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The Rising Power of Gen Z and How to Engage with Them

With so much written about Millennials, it’s perhaps easy to overlook a younger and equally influential generation that’s on the rise: Generation Z. “Gen Z” refers to people born in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s (approximately 1995–2005). People often think of members of Gen Z as kids, but time moves swiftly, and the older members of this generation have graduated from college. This means they’re starting their careers, building businesses, buying cars and other consumer goods, and otherwise making their mark on society. The emergence of Gen Z into adulthood is tremendously important for all types of businesses, as it represents a fast-growing market for all types of goods and services.

Meet Gen Z

An engaged, socially aware group, Gen Z is emerging as a force to reckon with. Here are some facts to keep in mind about post-Millennials:

  • Their influence is quickly growing. The National Retail Federation reports that Gen Z will reach 2.6 million people by 2020 and already has $44 billion in buying power.
  • They’re the first generation to grow up using smartphones and social media. Younger Gen Zers never lived in a world without mobile devices and Facebook. They aren’t merely tech-savvy, they live and breathe modern technology.
  • McKinsey & Company dubs this generation “True Gen,” meaning that its members value honesty and authenticity. This has crucial implications for marketing, as Gen Zers are highly skeptical of traditional advertising gimmicks. They also care about the ethical practices of companies and support causes that inspire them.
  • Gen Z is acclimated to the sharing economy. They are less concerned with ownership than access. For example, many younger people are rethinking the idea of car ownership, relying instead on services such as Uber, Lyft, Zipcar, and other alternatives.
  • While they share certain characteristics with Millennials, Gen Zers differ in critical ways. Both generations, for example, are acclimated to online shopping and spend more time on social media sites than watching TV. Gen Zers, however, are more likely to use Instagram or Snapchat than Facebook. They are also less loyal to brands than Millennials and older generations.

Tips to Engage With Gen Z

One can gain valuable insights by studying generational statistics and trends. It’s similar to building a buyer persona for your product, a fictional construct that’s based on real facts to help you learn more about your customers. With this in mind, here are some guidelines to help you engage with members of Gen Z:

  • Show that you care about social issues. Gen Zers are interested in issues related to the environment and social justice. You can appeal to them by discussing ways your products or services help to reduce environmental impact. For example, the shoe company TOMS, which is popular with both Millennials and Gen Z, recently donated $5 million to end gun violence. Not everyone can afford to make such sizable donations, of course. Yet there are many ways to demonstrate your commitment to social issues.
  • Work with the influencers your audience admires. Members of Gen Z are especially drawn to those they follow on Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube and are likely to respond favorably to messages from these people. Be sure not to overlook micro-influencers; they may not have huge followings, but are well known within their niches.
  • Tell stories and entertain your audience. Gen Z enjoys videos, memes, and the latest technology, such as augmented reality and virtual reality. They also have short attention spans. Make your messages humorous, compelling, and visually appealing. A short video on YouTube, a funny meme, or an Instagram or Facebook Story is more likely to reach the mark than dry content that simply lists features and benefits.
  • Avoid aggressive sales tactics. Gen Zers don’t appreciate marketing gimmicks and hard-sell techniques. Some online marketing still retains the flavor of those “Buy now while supplies last!” TV commercials. Be relatable and authentic and minimize sales pitches.

Gen Z is on the verge of becoming the world’s largest living generation. As its members enter college and the workforce, their influence, while already significant, will greatly expand. Forward-thinking businesses will take the time and effort to learn about the needs and preferences of this up-and-coming age group in order to better connect with them.

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