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How to Market to Generation Z: 5 Tips

Boy holding tablet at kitchen table

You're surely familiar with millennials—"They're lazy," ✔︎; "They're tech-savvy," ✔︎; "They're a bunch of entitled egomaniacs" ... OK, maybe that last one's a bit harsh. But you get the idea. What about the generation coming of age below millennials, though? Is your business ready to market to the next big boom of consumers?

Experts are referring to the group, which begins with people born in the mid-1990s, as Generation Z. Perhaps the most significant characteristic of Gen Zers is that they've never lived in a world without the internet. Rather than playing with Easy-Bake Ovens or even Nintendo Game Boys as kids, members of Generation Z probably preferred watching YouTube videos on their parents' iPads.

Beyond their affinity for tech, people from Gen Z are said to be less materialistic than baby boomers and more down-to-earth than millennials. Experts say this is because they grew up during the Great Recession, and they take after the relatively-modest Generation X (the generation whose members are usually their parents).

Gen Z accounts for about a quarter of the American population, according to Fast Company. By 2020, they're expected to make up a whopping 40 percent of all consumers in the United States. With this generation on the come up—the oldest of the bunch just entering the adult workforce—it's time to start thinking about your business's Gen Z marketing strategy. Below are five tips to get you started.

1. Capitalize on Influencer Marketing

They're abundant, they're authentic, and perhaps most important of all—they're affordable to work with. And if your goal is to capture the bucks of Generation Z consumers, you better be working with digital influencers.

What is a digital influencer? Simply put, it's a person with a large number of connections online. YouTubers, Instagram models, bloggers—there's a number of channels where influencers do what they do. One such channel—Twitch—even allows top video-gamers to livestream to their fans as they play the hottest new games.

To gain a baby boomer's brand loyalty, it was probably enough to show them their favorite ballplayer on TV holding up a shiny box and proclaiming that, "It works for me!" Gen Z, on the other hand, wants to hear real testimony from their peers.

And for us marketers, this is a dream come true. Digital influencers provide high-value, low-cost marketing services. Forget about shelling out top dollar to an athlete or celebrity to help sell your product. Instead, you can partner with 100s or even 1,000s of digital influencers who Gen Zers can connect with on a genuine level. And the cost is minimal. Depending on the size of their audience, digital influencers are known to work for as little as a few hundred dollars, a cut of each unit they help sell, or even free product.

A few examples of high-value, low-cost pieces of digital influencer content are:


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2. Make Use of Video on Social Media

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video's worth a million. With the popularity of video on social media exploding over the past couple years, there's little question that it will continue to grow—especially with Gen Z.

According to the networking company Cisco Systems, by 2021, a million minutes of total video content will cross global servers every single second. Every. Single. Second. That content will account for 82 percent of all consumer internet activity at that time, up from 73 percent last year. Cisco also says that live video—videos broadcasted in real time by users of social networks like Facebook and Instagram---will grow by 1,500 percent from 2016 to 2021.

And why shouldn't video consumption be on the rise? It's dynamic, exciting, and most of all—it moves quick. It's the perfect medium for reaching a generation looking to digest as much information as it can as quickly as possible.

While there's no doubt in the value of social media video, the idea of creating video can be intimidating for business owners. But fret not! There are tons of great, affordable resources out there for creating social videos. Adobe Spark, Lumen5 and Animoto are just a few choices.

3. Get to the Point!

As we mentioned in tip No. 2 above, video is great because it moves quick. That's especially important for connecting with members of Gen Z, because they have really (like, really, really) short attention spans. Regardless of what media you choose, your messaging better be direct, or you'll lose Gen Zers' interest.

Fast Company says people from Generation Z have attention spans of just 8 seconds. This, they say, is the result of being inundated by a constant stream of information their entire lives. "They've grown up in a world where their options are limitless but their time is not," according to Fast Company. "As such, Gen Z have adapted to quickly sorting through and assessing enormous amounts of information."

See below for more information on the modern attention span, as per a July 2016 study by the market research firm Statistic Brain:

The modern attention span, according to a July 2016 study by Statistic Brain

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4. Optimize Your Website for Mobile

Each year, people increasingly choose smartphones over desktops and tablets for their consumption of digital media. Members of Gen Z are certainly no exception to this trend.

According to data from analytics firm ComScore, mobile usage accounted for 59 percent of all digital media activity in the United States during December 2016. That represents a 99 percent increase compared to December 2013. At the same time, desktop usage accounted for 31 percent of all digital media activity and tablet usage accounted for 10 percent. Both desktop and tablet usage are on the decline since December 2014.

With smartphone usage growing year after year, it's key to put your best foot forward on mobile devices. Having a mobile-dedicated version of your website that displays sharp and is easy to navigate on smartphones is essential for making a good impression on members of Gen Z.

"If your mobile website looks like it was made 10 years ago, it doesn't matter what your message is—you look old," Deep Patel, a Gen Z member and marketer/best-selling author writes in a Forbes article on Gen Z marketing.

5. Don't Abandon the Tried-and-True Methods

Despite the emphasis on tech when marketing to Gen Z—believe it or not—tried-and-true tactics can still be effective.

According to the Data & Marketing Association's 2017 Response Rate Report, the response rate to direct mail campaigns by consumers ages 18-21 was 12.4 percent. That's more than twice the response rate to direct mail campaigns by people of all age groups, which was 5.1 percent.

Direct mail is particularly effective when used to complement digital campaigns. Response rates to direct mail as part of an overarching campaign with at least one other digital element jumped by 118 percent, according to digital marketing agency Merkle Inc.


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How does your business connect with members of Generation Z? Join the discussion by sharing in the comment box below!

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