People born between the mid-1990s and today -- Generation Z -- do not remember a time before the internet. Because of this, many companies worry their marketing strategies will be too costly or out of touch.
But that's not the case. Any good Gen Z marketing strategy simply needs to focus on transparency, tailored content, and a balanced approach to both digital and in-store CX to succeed.
"Young consumers tell us that trustworthy companies used to be the ones that touted their size, familiarity and legacy," said Anjali Lai, an analyst at Forrester Research. "Today, consumers are quick to take a risk with smaller startup enterprises that turn their lack of a track record into an advantage by tethering their brand to specific social values and by committing to personalization and transparency."
What Gen Z expects of brands
Gen Z has certain brand expectations, said Jack Mackinnon, an analyst at Gartner. These consumers expect brands to be culturally aware, omnichannel and hands-on. Many treat shopping as a social experience.
Social media is one of the most prominent spaces in which Gen Z receives and responds to advertising, Lai said. Their lives are so infused with modern technology that many do not even consider the medium of communication to be an important part of the process, and most still consider face-to-face communication superior to online interactions.
"Like electricity or flowing water, technology is the invisible force that fuels their lives," Lai said.
Gen Z members are willing to accept brand identities, but they tend to reject brands that seem either too aggressive or too personable in their marketing, Lai said. Traditional advertising has less of an effect on them than the transparency and ethics of the brand selling it.
A good Gen Z marketing strategy not only focuses on the quality and price of products, but also on the image of the brand itself. By presenting a brand as part of a movement, trend or cause, companies are far more likely to appeal to Gen Z than by simply presenting a product's features as is.
What technology companies can use to improve CX for Gen Z
Today's youth tend to do extensive research on products before buying them, Mackinnon said. However, they also go into brick-and-mortar stores to make actual purchases, so it is important to understand when Gen Z wants digital technology and when they want in-person help.
Here are some technologies that companies can adapt to improve CX for Gen Z through the use of automation and optimization technology:
- Websites packed with good information. Gen Z spends a lot of time researching products online, drawing product information from both vendors and third-party reviewers. Websites should be easy to navigate, have all the necessary information consumers seek and be aesthetically pleasing. Companies with web options should optimize their sites for mobile use, because nine out of 10 teenagers own a mobile phone, Lai said.
- Self-service options. Online, this means offering chatbots for customer support problems or FAQ lists that can assist customers in repairing or learning how to use their products. In store, this translates to adding self-checkout counters or apps that enable customers to look up what they need.
- Data platforms. Smart companies base good Gen Z marketing strategies on data. By incorporating customer data platforms, data management platforms and CRM platforms into their analytics processes, businesses can construct journey maps or voice-of-the-customer profiles to help tailor products to specific customer needs. More so than previous generations, Gen Z is far more open to brands keeping tabs on their interests and using that data to sell them exactly what they need. Data analysts can use data storage and collection systems to discover what people will be most likely to use their product, Lai said.
How companies can balance the cost
Tailoring product offerings is the best way to draw in new customers, Mackinnon said. Instead of selling to everyone, companies should go after the people who want what they have to sell. If a company sells kayaks, it should only concern itself with selling kayaks to people who are likely to buy them.
More than that, giving customers depth to their experience by providing extra services or engagement beyond the initial purchase not only keeps them loyal, but makes them ambassadors for the brand, Mackinnon said.
Anjali LaiAnalyst, Forrester Research
"Game of Thrones is popular because its depth can be different depending on how far you want to get into it," Mackinnon said. "You can read the books, watch the show, talk about it on Reddit or even watch discussion panels about the show. Customers want that extra level of engagement with brands."
Even small social media teams can generate marketing content that sees a lot of mileage among members of the right community. If the message is good enough, people will share it among themselves.
For example, Gen Z users on TikTok, a karaoke social media site, often use thematic templates to create and upload video of themselves performing trending jokes or songs, often with a user-specific twist on the theme. When rapper Lil Nas X released the song "Old Town Road," TikTok users uploaded thousands of variations of themselves dancing to the song, all choreographed from a single template.
Brands can coopt these templates to ride on the coattails of these trends, and the shareability of such content means the message has more longevity than most other forms of social media marketing.
"Memes are great for marketers," Mackinnon said.
Big budgets, then, are less important than quality branding and tailored distribution. Gen Zers have far less spending power than preceding generations and are more likely to draw out the buying process, Lai said. Finding a small niche can be more profitable than general advertising, which means businesses can scale down their budgets accordingly.
Automating or outsourcing data collection can further drive down these costs, and many companies are constructing AI specifically for this purpose. Companies that fund training in digital technology for existing staff might also see benefits down the road, especially as the market struggles with a deficit of digitally talented young workers.