Backstage at Alexis Mabille RTW Fall 2017

In order to attract a Gen Z-er, marketing strategists need to re-create the wheel — kind of. Although they share many behavioral characteristics with Millennials, the path to capture this nimble generation requires a disparate methodology.

Social scientists note that Gen Z-ers are basically Millennials with more amped-up emotions, concern for maintaining their individuality and a higher tech fluency — all of which contribute to new opportunities for brands to appeal to the quickly maturing demographic. And it’s worth the effort. According to industry experts, Generation Z currently holds approximately $44 billion in spending power, and most of them aren’t even out of college yet.

Here, Sara Spivey, chief marketing officer of Bazaarvoice, a branding and marketing platform that works with customers such as Sephora, Adidas and Crate + Barrel, discusses key characteristics of the demographic, how they differ from previous generations and marketing strategies that will resonate best.

WWD: What are the biggest pitfalls brands should avoid when developing marketing strategies targeting Generation Z shoppers?

Sara Spivey: Gen Z shoppers have an extremely strong sense of identity and individuality, so they don’t want to be told what to wear or what to buy in order to be cool or fashionable. Gen Z shoppers don’t want brands or products to define them; they’d rather use brands and products that help enhance their individuality and allow them to express themselves. When targeting this age group, brands should avoid marketing to a certain stereotype or label as Gen Z is an inclusive group, and they do not want to be labeled or put in a box.

WWD: What efforts do Gen Z-ers respond best to? And can you offer any specific examples and/or stats to support this?

S.S.: Gen Z still watches TV, but rather than traditional network and cable TV, they gravitate toward streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Additionally, they spend between 2 and 4 hours a day watching YouTube. This group responds well to YouTube due to its communal, crowd-sourced nature where anyone can have their own channel, and it’s a great platform for discovery. They respond less to traditional advertising that they can skip or fast-forward through and are less interested in celebrity endorsements; this generation is more likely to be influenced by people they follow on YouTube or Instagram (as long as promotions are done in an authentic manner).

Gen Z has a keen eye to spot when a brand or influencer is marketing a product in a disingenuous way — in the end, this just creates brand/consumer friction and distrust.

WWD: What are distinguishing characteristics between Gen Z shoppers and older demographics?

S.S.: Gen Z shoppers highly value convenience and take instant gratification to a new level. They’ve grown up in a digital age where smartphones, online shopping and one-day shipping are the norm. Therefore, their attention spans are much shorter and their attention is split between multiple devices. Two-thirds of Gen Z shoppers shared that they feel comfortable online shopping, but 67 percent still prefer to shop in-store for the instant gratification of not having to wait for their product to ship. This is an age group where buying online and picking up in-store is quickly gaining traction.

WWD: As Gen Z-ers are the most tech fluent — how might brands optimize this?

S.S.: Gen Z-ers are always connected; 86 percent of Gen Z admit to using their smartphones multiple times a day for a variety of purposes. They are also using multiple devices, so brands should think about how to create a seamless and consistent shopping experience across multiple platforms to reach Gen Z shoppers at every touchpoint throughout the shopper journey. Brand marketers should also explore the different platforms they’re most frequently using like YouTube and Snapchat.

WWD: As Gen Z matures, how do you predict their shopping behavior to reflect this?

S.S.: Even though this generation is young, they are actually very financially savvy and value-oriented. 83 percent of Gen Z-ers think it’s important to start saving now because most of them grew up during a recession and witnessed adults losing jobs and homes.

As Gen Z matures, they will likely continue to be deliberate with their purchases. This generation is very socially conscious and they identify with brands and companies that share their values and reward them with their dollars and loyalty.

WWD: There’s a current struggle occurring at the moment between brick-and-mortar and e-commerce — how are Gen Z shoppers responding to this and how might brands appeal to their expectations and priorities in both platforms?

S.S.: Brands should prioritize their in-store shopping experience and the [user experience] of their online and mobile stores, and all of the shopping experiences should be centered around convenience. Gen Z-ers often shop in physical stores as a social activity with friends, so retailers should create in-store experiences that are engaging, social and entertaining. Meanwhile, the online and mobile experiences should be easily searchable, shoppable and consistent across devices because this generation is constantly exposed to multiple screens.

More on Consumer Behavior from WWD:

Consumers Wary of Future, Tighten Purse Strings

Teens Present Obtuse Mobile Marketing Opportunities

Post-Aspirational, Consumers Seek Shareable Items Over Label Envy

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