Especially for older professionals, the behaviors and preferences of Generation Z may seem complex and unpredictable. This can make it challenging for marketers to tailor their campaigns to this demographic and attract customers in a digital world. Fortunately, the social media use of this generation means there is a lot of data to work with.
We’ll discuss how brands can attract Gen Z and how to do product testing with these audiences. Stick around for some critical do's and don'ts of Gen Z marketing to improve your reach among young consumers.
The do’s and don’ts of Gen Z marketing
While these frequent social media users do seem to love a fad trend, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some consistencies that make marketing to Gen Z easier.
Don’t: Talk down to them
Gen Z might be young, but they are also savvy and well-informed. Their use of social media means they learn and share info at greater rates than any previous generations.
They are also financially better informed than their predecessors. According to one survey, 57% of Gen Z adults started investing before the age of 25, compared to just 14% of Millennials and 8% of Baby Boomers. In short, don’t advertise to them like they’re kids - they know what they’re talking about.
Do: Offer them high tech solutions
Baby Boomers tend to think of their Millennial relatives and colleagues as being tech savvy. But even the younger millennials out there will remind you that we grew up around cumbersome Macintosh desktops, floppy disks, and flip phones at best.
In contrast, most of Gen Z was born into a world where more advanced tech was the norm, and it shows. Even if you don’t operate in the tech industry, don’t underestimate the importance of having “an app for that” when customizing your services for Gen Z.
Don’t: Expect a lot of input
While this trait isn’t reserved for young people, Gen Z is not known for their patience or attention spans. As the first generation to grow up with smartphones, tablets, and laptops in every aspect of their school and home lives, they like instant answers. In terms of marketing, this means it’s probably not a good idea to, say, publish a lengthy white paper to show your audience why your product is the best.
Do: Use visual, interactive content
Instead, take the key insights from that white paper and publish it in a one-page infographic. Or, post a short ‘How to’ video showing users the best ways to use your product in their daily lives. Think about what content formats would be most fun, engaging, and shareable, and target your young users with those.
Don’t: Be fake
Gen Z is reaching adulthood in the era of “fake news” - and they're sufficiently skeptical. These consumers will likely not be impressed by PR stunts and shallow claims from brands. Don’t expect practical Gen Z consumers to buy into just any claim of wokeness or charity. You have to actually mean it.
Do: Show them what you care about
Gen Z is increasingly concerned with social justice issues and sustainability. This makes them conscientious customers who are more likely to go with brands that match their values. Brands should not hesitate to tell a story with their marketing and showcase the ‘why’ of their businesses. Young consumers will be more compelled by a company that is eco-friendly and inclusive than one that is flashy or showy.
Don’t: Make them anxious
It’s sad but true that Gen Z is more likely to report poor mental health and seek out mental health services than previous generations. Today’s young people are inundated with a barrage of media about the world’s ills, have more debt and higher barriers to career entry, and can often feel isolated - particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While scare tactics or comparing them to successful, beautiful celebrities may have some impact, this is largely unethical and can be harmful. This type of marketing is not a good look for your brand.
Do: Use time-sensitive advertising
Instead, tap into the Gen Z psyche by making your deals and events seem exciting. You can encourage a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) and market limited-time offers or offer discounts for early bird sign-up and pre-ordering. This leverages psychological marketing tactics without being insensitive to the demographic you are trying to court.
You know what they say about assuming. It can be easy to think that with the rise of AI-powered recommendations and Big Data-driven targeted advertising that you can know your customers based on their data alone. And while it is critically important to utilize this type of analysis to personalize your offerings and marketing, it has a time and place.
Do: Ask for feedback
When it comes to connecting with customers, it’s important to actually ask them what they think. Being so active online, it should not be difficult to get Gen Z customers to post reviews or answer surveys. If necessary, consider offering promotions or contests to entice them with rewards for posting feedback.
What’s more, you can feature customer feedback as a source of free marketing. Getting back to Gen Z’s love of visual content, product review videos from happy customers are a surefire way to increase trust in your brand. And this leads us to our final question.
Product testing with Gen Z
In addition to marketing, product testing can be another challenge for businesses looking to get in with Gen Z. In this respect, it’s important to remember that these so-called “digital natives” raised with tech have a low tolerance for inconvenience or slowness with their products and services. And unlike with less tech savvy consumers, a timeout or 404 error will not be viewed as a user error, but as a website error. In other words, Gen Z is more likely to think you did something wrong.
This means when launching new products or services, it’s best to be transparent. If you are trying a new platform or product, say it’s new and ask how to improve it. If you are doing in-person or live virtual product testing, observe how Gen Z participants handle friction in the user experience and how they try to solve problems they encounter.
Another, perhaps counter-intuitive, insight about Gen Z is that they do enjoy in-person experiences. With the ten plus hours a day they spend online, one might think Gen Z wants to do all of their shopping online too. But particularly with clothes shopping, this does not appear to be the case, as many Gen Z shoppers still say shopping in brick and mortar stores is better than online.
You can use this to your advantage by presenting interactive retail environments for Gen Z customers to engage with your products. Particularly with technology, it’s good to learn about their preferences - and learn how you can improve your design - by letting them play around with it. Gen Z also favors workshops and events, so consider hosting an event that lets them participate in product creation and collaboration.
Finally, you should pay attention to user experience in all aspects of your business. Even if you’re not doing regular product testing, you can test the functionality of other aspects of your business, including your eCommerce platform. Keep in mind, though, that a strong UX doesn’t mean you have to pay a lot for your platform. Some options, like WooCommerce, are completely free.
According to industry expert Alex Williams of Hosting Data, you should prioritize functions like mobile performance and other integrations in your choice. Good eCommerce platforms offer “excellent features, including mobile-optimized shopping (a big deal since a majority of online traffic now comes from mobile devices), support for geolocation services, and tons of catalog-management tools. Other tools like special coupons and discounts are excellent for businesses struggling to bring in new buyers.”
Remember, Gen Z is tech savvy and visual, so if you are catering to this demographic, your products and your website should be too.
For marketers and product testers, tailoring offerings and ads to reach the right audience is always a challenge, made more daunting if you are trying to reach a demographic you’re not a part of. But rest easy, Millennials and Boomers. If you take the time to learn about Gen Z’s behaviors and preferences, it will surely aid you in your marketing success with the next generation.