Generation Z looking to identify with brands

Gen Z is socially conscious, politically active and directs their business toward companies that share their values.

Generation Z (loosely defined as those born between 1995-2012) is not as share-happy as its millennial predecessors. Members of Gen Z strategically consider how and what they post on their online social platforms. 

In fact, this younger demographic shares vastly different content across broader social media channels than it does with smaller groups of trusted friends. This dichotomy can prove challenging for marketers trying to reach out to Generation Z. 

FierceRetail spoke with Sara Spivey, CMO of consumer-generated content platform Bazaarvoice, to learn more about marketing to this hyperconnected generation. 

FierceRetail (FR): What sets Gen Z consumers apart from other generations?

Sara Spivey

Sara Spivey (SS): Gen Z consumers are the first digitally native and tech-fluent generation; they were born with fast internet, streaming services and smartphones. Because of this, Gen Zers are hyperconnected to their devices, the internet and social media. Eighty-six percent use their smartphones multiple times a day and for a variety of purposes. Though millennials are also very tech-savvy and active on social media, Gen Z gravitates towards different platforms like YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram, while Facebook remains more popular with older generations.

FR: What is their reaction to online versus in-store shopping? 

SS: Since Gen Z consumers grew up in a digital world, they’ve never experienced a time when they had to wait for webpages to load or for products to take more than a day or two to ship. Two-thirds say they’re comfortable shopping online but still prefer to shop in-store for the instant gratification of not having to wait for their orders to arrive. The shopping trend of buying online and picking up in-store is quickly gaining traction with this group.

FR: What do you think is a misconception that many retailers have about Gen Z?

SS: Since this generation is young, companies often underestimate how mature and value-oriented they are. This generation grew up during a recession and witnessed adults losing jobs, homes and savings, and 83% of them think it’s important to start saving now. This generation is also very socially conscious and politically active. They care about human rights and the environment and identify with companies that share their values and reward them with their business. In fact, 60% of Gen Zers support brands that take a stand on issues they believe in.

FR: What are retailers doing to reach out to this generation? And what should they be doing?

SS: Companies must evaluate and shift their advertising strategies when marketing to this age group. Gen Z consumers have a very strong sense of identity and individuality and do not want to be told what they need to buy or wear to be cool. Nearly 60% of Gen Zers say they prefer to create their own fashion statement, so companies should position their products as tools for this age group to express their individuality and enhance their sense of identity.

Also, this age group trusts social media influencers as much, and sometimes more, than mainstream celebrities when making their shopping decisions. Marketers should pay attention to influential social media stars on YouTube and Instagram and consider using them in marketing, but companies must be transparent and authentic when doing this to maintain this generation’s trust.

FR: How important are consumer-generated platforms to Gen Z? 

SS: Consumer-generated platforms are extremely important to Gen Z. The most popular platform with this group is YouTube; nearly all of Gen Z-ers use YouTube, half say they “can’t live without it,” and they spend 24 hours a day watching YouTube videos. YouTube resonates with this group because of its communal, crowd-sourced nature where anyone can have their own channel, and it’s a great platform for discovery.

Additionally, 40% of Gen Z say they give feedback, such as writing online reviews, “very often.” Whether they’re reviewing products, brands or experiences on ratings and review sites or posting opinions on social media, they want their voices to be heard and their opinions to be shared.

FR: How can marketers use these consumer-generated platforms to better reach this group?

SS: Marketers could use YouTube influencers in their marketing since this platform is overwhelmingly popular with this group. As long as companies are transparent about working with influencers, Gen Z consumers respond well to this type of marketing because they often consult YouTube to learn and discover new things.

Also, companies should be proactive about asking for consumer-generated content. Gen Z shoppers are not afraid to voice their opinions and want their voices to be heard and valued. Companies should encourage Gen Zers to share photos and videos with their purchases, create polls and contests on social media and, most importantly, listen and respond to their feedback.

FR: Can you give an example of a retailer that you believe is doing a good job of reaching Gen Z?

SS: I think ModCloth is a great example of a retailer that is doing a good job of reaching this age group. ModCloth completely embraces inclusion and individuality—the company is committed to providing clothes that are unique, expressive and representative of a wide range of sizes and different price points for their customers. This retailer has been very innovative in personalizing the shopping experience through its community-powered “Fit For Me” app, which stores customers’ measurements and provides recommendations for other popular items rated and reviewed by other women with similar sizes and body shapes. Additionally, ModCloth is doing a great job of personalizing the in-store experience with their pop-up shops and physical showrooms. Their physical store in Austin offers a full range of sizes for customers to try on, personal stylists and the convenience of shipping your purchases home.

FR: What else can you tell retailers about Gen Z and their shopping habits?

SS: Since Gen Z shops both online and offline, retailers should prioritize enhancing both shopping experiences. Gen Z consumers often treat shopping in-store as a social activity with their friends, so retailers should create entertaining, engaging and communal experiences in their physical stores. Meanwhile, the user experience of their online and mobile e-commerce stores should be easily searchable and seamless across devices because this generation is constantly using multiple devices.