Gen Z is fixing to emerge as the most important consumer group that brands will be catering to in the next decade. As it stands, they are already a force to reckon with. Brands who want to capture the opportunities they present need to think about many different things. Here are just a few considerations when selling to Gen Z (and to a lesser extent Millennial) consumers:
They are clothes-obsessed
Gen Z is a clothes-obsessed generation. Clothes and shoes. Especially sneakers. Why is this? It could be because of social media and the need to constantly look fresh and have new pictures. It is social suicide to basically be seen in the same outfit in more than one picture when you are under 20 years of age.
For this reason, fashion brands and footwear brands are very popular with this generation. They particularly love Zara, H&M, Nike, Adidas, Gucci and Vans. These are not by any means the only brands they like but these brands tend to do well with Gen Z shoppers.
They don’t stay loyal to any one brand
Brand loyalty is not something Gen Z takes very seriously. They will drop a brand like a hot potato if they suddenly become turned off or if their friends on social media start to say negative things about the brand. Plus, if the brand does not stand for their values or what they believe to be Important – such as social issues like climate change and the environment – the brand could find itself on the Gen Z don’t shop list very quickly.
Conversational data should not be ignored
Brands need to listen to what this generation is saying on social media, in reviews and other types of feedback mechanisms because this is a generation unlike any other who likes to express their opinion and their opinion matters a lot because they speak their mind and where their minds go, so do their cash and debit cards. “Conversational data is very big with this group of shoppers. They really rely on what their friends have to say on social media and they interact a lot on social media and spend a lot of time there,” says Business Insider.
Price is the main deciding factor for this demographic
According to Business Insider, For Gen Z shoppers, “when deciding where to shop, their primary motivator is price.” This conclusion was reached after Business Insider conducted a survey of more than 1,800 Gen Zers. Sure, they will pay premium for Gucci – one of their favorite brands at the moment, but they better feel like they are getting value for their money. This is not a generation who spends money just for the sake of it. They want value. They want to feel like they are getting their money’s worth and don’t think that an awesome Instagram account or what their peers said on Snapchat will influence them that much. These things do influence them a little bit but it is really the price that is the resounding bottom line for this group of consumers.
They want to feel like they are part of the experience
Gen Z shoppers want a piece of the experience. They want ownership, says Interbrand.com. “People like those in Gen Z don’t want to buy a brand… they want to be a part of something.” They also want that something to be meaningful and impactful. They patronize brands that “stand for something,” according to Business Insider.
Indeed, it’s not just about social media and pop up stores with Gen Z shoppers. Gen Z loves social media–they power it– but brands should not think that that is the beginning and end of the story. This generation of shoppers if very savvy and they have access to more information than any other generation. They are informed consumers in other words, and they get their information from places other than social media. Granted that social media plays an integral role in providing them with information on a daily basis. Research shows that YouTube, for example, is a primary place where Gen Z consumes news. However, it’s not all about Instagram and Youtube. They are a lot more informed than that and can verify anything with the press of their finger against keypad (while in the middle of a high school lecture) so don’t try to pull the proverbial wool over their eyes and think they won’t know the difference. Be authentic.
Authenticity, Transparency, Inclusivity, Diversity and Youth Empowerment are important values to Gen Z
For brands truly committed to reaching out to the Gen Z demographic, they need to work on how they are perceived by this group. This generation of shoppers value “authenticity” in everything, including in marketing campaigns. They like to see “real people” in ad campaigns and are not so impressed with filters and retouching and using “perfect” models. They like to know everything about the brand, the brand ambassadors, the influencers for the band, and about how products are made and under what conditions and circumstances. They value inclusivity and are less interested in “possessing” as much as “consuming” by alternative means (such as renting rather than buying outright). They want everyone to feel a part of the experience—even though they put a premium on individuality — and they also value diversity and youth empowerment. Brands that fail to understand and respect these new rules of interaction with consumers will likely pay a price. This excerpt from an article from McKinsey sums it up well:
Companies should be attuned to three implications for this generation: consumption as access rather than possession, consumption as an expression of individual identity, and consumption as a matter of ethical concern. Coupled with technological advances, this generational shift is transforming the consumer landscape in a way that cuts across all socioeconomic brackets and extends beyond Gen Z, permeating the whole demographic pyramid. The possibilities now emerging for companies are as transformational as they are challenging. Businesses must rethink how they deliver value to the consumer, rebalance scale and mass production against personalization, and—more than ever— practice what they preach when they address marketing issues and work ethics.
The Influencer Community is critical to Brand awareness and Brand perception
No, brands should not focus exclusively on social media and/or on the influencer community when trying to reach the Gen Z demographic, but they should not ignore the influencer community either. Because according to Business insider, surveys show that whereas in the past it was brands shaping their identity, increasingly today it is the influencer community that is shaping the brand’s identity on social media.
There is stiff competition in Resale, Thrift and Second Hand
Gen Z has no problem with buying and wearing second-hand clothing and shoes. Indeed, there is appeal with second-hand goods, especially in the luxe department because it is a way for them to distinguish themselves from the pack. If everyone is wearing the same outfit from Zara or H&M, it is not so cool for the Gen Z set. They crave individuality and don’t want to look like everyone else. In addition to that, they are a thrifty generation and as mentioned above, they are price conscious. They are interested in looking great and fresh and different but they also want to save money for a rainy day and this could be because when they were little, the financial crisis happened (in 2008) and they saw their parents struggle a bit to right the ship (Business Insider). So, they know the value of a buck and are less keen to spend all their disposable income on clothes. So, while they are obsessed with looking new and fresh on Instagram, they will happily buy second hand in order to achieve their objectives. As a result, second-hand brands like Rent the Runway and Thredup are thriving and are a direct threat to the bottom line of brands that do not have rental and second-hand options.
They enjoy shopping online
Gen Z is described as the first “digital native” consumer. They are more comfortable online than any other generation.
Young people have always embodied the zeitgeist of their societies, profoundly influencing trends and behavior alike. The influence of Gen Z—the first generation of true digital natives—is now radiating outward, with the search for truth at the center of its characteristic behavior and consumption patterns. Technology has given young people an unprecedented degree of connectivity among themselves and with the rest of the population. That makes generational shifts more important and speeds up technological trends as well. For companies, this shift will bring both challenges and equally attractive opportunities. And remember: the first step in capturing any opportunity is being open to it.
According to a Business Insider survey, this generation of digital natives really enjoys the online shopping experience. So, any brand who want to court this demographic had better have a strong presence online. That is not just about having a website. It is about having a seamless online experience that is easy to navigate and that uses the latest technology (AI, VR and AR included) to seduce consumers into becoming their customers. Technology used by brands will have to be fast, efficient and easy to use. Slow loading websites, websites that don’t use artificial intelligence, augmented intelligence and virtual reality intelligence will not appeal to Gen Z shoppers.