03:47 am
29 October 2016

Marketers: Here’s How to Prepare for Generation Z

Marketers: Here’s How to Prepare for Generation Z

Post-Millennials? The iGeneration? Centennials? While researchers and the media are still trying on different labels to see what sticks, the children of Generation Z are quickly making their way into adulthood. Savvy marketers are starting to pay attention.

The cutoff date varies, but Generation Z is loosely defined as those born between the late 1990s through the 2010s. That means that while the youngest members of Generation Z are still in diapers, the oldest members will be stepping into a voting booth this year for the first time. They’re filling out college applications and they’re taking summer jobs and internships.

Most importantly for marketers, they’re spending money. Even though most of their cohort hasn’t entered the workforce yet, their buying power already stands at an estimated $44 billion – and soon they’re going to be spending a lot more than just allowance money.

Avoid Bundling Generation Z With Millennials: They’re Not The Same          

The temptation to link Generation Z with Millennials for marketing purposes is clear. Both generations are tech-savvy multi-taskers, and both want the brands they support to promote their own values of sustainability and social justice. But in spite of their similarities, the two generations grew up in very different worlds, which will shape their purchasing decisions for years to come.

Coming of age during the Great Recession and its aftereffects, Generation Z has deeply rooted economic insecurities. They’ve seen older siblings struggle to achieve an independent adulthood, they’ve seen parents laid off, and they’ve seen savings vanish. Even pop culture reflects the general anxieties surrounding the future; think about recent blockbuster hits like The Hunger Games, featuring dystopian societies with untrustworthy leaders. Generation Z is realistically cautious about depending on anybody other than themselves. The result is that they want to take responsibility for gathering information rather than passively receiving advice.

Additionally, Generation Z’s constant connectedness surpasses the level of their Millennial predecessors, who grew up in a world of dialup internet, slow connections, and patience. The overwhelming amount of information available at their fingertips has given Generation Z an understandably short attention span combined with a high expectation for immediate service. Though the differences are small, they’re crucial enough that they deserve a marketing plan of their own.

Help Give Them an Active Role in Making Purchasing Decisions

 As the oldest members of Generation Z start going to go to college, their decisions about higher education provide important hints for marketers about how their worldview will shape their purchasing decisions. All signs point to the idea that Generation Z places strong weight on their independence and uniqueness, causing them to look down on mass-market solutions.

Their desire to be independent is perhaps best reflected in a 2014 survey of 16-to-19-year-olds conducted by Northeastern University where 42% of respondents said they expected to be self-employed at some point in their career. This is significantly higher than the actual 6.6% of Americans who were actually self-employed at the time, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The same study cited 72% of respondents agreeing that colleges should allow their students to create and customize their own course of study or major.

This entrepreneurial, creative drive is in line not only with Generation Z’s pessimistic view of conventional job opportunities, but also with an independent streak and a desire to exercise a high amount of control over their day-to-day lives.

Companies hoping to woo Generation Z can capitalize on these notions by developing ways for customers to interact with their brand’s products, not just purchase ready-made, off-the-shelf items. The more customers can personalize, customize, and engage with every aspect of their buying experience, the better they will feel about making a purchase suited specifically to them from a company that cares about their preferences.

 Bring Them Information on Their Own Terms

 Generation Z is enrapsnapchattured with technology just like their millennial counterparts, but they’re much more concerned about privacy. This is demonstrated by their preferences for social media platforms like Snapchat, whose messages automatically disappear after a pre-determined time limit, or YikYak, where users in the same area can chat anonymously.

In an age where being in the social media spotlight is something to avoid and information is held close, unsolicited advertisements are perceived by Generation Z to be something of an invasion of privacy. Unsolicited e-mails and pop-ups are to Generation Z what unsolicited telemarketing calls in the middle of family dinner were to Generation X.

Instead, the best way to get off on the right foot with Generation Z is to make sure that they are the ones who come to you. Start with understanding online search strategies. When individuals look for options for a product that they want to buy – or, in the case of real estate, a property – how can you make sure that they’ll find you? The answer lies in the increasingly common arena of search engine optimization (“SEO”), a term describing strategic methods for companies to understand customers‘ search patterns and position their company to end up at the top of the results.

Marketing as Diplomacy: Take Customers The Last Three Feet to the Finish Line

 Just because Generation Z is skeptical of traditional marketing tactics doesn’t mean companies should take a completely hands-off approach. One way to strike a balance is to take an approach common in American diplomacy: the idea of “the last three feet,” credited to Edward Murrow. The theory reflects the idea that relationships can be created from a distance to a large degree, but a highly personalized, highly targeted approach is necessary to bring those relationships across the proverbial finish line: the last three feet. That’s where diplomats come in, living abroad and investing time building trust and loyalty through strong personal relationships with influential counterparts.

In a similar manner, marketers can and should build brand loyalty from a distance, but must keep in mind upper limits and devote a fair amount of resources to those last personal touches.  In this environment, the opportunity to directly connect to the customer is more valuable than ever, and should be encouraged by allowing as many different and unconventional options to connect as possible: phone, e-mail, text message, chat, Facebook message and FaceTime. An open, honest relationship where representatives have the freedom to express individuality to avoid coming off as phony will be key to walking customers from “maybe” to “yes.”

A Lot Can Still Change – Be Flexible and Keep an Ear to the Ground

While the first patterns of Generation Z’s purchasing decisions are already emerging and indicative, that doesn’t mean that their habits are set in stone. The backdrop of their lives – from politics to the economy to social issues – will continue to affect how Generation Z thinks, acts, and buys. Still, waiting too long to move on a strategy is a mistake. The best way to address the growing purchasing power shifting to Generation Z is to have a plan, but – just like the members of Generation Z – stay flexible.