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Generation Z is Wreaking Havoc on Brands’ Marketing Strategies

The rapid rise in buying power from Generation Z is phasing out the age of the Millennial and creating chaos for brands as they scramble to understand the “new kids on the block”. Though both share similarities, there are clear cultural nuances between Millennials and Gen Z that indicate a need for brands to evolve rather than replicate their existing strategies.

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To fully prepare for Gen Z’s rise to power, marketers must understand how the new “it” consumers differ from their predecessors and shape their strategies to cater to their tastes and preferences, creating a loyal customer base.

The Rise of the Gen Z Consumer

In the past, when brand marketers talked about capturing the Millennial, they needed to understand that the consumer journey was fragmented and often required multiple touchpoints to reach consumers and drive them to purchase. Even as social media became a highly influential medium, it was still discussed as “part of the journey”.  It was emphasized that to make a lasting impact, brands needed to communicate their values, mission, purpose equally as much as they had to talk about the product and the price.

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That is all very much yesteryear. With Gen Z emerging as today’s ‘must capture audience’, brands must grasp that social media now has its own customer journey independent of the larger funnel. And, unlike millennials, product and price aren’t evenly weighted considerations for Gen Z consumers when compared to a brand’s values.

Today, Gen-Z is shopping faster due to a shortened consumer journey. They are also being influenced by a smaller set of mediums and platforms giving marketers fewer touchpoints to connect with, engage, and activate them. Finally, to further spice things up, Gen Zers demand that brands stand behind a larger societal contribution, whether social or environmental, to even gain entry into their consideration set. 

To stay ahead of the curve, marketers need to keep a close eye on many of the trends initially started by millennials and pay close attention to how Gen Z has carried them forward and altered them.

Effectively Marketing to Gen Z

Successfully reaching Gen Z consumers requires marketers to understand that:

(1) Gen Z is spending the bulk of their time outside of “typical” marketing channels and

(2) their purchase behaviors are highly attuned to connection and brand values and tailor their strategies accordingly. 

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Many industries have already taken action to get ahead. Even in finance – the stodgy old industry of the boomer generation – there’s been a social disruption. “Finfluencers” social media influencers using platforms like TikTok to make financial advice digestible for younger audiences have quickly become a “thing”.

The result?

In the past year, finance app downloads are up 20%, hours spent on these apps are up 90% and hours spent trading/investing is up 135% — and most of these increases are made up by the Gen Z audience.

With that in mind, here are a few social strategies marketers can employ to effectively engage Gen Z consumers:

Develop a solid social strategy.

For Gen Z consumers, social media comprises much if not all of the consumer journey. Instead of simply looking at social as a promotional tool, marketers should begin implementing digital strategies to nurture consumer relationships from the very beginning. In recent months, brands like Envestnet are leaning into social trends with new campaigns behind their Intelligent Financial Life promise. Marketers must learn how to optimize social features to use as a guiding force throughout the entire consumer journey because it is undoubtedly the best way to attract Gen Z consumers.

Connect with Customers Through Experiences.

Gen Z values connection just as much, if not more than they do convenience. Companies like Taco Bell understand this fact all too well. In recent years, the company worked with Forever 21 for a collection of branded apparel, and recently they’ve launched a Cantina concept in urban areas where they are in complete control of their experience. Marketers need to make Gen Z consumers feel like they’re controlling the narrative if they want to build brand loyalty.

Identify a strong brand purpose.

Gen Z constantly proves themselves to be a socially active generation, often prioritizing purpose over profit. Many brands, like Gucci, are taking note of this, having launched a series of diverse advertisements and collaborations, in addition to crafting a tactical sustainable company action plan to “court” the younger audience.

As a result, Gen Z is their fastest-growing audience, accounting for more than 60% of their sales, according to an Interbrand report. With social action playing such a large role in the buying habits of Gen Z consumers, brands must pinpoint and then execute an aligned purpose plan that will speak to their younger audiences.

It’s clear that those who are able to break through to the Gen Z audience will set themselves up for success. They are the generation leading the pack, so proactive marketers who want to stay ahead of consumer trends need to take note and take action. Brands be ready. Gen Z is a sleeping giant, and they’re starting to rouse!

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[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

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