What Makes Them Buy: Generation Z

Gen Z is set to take over the world! Seems that way sometimes, doesn’t it? This group is a collective financial powerhouse, most of whom haven’t even entered the job market yet. But marketers have their sights set on converting them now, while they’re still young - a smart move because not only is there the element of instilling brand loyalty that can last for decades, but to date, Generation Z is likely the single most influential generation of kids to wield sway over Mom’s and Dad’s spending in American history. And they’re financial super powers are only going to get stronger.

Who Is Generation Z?

Generation Z is the age group born between 1995 and 2010, though there’s still some debate about the exact birth years that make up Generation Z. But one thing that’s consistent regardless of which think tank you ask is the fact that the oldest members of Generation Z are entering the workforce while the youngest members are still in grade school.

Gen Z commands a remarkable $143 billion in buying power. That's almost 40 percent of ALL consumer shopping -- crazy, huh? Ninety-three percent of parents say their Gen Z children influence their household spending. Another 70 percent of parents ask their Gen Z kids for advice before making purchase decisions. That’s A LOT of influence.

The obvious next question you probably have is how can you influence them to buy your product or service?! Let's find out what makes post-millennials buy.


8 Things That Are Super-Important to Gen Z That Your Marketing Team May Not Care About

#1 Generation Z Values Privacy… Seriously, They Do

Unlike their older millennial siblings, Generation Z doesn't play about their privacy. They take extra measures to safeguard their personal information.

Just take a look at the following stats:

  • 87 percent of Gen Zers say privacy is more important than getting "likes" on social media

  • 75 percent of them will only use location features on apps when it's required to function

  • 58 percent turn location sharing on and off based on how and when they wish to use it

  • 33 percent of Gen Zers worry about the security measures of brands

  • 38 percent worry that brands are sharing their personal info without consent

#89 9 9 Gen Z Shopping Trends_1.png

It's also worth noting that fewer than 1 in 3 teens are cool with the idea of sharing their personal details beyond just contact info and purchase history.

Now, don’t go crazy. I’m not saying you can't try collecting their emails to market to them. Two in three Gen Zers are okay sharing their personal information with brands they trust.

So, build some trust!

Create useful content that’s targeted. Personalization is big with these guys. The key is to prove your value then assure them you’re taking the proper measures to protect their data.

Value + security. That’s your in.

#2 Gen Z is Willingly Loyal to Brands (assuming your brand offers the best overall deals)

Loyal to brands? In 2019? I know we can’t exactly say the same about millennials who are value-driven, or gen xers who may be providing financial support to both their boomer parents and their adult millennial kids. With these post-millennials, you have a higher chance of snagging loyal customers -- but only if you can align with their expectations (and slim personal budgets).

Gen Zers are looking at your brand's mission, product quality, and service before committing. So, you’re going to need to fine-tune these areas if you want their ongoing business.

  • 60 percent of Gen Z are happy to be associated with their brand of choice

  • 2 in 3 say they'll stick with the brands they like and buy from them for years

  • 65 percent admit that rewards programs influence which brands they choose

#89 9 9 Gen Z Shopping Trends_2.png

For Gen Zers, if you can demonstrate your loyalty to them and align with their values and needs, then they'll return the favor by becoming a long-term customer.

#3 Personalization Isn’t a Luxury, It’s an Expectation with Generation Z

Members of Generation Z are looking for personalized experiences from brands. Things like rewards programs matter and they have a HUGE impact on whether younger buyers patronize your brand. Plain and simple.

Rewards programs

We talked about rewards programs a bit in the post on millennial dads, and like millennial dads, gen Zers aren’t super-thrilled about having to track down promo codes. So, you’ll probably find that a rewards program that sends or notifies them of specific rewards works best.

So, we’re not really talking about creating a bunch of digital coupons that Gen Zers will have to go on a treasure hunt to find. That won’t really work. Restaurants like Wendy’s, Chick-Fil-A and Chili’s send emails and/or SMS notifications to their customers of deals and FREEBIES (like free desserts, sandwiches, and BOGO deals) straight to their phones.

Other apps have geo-fencing capabilities that remind users of existing deals whenever they are within close proximity of the store. Forever 21 offers shoppers steep discounts on their birthdays.

So, whether you’re peddling free chicken sandwiches or a birthday discount, if you don’t have a rewards program yet, it’s time to create one. And keep in mind that price is critical to these savvy shoppers -- 60 percent of Gen Z base their brand choice on price. Yeah, they influence a significant amount of household spending, for most of them, Mom and Dad are still supplying them with spending money in the form of an allowance.

Targeting with gated content

Also, consider developing a plan to attract them with gated content. Capitalize on this by creating exclusive promotions for different groups based on their ages, affiliations, or occupations.

For example, you can have separate promotions for college students, recent grads, and adults in the workforce. Aligning your content and your offer to their individual needs will show you understand them and are committed to helping them.

Not sure if it'll work? Maybe this will make you feel better:

  • 41 percent of Gen Zers say gated content makes them feel rewarded

  • Another 41 percent feel special

  • 54 percent feel excited


#4 Gen Zers Are Working Earlier and More Than Millennials Did At the Same Age

For Generation Z, money is a HUGE motivator. They don’t seem to value the same things millennials did at their age. For instance...

Twenty-something Gen Zers are shopping for homes already. And let me tell you -- they're not doing the tiny house thing. They want 2,000+ sq ft and are willing to buy a fixer-upper at a lower price to get it.

Gen Z members are also working while in school, which was one of the things millennials didn’t really do as much as previous generations. Well, good, old-fashioned minimum-wage jobs are back, baby!.

Whereas millennials wanted to focus solely on their education then enter the workforce after college, Gen Zers are already working. They’re not trying to follow in the footsteps of the 13 percent of millennials who didn't even have jobs until after they were in their twenties.

Here’s another interesting tidbit: Nearly half of Gen Zers (46 percent) have already joined the gig economy to maximize their earning potential and get the things they want.

What are they buying? Well, they’re buying what young people buy. Clothing is at the top of their shopping list, no doubt driven by the desire to sport different looks in the photos they publish to Instagram and other platforms. But it's worth noting that they're willing to pay for a monthly membership to access lightly used clothes (and even clothing repair services).

Makes sense, right? Gen Z did grow up during a recession.

So what does all of this mean for marketers?

I mean… Gen Z is a budget-conscious group that likes to earn and spend money. That’s all teens and young people, isn’t it?

Yeah, but we’re talking about recession kids. This group has a different mindset. They can save enough cash for a down payment on a home within five years. A home.

If you can offer something they really want, they'll find a way to get their hands on it. The thing is, you have to know how to make your thing attractive to this generation. If you do that, even if your price is steep, they’ll find a way to increase income so they can buy it.

A quick tip: If you can come up with payment plans and other methods to cheapen the price without sacrificing quality, you'll significantly boost your chances of winning them over.


#5 Gen Z Cares About What Your Brands Care About

It's not enough to develop a product or service that's within their budget. And it's not enough to have the best-quality offer to meet their needs.

If they learn that your brand is all about making money or, worse, participating in egregious acts (like hiring kids in a sweatshop), then you can forget about earning their trust and loyalty.

In fact, you may even get your brand name slandered all across social media. So it's time to straighten up and find a cause if you haven't already.

What you’re about matters to younger buyers. So, let me ask you: what do you stand for? And how does your brand reflect that you’re concerned about what matters to them?

#6 Generation Z Prefers Authenticity

Generation Z is also looking for authenticity. Sixty-three percent of Gen Z is looking to recommendations from their peers and everyday people, not celebrity influencers. They're also 1.3x more likely to buy it if "normal" people recommend it.

This even applies to the way in which you present your products online. If your brand is using photoshopped images and staged props, then it's going to rub them the wrong way. 79 percent of post-millennials say they'll trust a brand more if it doesn’t use photo editing.

This is why working with non-celeb influencers works so well. And if you can create an edgy campaign, then even better. It's a known fact that Gen Z doesn’t love traditional marketing… and they’re really good at not noticing it.

Visual marketing works

They’ll never see this blog post. We know that. If you want to reach younger buyers, the fastest path to their attention is to integrate technology and creative storytelling into your marketing strategy. And visual marketing works really well for this.

Video. Teens watch twice as many videos on mobile than any other group. As a brand, YouTube has more influence over this generation than big names like Oreo, McDonalds, and even Lego.Eight-five percent of teens watch YouTube, and 70 percent of them watch two hours of YouTube daily, usually in one of three categories:

  • Humor - They love videos that make them laugh

  • Short and snappy content to compete with their busy lives and busy minds

  • Unboxing and product reviews to keep on top of trends

TikTok markets itself as a social media platform for short-form mobile videos that specifically targets the 18 and under crowd. With 500 million active users, it was the third most downloaded app in from January 1 to March 31st 2019 (188 million downloads), and gabbed more than 13 million new users in the U.S. during that time. Forty-one percent of TikTok users are between the ages of 16 and 24 years old.

#7 For Gen Z Being Distracted Doesn’t Mean You Aren’t Connected

Sure, millennials grew up with the internet and desktop computers. But Gen Z grew up with mobile devices and social media, and it shows in their daily habits.

Sixty-six percent of Gen Zers are ultra-distracted because they're using more than one device at a time. As you'd imagine, they have on their televisiosa, laptop computers, smartphones, and tablets. And they're engaging with each device throughout the day (or even by the hour).

Because of all these inter-connected distractions, it’s tough to get, and even tougher to keep, the attention of your average Gen Zer. If you thought millennials’ 12-second attention spans were bad, then you'll find Generation Z’s 8-second attention span horrifying.

Already, Generation Zers are 25 percent more likely to admit they're addicted to digital devices (compared to millennials). And 40 percent do self-identify as addicted.

Let's take a look at why:

  • 94% own laptop computers

  • 80% receive most information from social media

  • 75% say smartphones are their top choice

  • 75% spend their free time online

  • 73% follow 1+ brands on social media

  • 25% spend five hours on their phones...daily


How could they not identify as addicted when they spend the majority of their lives on a device? But as a brand, you can capitalize on this trend by ensuring your campaigns are responsive.

Being mobile-friendly isn't enough. Your ads, blog posts, videos, and other marketing materials need to be accessible and easy to engage with on any platform, including laptops.

To that point, make sure your content is interesting, visually-appealing, and engaging. Eighty-five percent of Gen Zers say easy mobile experiences are a top priority for making a purchase. In other words, if it won't work on mobile, then you've lost a potential customer.


#8 Gen Z's Shopping Journey Begins & Ends In the Store

Generation Z isn't using Google to search around for products to buy. Instead, they're exposed to products on Instagram. About 45 percent of teens use Instagram, and 40% use Facebook to find cool new products.

So what happens once they discover a product?

The next step is to head on over to YouTube to see it up close and personal, while also getting an honest review from a YouTuber they trust. They'll likely look at multiple videos to get a holistic view of a product or service before making a decision.


Forever 21 tying the in-store and online experience together nicely.

Forever 21 tying the in-store and online experience together nicely.

Post-millennials will go as far to go to a brick-and-mortar to touch and see the product in person. While they do enjoy buying online, they're not as time-pressed (yet) as millennials, so a trip to the store is typically an opportunity to socialize.

Ninety-eight percent of Gen Zers shop in stores some, or most, of the time. And they even document their in-store shopping experiences on SnapChat.

Best advice short and sweet: Build a social media marketing strategy that includes working with non-celebrity influencers. And it's a good idea to create enjoyable in-store experiences that go hand-in-hand with some sort of online personalization.


Wrapping Things Up

In the beginning, marketers thought Gen Z would be an extension of millennials. They grew up in a similar technologically advanced world, so it only made sense that they would follow suit.

But as we look closer, we can see the lines drawn between millennials and Generation Z, especially in the way they shop. Post-millennials are more inclined to purchase in stores, care more about cool products than cool experiences, and are prominent in speaking and acting on important matters.

Brands that stand for something, offer seamless online/offline experiences, and are obligated to providing quality products at competitive prices are going to come out on top. Because remember, Gen Z will make up nearly half of the consumer market in less than a year.

So if you haven't already future-proofed your campaigns, it's time to start!