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How Gen Z Communicates With Brands Differently

There are distinct differences between how Gen Z communicates with brands compared to other consumers. Understanding and leveraging these differences is one of the best ways for creative brands and individuals to differentiate themselves and gain a competitive advantage.

They need authenticity

Gen Z-ers are considerably less trusting of brands (understandably!), and one of the best ways to gain their trust is to be open and honest with them. Go figure!

“You might assume young people don't hear what you have to say, but they do—they just choose not to listen. Because a filter isn't just for Instagram. The up-and-coming generation filters everything in the world around them because they have to, and that includes your marketing messages,” says this HubSpot blog

Gen Z has always been around advertising, and they’re the best at tuning it out. The best way to market to them? Be real, be transparent, know your brand DNA, and understand that you can’t appeal to everyone. Know your customer and speak to them as individuals!

They shop brick & mortar 

Surprisingly, the most promising opportunities for brick-and-mortar retailers may be developing within the ranks of the next generation. Surveys suggest Gen Z consumers prefer a combination of online and in-person experiences. An omnichannel approach using augmented reality, Buy Online Pickup In-Store, and customization is not uncommon among brands doing it right.

More than half of surveyed consumers answered that they almost always or frequently rely on mobile devices—especially smartphones—and apps for pre-purchase research (56%) and reviews (54%), according to a report by PwC. The keyword here really is experiences. Whether online or in-store, Gen Z wants something more, something compelling, and something authentic.

“Experiential marketing is the number one tool that's being utilized today in marketing strategies. It is about creating experiences—to amplify brand awareness, to connect with the consumer, to create storytelling, all with the focus of promoting the brand and bringing brand awareness,” according to Fabrizio Babino, a Parsons professor, and creator of the new Fashion PR and Marketing certificate, which includes two courses: Experiential Marketing and Influencer Marketing and Celebrity Relations

“So initiatives, popup activations, mobile activations, exhibitions, in-store experiences—those are all ways that experiential marketing is brought to life,” continues Babino.

Like most things, online versus offline shouldn’t present a binary choice but rather an opportunity to offer a comprehensive experience with clear touchpoints that align to the customer’s unique journey. 

They have rapidly-changing needs

“Keeping up with the latest technology and digital trends is crucial to stay relevant and competitive in a rapidly changing market. By staying informed and adapting to the evolving needs and preferences of Gen Z, businesses can create meaningful connections with this influential generation and set themselves up for long-term success,” according to MarketSplash.

It’s not all about the customer, though. When companies are struggling, they must also think about their products and costs. Then, they can marry that with core digital marketing channels, applying customer insights into making more strategic product development choices.

Customer feedback and customer reviews can be invaluable tools towards understanding customer needs, so make sure you take advantage of those, too. 

They value customer support

If you don’t have good customer support, Gen Z will be the first to notice. This is, after all, the generation that most wants to hold brands accountable. While customer service is expensive, failing to invest in it might mean being abandoned by Gen Z or losing loyal customers. Make sure to check your comment section often! And don’t forget LiveChat and SMS, which are especially helpful for customers that may be reluctant to jump on the phone.

41% of Gen Z says that brands delivering swift, engaged customer care will make them choose that brand over another, according to a 2021 Sprout Social Digital Natives Report.

They want you to meet them where they are

People always need to be met where they are… which for Gen Z is YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram, but also niche, connection-enabling spaces like BeReal and Discord. 

YouTube holds the highest percentage of Gen Z mobile internet users on a social app at 84%, followed by TikTok at 61%, Snapchat at 58%, and Instagram at 56%, according to comscore. Facebook and Twitter see one in three Gen Z mobile internet users, Pinterest and Reddit one in four, and LinkedIn and Twitch reach one in 10 Gen Zers.

That said, it’s important to understand your customers. Especially in creative industries, your customer may not align with statistics.

They think influencer partnerships are important 

Gen Z cares more about influencer marketing than any other generation. But that doesn’t mean they’re easy to trick. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. 

The best thing companies can do is to figure out the goals of their influencer marketing strategy first and then look for individuals that might fit that. 

In addition to working with marketing agencies that specialize in sourcing talent, an influencer marketing tool with social listening capabilities like Cision can easily help locate potential advocates that already care about brands like yours. 

Gen Z’s influence doesn’t stop with their own generation. “Gen Z influences what [older generations] buy” at an average of 58%, according to Edelman’s The New Cascade of Influence report.

They know that practice makes perfect!

With $853 billion in global spending power, Gen Z is undeniably a great group for brands to market to. 

Our best advice is to make a plan: figure out how to effectively reach Gen Z, learn their values, and authentically connect. We think your bottom line will thank you.

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