Gen Z has an estimated $143 billion in direct buying power, and yet almost half of those young consumers aren’t old enough to drive a car. The youngest are in grade school while the oldest are just beginning to graduate from college. Accounting for approximately 32% of the world’s population, Gen Z—defined as being born from the mid-to-late 1990s to the early 2010s—is emerging as the world’s largest and most diverse generation, born into a world of seismic social change. For these digital natives, “on-demand” is not a buzzword. It is a mode of existence.
Gen Z: The label-less generation and the future of data
For these digital natives, “on-demand” is not a buzzword. It is a mode of existence.
Known for their work ethic, technology prowess and passion for action, this is a generation that eschews labels, preferring instead to move fluidly. As they come into their own as consumers, employees and citizens, it is imperative for marketers to understand what motivates and drives them. But what does the future of data look like when the people who will be shaping it don’t want to be defined? Is it even possible to build brand loyalty among them? To answer these questions, The Female Quotient partnered with Influential and IRI who used their Product Pacesetters insights and myriad data assets to dig deeper. Here’s what we found.
Think discovery not loyalty
More than half of Gen Z said they love to try different brands. While they are a generation hard-wired for seriousness and diligence, discovery within the world of CPG products is a low-risk way for them to experience the fun of trying something new. Discovery fuels brand engagement in many ways. Discovery is play, discovery is visual, discovery is connection.
Organic recommendations from family and friends carry weight, and are more likely to influence an actual purchase. Don’t be the brand that touts sustainability and then uses multiple layers of plastic in packaging; these “tells” immediately undermine a brand’s credibility with Gen Z.
Disruption fundamentally changes the status quo
It’s not about choosing A or B, it’s about having the option to choose A and B, or having the option to move fluidly through a vast network of options. Or declare no option at all. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.” This is a perfect description of Gen Z.
Gen Zers tend to view gender as an unnecessary classification “bucket,” meaning that ultimately how gender is portrayed in brand marketing and communications has little influence over their purchase decisions. As a focus group participant shared, “Brands being obvious about calling out diversity and fluidity is distracting and feels inauthentic. We want to see real people using real products that actually work.”
“Brands being obvious about calling out diversity and fluidity is distracting and feels inauthentic. We want to see real people using real products that actually work.”
Expect continuous change
The old saying the only constant is change is a fundamental truth. We asked dozens of 17- 23-year-olds what they wished brand marketers knew about them, and at the top of their list was wanting marketers to embrace their continuously changing nature. “What I say I like now will be completely different in a year from now,” and “Brands have to commit to the evolution and constant changing of my generation,” were sentiments shared.
This is ideal for delivering highly relevant and targeted content and messaging, but it can be nearly impossible to disentangle without access to a wide array of information resources.
Winning with Gen Z
To better understand what characteristics set up new products to win with Gen Z, we focused on eight brands that represented a cross section of the successes of today and tomorrow. These included Bang Energy Drink, Pop Tarts Bites, My/Mochi Ice Cream and Native Deodorant. In each case, social media has played a key role in getting the brands noticed among a Gen Z audience. Compared with other content buckets posted on brand-owned and operated channels, Gen Z consumers displayed the highest engagement with content that featured influencers they like and follow.
More than half of the 17-to-23 year-old females we surveyed displayed a preference for in-store shopping; only a third preferred e-commerce. Shopping is an experience that gives them an opportunity for fun, socializing and experimentation.
For Gen Z, personalization done well offers them a sense of belonging. It’s driven not by narcissism, but rather a desire to be understood and be seen for the individuals they are. As campaigns begin to take shape, here a few additional suggestions:
Commit to understanding. Continually seek new insights and watch Gen Z unfold and change. Use a wide range of data assets to ensure you’re getting the complete picture.
Be unwaveringly authentic. Don’t follow a popular trend or tactic unless it genuinely reflects your brand/retailer.
Meet them where they are. Focus on video, advanced television and gaming. Prioritize the platforms that influence them, including Snap, Pinterest, TikTok and YouTube.
Stand for something good. Gen Z is looking for brands that don’t just talk--they act. Make sure your brand delivers an exceptional experience.
To gain more perspective on the research conducted, read the full report.
*Estimated buying power of $143 billion: https://www.businessinsider.com/retail-courts-gen-z-spending-power-over-140-billion-2020-1