Marketing to Gen Z

Updated on May 9, 2020
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With several years in the Halloween industry, Drew is on the beat with the latest developments in the eCommerce world.

What Exactly Is Generation Z?

Generation Z (Gen Z, iGeneration, post-millennials) is the generation after Millennials. Woah, you mean to tell me not all young people are Millennials? It's true! Not to mention, Gen Z has a different outlook and methodology to their buying and spending habits than Millennials do. This is in part to Gen Zers being born completely within a digital age of social media sharing and online shopping. The time period when Gen Zers were born is between approximately 1996 to 2010. The oldest of the generation are roughly 24 years old and the youngest are only reaching 10 years old in 2020! Why is this cohort so important for your business's success? Generation Z is the next generation to delve into their prime earning years. You can create a loyal customer base with Gen Zers who are in their early 20s or late teens with the right tactful maneuvering and trust.

Digital Natives

Gen Zers have had consistent access to cell phones since they were as young as 10 years old. They were born into the digital age and were likely seldom exposed to things like VHS players, CD players, or dial up internet (welcome, you've got mail!). Unlike Millennials who grew up adapting to technology being released, Gen Zers already had access to social media and Amazon—two of the major points Gen Zers tend to stick to. Infact, 98% of Gen Zers own a mobile phone and 50% say they're connected to social media a whopping 10 hours a day! With all of this digital technology available right at their fingertips, Gen Z has often been stereotyped at technology-addicted and out of touch with society. It is interesting to note here that 81% of Gen Zers actually prefer to shop in brick-and-stores, but are also just as likely to purchase online. That is because even though Gen Zers may frequent brick-and-mortar stores, they compare prices online to the price tag that is in the isle at Target or Walmart. The Amazon app allows users to scan a product's barcode and instantly take you directly to that product's Amazon page, thus potentially eliminating a sale from a brick-and-mortar location.

I'll take a tangent here for a moment in case you feel that you do not need to worry about the online retail space. While I was in New Orleans for a trade show, one vendor was adamant that his products were not being sold online, because he strictly does not allow his distributors to sell online. I was skeptical. I quickly scanned the first product I could find on his table's barcode and, lo and behold, it was on Amazon being sold as "new". I left him dumbfounded (and possibly angry with me), but my point was proven.

Due to Gen Z's constant access to mobile phones, the majority of shopping tends to happen on their mobile phone. 55% of Gen Zers use their phone to purchase products online and 38% use a computer. The mobile trend has been getting stronger with each generation. For example, 42% of Millennials use their phones to purchase online and 13% of Gen X and Baby Boomers use their mobile phones to purchase online. The trend is clear with mobile phones winning the race of mode to purchase.

Commenting, Sharing, Uploading, Social Media

Remember the little tidbit of information I revealed about 50% Gen Zers being connected to social media 10 hours a day? That's not just a statistic, it's an online marketing dream. Running a standard ad will not resonate with Gen Z as it may with other generations. For example, the Wendy's twitter account is notorious for dealing harsh remarks to people and competitors. The responses often get retweeted or screenshotted and shared, which promotes the business through the age-old classic marketing technique: word of mouth.

Social media engagement is key to gaining a positive perception in the eyes of Gen Zers. If you can communicate trust while being authentic, Gen Zers will not take an issue with you. However, be mindful of what you post to social media from your business's page as well as personal. More often than not, a Gen Zer attaches the person in a business to the actual business, and the person is a reflection of the business's ideals. It is wise to avoid politics or abrasive celebrity comments where you also offer your views on the subject. Gen Zers are picky in the content that they enjoy because they follow brands that align with their interests. Include photos and videos every so often to keep an interesting social media account up to date and relevant. Photos of customers using your product in a positive way are a benefit, just be sure to contact them to see if it is ok to use their photo on your account. You may be asking "Would it be best to avoid social media altogether with this cohort"? Not likely. 65% of Gen Zers view the lack of a business's social media presence as untrustworthy. On top of that, of all consumers that start their buying journey on social media, 43% of them are Generation Z and 46% that view a business's social media account prior to purchasing are Gen Zers.


I mentioned quickly that videos are a good thing to have on your social media account. I should explain a bit more. 56% of Gen Z mobile users share more videos than articles (should I be making a video instead of an article?). If you are showcasing a product, a video is more likely to resonate with Gen Z, especially if it is short content. Today's video content must be quickly consumed. If your product video is extending beyond 1.5 minutes, it could be considered "too long". Think of those Billy Mays infomercials as they are usually quick and to the point. He shows the product, describes the product quickly, most often times simultaneously as he is using it and the commercial lasts roughly 20 seconds.

The app TikTok is a powerful new video-sharing app that 41% of its users are Gen Z. The app allows users to create short video clips and share them with the TikTok community and generates things like memes, "best of" videos, and product partnerships with the top users. Early in 2019, Amazon created Amazon Live, which allowed users to livestream videos showcasing their products. The feature is only available to those with Amazon brand registry as well as 1st party sellers.

Emerging Technology

Gen Z is at the forefront of new technology. As not technology is introduced, Gen Zers are usually the first ones to own it in the hopes that it offers more convenience and personalization to their everyday lives. 54% of Gen Zers own an Alexa, Google Home, or other voice-activated devices, while only 46% of Millennials and 29% of Gen X and Baby Boomers do. Voice search is expected to rise in popularity through the 2020's, so it is a good idea to begin optimizing your website's content to include voice search keywords. Long-tail keywords usually do the trick as they can catch unusual searches. If your website has a fleshed-out product title and product description, you are already in good position. When purchasing products through voice search, usually the first one or two products are available and are the ones purchased. If you do not have your content created in a way to catch voice-assisted searches, you could be losing out on potential sales.

Another emerging technology in virtual and augmented reality. As an example of augmented reality, you can view a furniture website with the feature. Some allow you to drag and drop furniture through your phone's camera and place it in your "home" to see how it would look. It is expected that marketplaces will begin the development of virtual or augmented reality to showcase their products instead of using traditional pictures. Older generations may scoff at the idea or have a lack of comfortability using it, but Gen Z sees the new technology as a new way of shopping that enhances the experience.

Loyalty, Trust, Membership

Gen Zers relate their purchases and where they purchase from with who they are as a person. If a company in not trustworthy or has negative media stories published, Gen Zers tend to not purchase from that company, while other generations may give the benefit of the doubt or may not have even known of the story! Remember: Gen Zers share digital content more than any other generation with their peers. With this in mind, Gen Zers often purchase products that are personalized for them and a majority have no problem paying more for that product. Over time, Gen Zers will trust a seller or brand if they are transparent, show responsibility on their social media accounts, and are authentic in their story.

Gen Zers will often read up on the businesses they buy from and are well educated enough to know when a business's ideals do not match their practice. If a company touts their acceptance of diversity online, but have failed to include diverse hiring practices within their company, Gen Zers will take note, share it with their peers, and create for that company a negative connotation online and with other Gen Zers. 65% of Gen Zers say they try to learn about the origins of a product before they buy it, like where it was manufactured for example.

Price and Convenience

Gen Zers are often cautious about spending in excess unless it is for a product they favor. Gen Z is sometimes labeled the "thrifty generation" because they are finicky spenders. 81% of Gen Z say that price is a very important factor when making a purchasing decision. A huge difference between Millennials and Gen Z is the amount of the population that does not have debt. 25% of all Millennials and 40% of Gen Z (aged 18-22) do not hold any debt. This is a huge indication for the future ranks of Gen Z who will begin their early earning years debt-free. The college craze the Millennials were driven into was pulled back as Gen Zers learned of rising college costs and have instead turned towards trade jobs as a way of life. Without a debt payment, 75% of Gen Zers spend more than half of their monthly income in the retail space.

If you have not done so already, create an Amazon seller count, begin to list your products on Amazon, and look into enrolling your products into the Prime program. Amazon is the leader in online sales channels, is where Gen Z actively looks for products and is the major convenience of the online retail world. Amazon Prime offers fast 2-day shipping for free to Prime members and a good amount of perks for being a prime member, which can all be accessed via mobile phone. 60% of Gen Zers have an Amazon Prime account, so enlisting your products into Prime will help create the sense of trust that Gen Zers often take a while to give.

The Future of Gen Z

Gen Z is still yet to boast powerful spending numbers, but over the 2020 decade, Gen Z will become the generation to inspire as they share content that you create with others of their generation. Gaining their trust will be invaluable for your brand and will be a different engagement that you may have seen with other generations. By being proactive now, you may be able to gain an advantage over your competitors by obtaining loyal Gen Zers that would act as social recruitment officers. Word of mouth advertising is alive once again with the digital social interactions of Generation Z.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Drew Overholt


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