We have heard so much about the importance of Millennials as consumers, but we cannot overlook ‘GenZ’, who are coming of age rapidly and will turn out to be hugely influential customers.

Generation Z, also known as centennials (12-20 year olds) are described as; ambitious, go getters, ultra-communicators and engaged. GenZ has grown up in a digital world, where being a ‘digital native’ and ‘digital savvy’ is the norm.

Over the recent years, the ‘millennial’ has become a major buzz word, making companies realise that understanding ‘GenY’ is a must. The push to unravel the mystery of Millennials has driven research companies like Mintel, Stylus and Kantar to focus their efforts on understanding this generation. The plus side of this, is that organisations can feel more confident when engaging with and marketing to Millennials. But what about the next, post-millennial generation?

With this generation rapidly growing, we should be challenging ourselves to understand the behaviour of these ‘go-getters’ and what makes them tick. What are the key drivers of this generation, and how are they influencing and shaping the future of how we market to them?

What are the key drivers of GenZ?

There are four key drivers that classify this cohort: ‘Always on’, Diversity, Adding Value and Entrepreneurship.

This generation is the first truly digital native generation. It’s the first cohort that was born and raised in a digital era. They are constantly connected via multiple devices and maintain the majority of their relationships via social media on networks such as Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. According to a Mintel research 2015, “33% of teens agree that their friendships would not be as close without their cell phones”.

This heavy social media presence enables worldwide connections, and has created global social circles which have contributed towards the overall higher acceptance of diversity across GenZ’s peers. According to Stylus “91% of centennials say that technology has helped their generation understand what makes people unique in terms of race, religion and sexuality”. As a result of their increased acceptance and tolerance, GenZ expects brands to take the same perspective.

Building a better world, where diversity is encouraged as well as adding value is an important driver for GenZ. Brands that offer unique and adoptable products/experiences are fully embraced by them. Some brands, such as Nike and Beats by Dre, have become more influential towards the younger generation. For example, Nike is explicitly targeting the younger generation by focussing on inclusive messages that resonate with this audience, and getting young athletes to wear and promote their products through sponsorship.

According to Honey & Spark research on Children’s Sustainable Behaviour, centennials are “hyper-aware and concerned” about their impact on life. They have a great desire to change the world and add value through collaborative consensus and volunteering. This philanthropist generation is more inclined to invest their time into brands that offer back to society.

In combination with wanting to add value, teens are known as a generation with an entrepreneurial spirit; they have a strong desire to make their hobby their job. This is underpinned by the fact that they have easy access to resources. Additionally they have been educated using apps and the internet since they were young.

Easy connections to millions of other centennials online is the foundation for opportunities; that empowers the sharing of information, experience and fosters a bedrock for an entrepreneurial mind-set. Combining these four drivers, makes GenZ an important, influential yet a complicated generation for marketers.

GenZ, an influential generation?

Compared to millennials, GenZ is believed to have more collaborative relationships with the adults in their lives. According to Mintel, “teens are strongly influencing household lifestyles as families grow closer – almost 60% of British children say their parents are their best friends”.

Mintel believes that this closeness boosts the effect of ‘pester-power’, where children convince parents to buy products for them. Combining this convincing behaviour with the fact that the majority of this empowered generation are still living at home can strongly influence household purchases.

As centennials make up a larger population than both millennials and baby boomers, their spending power will be higher than previous generations. GenZ’s disposable income is more inclined to be spent on companies that have a strong social purpose, or that adds value, in the eye of the centennial.

This has already started to influence the marketing strategy of several brands and will shape their strategies in the future. For example, TOMS used cause marketing to stress their focus on adding value, by using sustainable material and giving something back for every shoe purchased.

How to win the hearts and minds of GenZ? 

This generation is hugely influential for Customer Experience; they are transforming buying behaviour, they are the most confident online-shoppers and favour unique products which preferably are delivered by pragmatic brands. To tap into this generation and win their hearts and minds, brands need to take the time to understand and respect the behavioural differences of this cohort.

Firstly, Centennials brand expectations are extremely high compared to the previous generations. In addition, they prefer not to be compared to millennials, nor do they like to be approached as a group; as they rather be approached as a unique individual.

Northhighlands research explains why GenZ’s expectations are high, both for technology and bespoke brand offering. Brand loyalty is gained not just through excellent customer service, but mainly through peer reviews, as peer reviews and social acceptance are valued over brand loyalty. A centennial is more inclined to purchase a product or service when a friend recommends the brand and the product offers a unique experience.

Secondly, Instant gratification is key. According to Abraham Dayan, “Generation Z is said to take in information instantaneously and loses interest just as fast.” GenZ’s communication and concentration span is shorter, they prefer information in ‘snackable content’ and preferably through emojis. It is important for brands to reach out with relevant, personalised information and provide a streamlined customer experience across multiple (social media) channels.

‘Snackable content’ on social media fulfils GenZ’s need for instant gratification. Brands are becoming rapidly aware that using influencers, also known as content creators, are key to promoting original brand offerings to this younger generation. PRWeek’s article by influencer Sabrina Sanchez illustrates this effective way of reaching centennials: Sanchez has generated her own audience base and her followers consciously choose to follow her day to day life – making them more interested and receptive to shared messages.

Finally, brands need to be aware that in order to effectively market to GenZ they constantly need to adapt and evolve their offerings. GenZs are less concerned about brand perception, but instead are more focussed on the exclusive, unique brand offering and experience. Coca Cola is an example of a brand that has embraced this unique brand experience.

Coca Cola realised that while millennials love attention and being known as movers and shakers; centennials don’t want people making assumptions about them, because they believe they are different from previous generations.

This understanding allows Coca Cola to engage with GenZ through co-creation and co-innovation, while making the centennials ‘brand ambassadors’. These ambassadors use multiple social media channels to share their experiences with the products and gain brand affinity through peer to peer marketing.

Marketers need to adopt the concept of instant gratification and the impatient behaviour of this entrepreneurial generation. Offering snackable content, as well as personal, seamless, multi-dimensional buying experience will earn affinity from GenZ.

Market for the future

The next generation is the largest population with a growing disposable income and higher customer experience expectations, therefore it is important to understand their preferences and how to gain affinity with this digital savvy cohort.

This empowered generation is a new type of customer. The desire to add value that will change the world, requires brands to illustrate their social responsible offerings.

GenZ should not be approached as a group, but rather individually; allowing them to express their unique and creative entrepreneurial spirit. Any investment in GenZ customer experience should be seen in the context of a long-term relationship. This generation consciously decides to invest in brands’ products, providing they offer an exclusive and value adding experience.

Brands which respect the needs and wishes of this young and hugely influential generation and find receptive channels to reach this audience will gain affinity and win over the hearts and minds of GenZ.