By now, marketers understand that members of Generation Z aren’t just younger Millennials. The latest generation to join the workforce has its own unique preferences, and brands that fail to acknowledge those differences will struggle to connect.
Research from McKinsey found that Gen Zers prioritize individuality more than their older peers. They don’t see differences between the people they meet online and the people they meet in person. Young people today value communities rooted in causes and interests over communities held together by economic status. While Millennials seek purpose through work, Gen Zers see jobs as practical necessities.
McKinsey’s research also found that members of Gen Z prioritize individuality so highly that they’re willing to pay premiums for products and experiences that allow them to explore their uniqueness. For brands, that means personalization options will remain an important differentiator for years to come.
What Gen Z Values Most
Gen Zers care more about the companies behind the products than older generations do. Companies must hire diverse workforces, support social causes, and own their mistakes to gain the approval of younger consumers.
Brands that meet these criteria will reap substantial rewards in the next few years. By 2020, Generation Z will account for 40% of all consumers.
Show Gen Z consumers that your brand deserves their business by following these tips:
1. Provide more value per dollar.
Young people don’t have much money yet, but they have high expectations — and they know how to research the best deals. Members of Gen Z will spend more money on unique products and experiences, but the companies making the sales must ensure that young buyers get their money’s worth.
“As digital natives, members of Generation Z know they can always find something cheaper online,” says Mahesh Chaddah, co-founder of Reservations.com. “Brands must provide something special to earn the business of younger buyers. Authentic experiences, especially those that will look good on social media, are highly appealing to this group.”
To justify a higher price point, take advantage of differentiation opportunities. Limited runs, exclusive experiences, and personalization options all appeal to Gen Z individuality. Give them something they can’t get anywhere else.
2. Commit to social and environmental causes.
“Gen Z cares about our society and planet,” says Falon Fatemi, CEO and founder of AI company Node. “They want to make their mark, in part, by making our society better than past generations have managed to do.”
The days of brand agnosticism in the face of heated politics are over. Gen Zers know how to research, and if a company says one thing and does another, young people will quickly point out the hypocrisy and take their business elsewhere. Modern companies cannot simply claim to support causes or make recurring donations — they must embrace their missions throughout their business operations.
Attract Gen Z buyers by working for a cause beyond profits. Pick something relevant to the brand, not just any popular cause. REI, for example, invests heavily in its conservationism mission. When opposing groups challenge your cause, stand your ground. You may lose a few customers, but you’ll gain the respect and loyalty of audience members who share your beliefs.
3. Adopt a mobile-first mentality.
Millennials got smartphones in high school and college. Gen Zers were surrounded by smart devices in daycare, and they’ve lived in that interconnected environment their entire lives. Research from IBM found that 75% of Gen Zers prefer mobile devices, and that preference grows stronger when young people leave high school.
“Today, marketers only have seven seconds to get the attention of Gen Z before they move on to something else—with millennials, it’s 12 seconds,” says Mary Ellen Dugan, CMO of technology platform company WP Engine. “Because they’ve been digital natives throughout their lives, Gen Z has almost no patience when it comes to slow websites or mobile applications. They have infinite choice at their fingertips, and they will move on.”
Create appealing, uncluttered mobile experiences to capture and keep the attention of Gen Z buyers. Build product pages and content with mobile in mind. Make it easy for people to share content from their smartphones to take advantage of user-generated buzz.
Generation Z isn’t just the future — it’s the present. As members of Gen Z gain more purchasing power and more say in how the world works, older generations will begin to adopt some of the younger crowd’s beliefs and consumer styles. For brands, that means the convictions of Gen Z buyers will rule the market within a few short years. Prepare for that change now, or your business could end up on the wrong side of Generation Z’s strong personality.