Gen Z – Engaging The Digital Natives For Brand Attractiveness

By Raja Anjana Kothapalli

Born and brought up in a world with huge innovations and technological advances, the Gen Zers are the first digital natives. Marketing to Gen Z requires more than the traditional methods. With the purchasing power of Generation Z rising, a brand needs to connect with the digital natives. So, who are the Gen Zers? What are the characteristics of Gen Z? How to make your brand attractive to Gen Z? What are the challenges brands face when marketing to Gen Z? Read on and find out.

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Who Is Gen Z?

Generation Z, also referred to as the Zoomers, is the newest generation born between 1997 and 2015, and currently between 6 and 24 years old. Genz accounts for nearly 40% of the world’s consumer spending and the figures will increase as they become older. Gen Zers are estimated to spend $143 billion a year. ZeroCater’s study showed that 50% of Gen Zers are online at least 10 hours a day and 98% use a mobile device. Forbes lists 10 stats shared during SXSW. One of which is that the attention span of Generation Z is eight seconds.

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Characteristics Of Gen Z

The Gen Zers are mobile and always up for a challenge. They are wily and thrifty but also ethically and morally serious. Moreover, they connect with the brands that speak to them with honesty and authenticity. Brands will benefit from knowing and understanding these characteristics of Gen Z.

The average Gen Zer gets their first mobile phone when they ate 10.3 years old. Generation Z grew up in a globally connected world. Their preferred method of communication is smartphones. They spend an average of 3 hours per day on their mobile device.

Shireen Jiwan, CEO of Sleuth Brand Consulting, and former chief brand experience officer at Lucky Brand, when talking about Gen Z during SXSW said, “They spend and care less about material items than they do experiences they can share on social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. They do care about brands, they just don’t use brands to navigate their choices”.

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How To Make Your Brand Attractive To Gen Z?

Generation Z is shaping up to become the largest part of the global consumer force. Brands need to understand the ways the digital natives operate to grab potential opportunities and address any challenges. Hobo Video identifies seven key pointers to make your brand attractive to Gen Z.

Image credit: Hobo Video

1. Establish And Nurture Your Brand Personality

Brands should be more than simply what they sell. Establishing a core value that resonates with your brand and nurturing it is the key to make your brand attractive to Gen Z. For example, consider the brand Nike. Its core value is authentic athletic performance and Nike builds its marketing campaigns around this core value. Nike’s new offerings such as running club and app ensure that the brand never diverges from its core value while catering to the digital natives.

Similarly, fashion houses can start creating digital-only pieces. Hotels can offer digital entertainment experiences. Restaurants can offer at-home meal kits. You as a business entity can create new products and at the same time make your brand attractive to Gen Z. But they have to ensure to build their new products and marketing campaigns without diverging from their core value.

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2. Know Them And Keep Up With Them

Once you understand yourself by establishing and nurturing the core value of your brand, you can further make your brand attractive to Gen Z, the world’s largest workforce by 2040, by putting in the effort to understand them. Hobo Video lists below a few pointers to understand the digital natives, an emerging global consumer force, and a few tips to keep up with them.

– Gen Zers are always online connecting with one another: You as a brand can create engaging content that grabs their attention in the first 8 seconds of your content. Also, go for more video-based content. You can make influencer marketing a part of your marketing strategy.

– Gen Zers demand authenticity: Keep your content original and authentic. Make a switch from content that is highly edited and polished to content that reflects reality.

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– Gen Zers prioritize value for money: Highlight how your brand provides value for the money Gen Zers spent on buying your product or service as part of your marketing strategy.

– Gen Zers mostly prefer smartphones over other devices: You as a brand need to optimize your mobile user experience. Ensure that your mobile interface facilities an easy online buying process.

– Gen Zers are diverse and inclusive: Make diverse and inclusive images a cornerstone of your collection of media used to support the sales of your product or service.

– Gen Zers are socially conscious: Ensure that your brand is aligned with the social causes that are most important to Generation Z. You can always collaborate with other brands to support these causes.

– Gen Zers value their privacy immensely: While you’re collecting any information from the digital natives, ensure that the process is as transparent as possible. Also, ensure to emphasize your commitment to keeping their private data safe and secure.

3. Collaborate With Creators That Resonate With You

According to a report by Accenture, Gen Z shoppers mostly buy items based on three factors: receiving the lowest price, seeing products in stores, and reading reviews. But Gen Zers place a greater emphasis than other generations on getting opinions from their friends and family and using social media for deciding on what to buy. They are also more inclined to research the online reviews that a product or service receives on social media and the opinions of their favorite creators/influencers.

Because of this, influencer marketing has a huge potential to make your brand attractive to Gen Z. According to Google, 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers relate to YouTube influencers more than celebrities. Moreover, with the current shift in preference from celebrities and mega-influencers to micro-influencers, coupled with the comparative lesser cost of hiring a micro-influencer, and the higher reach attained while hiring many micro-influencers as opposed to hiring one celebrity, the brands would benefit a lot by collaborating with the micro-influencers operating in a niche that is in sync with your brand core value and brand identity. Read more on influencer marketing here and particularly on micro-influencers here.

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4. Create Content That Engages Gen Zers

There are many forms of content such as blogs, photos, and videos. Comparatively, Generation Z watches a lot of video content. Gen Z watches 68 videos in a day. Currently, teenagers between 13 to 17 years, spend 71% of their time on their smartphones watching videos. They spend more than 3 hours every day watching videos online on their smartphones. As a result, video-based channels such as Instagram Stories, Snapchat videos, YouTube short videos (video length less than 10 minutes), and Facebook Stories are becoming more popular. To make your brand attractive to Gen Z, you can use these channels to engage the digital natives with your video content.

With Gen Zers’ attention span of only 8 seconds, you as a brand need to focus on optimally using the first 8 seconds of your content to capture the interest of Generation Z. They also use more than one digital platform simultaneously. They usually bounce between 5 screens at the same time. Due to this, Gen Zers do not like non-skippable ads, pop-ups, and long-form content. The digital natives, on average, click ‘Skip’ on skippable video ads after only 9.5 seconds. For example, while targeting Gen Z with video ads, brands can use short-form videos such as YouTube bumper ads that are restricted to only 6 seconds.

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5. Use New And Relevant Technology

Technology is important to Generation Z. But only if the technology used is adding some value and enhancing their shopping experience. Gen Zers are more connected than any other generation through digital products. To make your brand attractive to Gen Z, you can use new and relevant technologies to create a personalized and interactive experience for the digital natives. For example, when the famous furniture retailer Macy implemented VR (virtual reality) across 90% of its stores allowing its users to design their own spaces, the VR-influenced sales went up by 60%, and the return rates were as low as 2%.

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Gen Zers use technology to purchase the perfect product effectively. However, there are several significant differences depending on where they live. According to a report by Accenture, Gen Z shoppers in China prefer to shop online via social media, they are also more interested in the ability to engage with an online sales associate. Compared to the global average on how willing are the shoppers to buy online via social media, Gen Z shoppers in Sweden are almost twice as willing to buy. Whereas, Gen Z shoppers in Germany are less than half of the global average in willingness to buy.

When it comes to customer service, Gen Zers are more inclined to communicate via chatbots. Almost half of Gen Z choose to chat over a phone call to communicate their grievances. The rest take it to social media. A study showed that 92% of Gen Z are satisfied with the responses they receive while interacting with a business entity via chat. Whereas only 44% of Gen Z are satisfied via phone calls.

6. Use Media That Appeals To Gen Z

Another way to make your brand attractive to Gen Z is by understanding how the digital natives use each social media platform and using this knowledge to create engaging content. Gen Z uses different social media platforms for different activities. As per Response Media, Gen Zers showcase their ispirational selves on Instagram, share real-life moments on Snapchat, get the news on Twitter, and glean information from Facebook.

Another survey showed that Instagram is the most popular app for brand discovery with 45% of teens using the app for finding new products. In case of browsing for shopping recommendations, Gen Z prefers YouTube at 24% followed by Instagram at 17% followed by Facebook at 16%. So to make your brands attractive to Gen Z, make sure your marketing content for a specific social media platform resonates with the activities that the digital natives engage on that particular platform.

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7. Blend Physical And Digital Channels

Many consider the digital world and physical world to be very separate places. This is typical of people who grew without smartphones and social media. They mostly tend to separate digital life and analog life. But for Generation Z it is just the status quo. Therefore the best marketing approach to make your brand attractive to Gen Z is not usually a digital-only one. Instead, it is a combination of online and offline.

The concept of in-store AR mirrors by Charlotte Tilbury is a perfect example of balancing both physical and digital channels. It is more crucial than ever for the brands to be effective where the digital and real worlds collide. This marketing format will not win the Gen Zers but also project a futuristic image from the brand.

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Challenges Brands Face When Marketing To Gen Z

There are many challenges brands face when marketing to Gen Z. But that doesn’t need to discourage the brands. As is the case with the rest of the generations, these challenges can be addressed. For that brands need to familiarize themselves with these challenges. Hobo Video identifies five crucial challenges brands face when marketing to Gen Z.

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1. They Have The Shortest Attention Span

Studies state that Gen Z has an attention span of 8 seconds. It implies that every moment is crucial and one of the important challenges brands face when marketing to Gen Z. Brands will have less time to grab Gen Z’s attention. So they need to make use of every second to grab the digital natives’ attention. Therefore, ensuring that the content targeting Gen Z is engaging enough to attract their attention will be a top priority of the brands. You as a brand need to avoid lengthy and unnecessary details in your marketing content because you will be having only 8 seconds to convince Gen Z that your content is worth watching.

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2. Gen Z Share Their Opinions Openly And Loudly

Gen Zers are not afraid to raise their voice and share their opinions. If they think a brand is exaggerating or being dishonest in its marketing tactics, Gen Z will not hesitate to call it out openly, loud, and clear. If they find a mistake with your campaign or are dissatisfied with your service, Gen Z will not likely send a letter of complaint to the company involved. They express their unhappiness on social media for all to see. To address this challenge brands face when marketing to Gen Z, the brands must open to criticism, become responsive, and should not hesitate to apologize when they make a mistake. Failing to do so will negatively impact the goodwill of the brand.

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3. They Expects A Quick Response To A Query

As discussed earlier, the Gen Zers don’t drop a mail or send a complaint letter, they take it up on social media. Let it be Twitter, Facebook, or chatbots on the company websites. This is because they prefer an immediate channel to communicate their discomfort and they expect the brands to give a quick response. They get restless after 2 hours without any response to their grievance. This is one of the major challenges brands face when marketing to Gen Z. To stay at the top of their game, the companies must provide super quick customer service. This helps not only in resolving the issues quickly and efficiently but shows that you’re ready to take responsibility and care about your customers.

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4. They Regularly Switch Between Devices

Gen Zers are born and brought up in a digital world with the internet, social network, and smartphones. They are surrounded by numerous devices such as laptops, smartphones, desktops, tablets, smartwatches, voice assistants, etc. Gen Zers often move from one device to another based on their need and comfort. A study stated that Gen Zers can use up to 5 different screens at the same time. They switch back and forth between these 5 screens. This is one of the challenges brands face when marketing to Gen Z. It becomes difficult for the brands to reach these digital natives at the right moment.

5. Gen Z Expects Brands To Be Socially Conscious

Gen Zers favor brands that not only have a responsibility towards their customers but also are socially conscious. They need their brands to leave a positive social mark on their consumers, society, and the environment. Gen Zers prefer restaurants that pack their food in reusable and recyclable packaging. They care about pollution, human rights, animal protection, climate change, and many more issues. If you as a brand contribute to enhancing such problems, then you’re in Gen Z’s bad books.

According to a joint survey by Facebook and Crowd DNA, polling 11,300 people aged between 18 and 24 years from 11 countries. As per this report, 68% expect brands to give back to society. Another study by The National Retail Federation and IBM, says Gen Zers are more serious about the political, environmental, and socio-economic problems that societies face today than any other generation. Due to this, 55% of Gen Z prefer brands that are environmentally friendly and socially conscious.

Ready To Engage Digital Natives?

This article illustrated upon various techniques which could be used to help make your brand Gen-Z friendly. You can also play with colours and fonts to help entice potential Gen-Zers. Let us know in the comments sections if you’ve any queries or to leave feedback. Hope you find this article useful in your endeavour to successfully market to Gen Z.