennials and Gen Z members are often considered together as young adults, don’t make the mistake of trying to create a marketing strategy that lumps them together. Widen your marketing tent to bring in the Gen Zers, otherwise you could lose some valuable customers with a one-size fits both mentality.

Research has predicted that by 2020, Gen Z will comprise 36% of the workforce. When it comes to recruiting employees from this demographic, look at how your culture can accommodate their needs. Williams says employers should clarify their expectations, terms, and what it takes to advance in the company. 

A Dell Technologies survey of 12,000 high school and college students from around the globe revealed that 80% believe technology and automation will create a more equitable work environment, and 80% want to work with cutting edge technology. Adapt forward as a company by incorporating efficient technology. Gen Z is entering the workforce with a deep understanding of technology and its transformative ability, and are willing partners in embracing new technology.

Numerous studies of Gen Z have revealed that notwithstanding their love of social media, this cohort yearns for human connection—they don’t live their lives online. Communicate with your Gen Z employee face-to-face, counsels Williams. It’s an approach they appreciate. The Dell Survey found that 75% of respondents expect to learn on the job from co-workers and other people; 43% prefer in-person communication for communicating with co-workers; and 77% are willing to be technology mentors to others on the job.

Like Millennials, Gen Zers have an entrepreneurial mindset, but they are more pragmatic and want security. Because they are willing to work hard to shape their own futures, they have great leadership potential. Savvy employers can use this to develop long-term employees.

Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history, with 48% of the cohort being nonwhite, according to Pew Research Center, so when it comes to hiring, Williams advises employers to use current language and stress diversity.