How to Win the Hearts of Gen Z


How to Win the Hearts of Gen Z

Post-Millennials, iGeneration, Plurals, GenZers, no matter what you call them, your business depends on them. So, you better understand who these customers are.

Gen Z is a large and growing percentage of online consumers, with buying power up to $44 billion. They have an entirely different mindset and set of expectations, making it critical for brands to engage and invest in them as highly valued customers.

In the age of virtual interactions, hybrid work environments, and a competitive eCommerce space, the attitudes of Gen Z instruct businesses on how best to meet customers’ needs in an increasingly digital world.

The First Digital Natives

As Pew Research Center points out, this generation—consisting of anyone born between 1997 and 2012—has been “wired” their entire lives, interconnected to the digital world through the web, using multiple devices from multiple locations throughout their days.

Gen Z grew up with technology, witnessing the launch of the iPhone in 2007, and is accustomed to having quick resources at their fingertips. Their expectations differ significantly from Millennials and Boomers in the sense that they want what they’re looking for instantaneously, making them arguably an impatient population that demands instant gratification and access to knowledge.

When the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the pace of digital transformation, Gen Zers emerged as technology influencers in their respective households. And they brought their own perspectives and influence amongst their peers through social networks.

Case in point: social media is a fundamental tool that Gen Zers use when sourcing information. Research from my company shows that 33% of Gen Z discover products via social media. But that’s not to say that, when buying products, they are necessarily influenced by social media influencers like celebrities or Instagrammers.

Gen Z…want what they’re looking for instantaneously…an impatient population that demands instant gratification and
access to knowledge.

More often, Gen Z uses social media to gather intel from those within their inner circles, and peers that they trust, to find products they deem credible.

While Gen Z are distinct in this habit, it’s worth noting that they are not alone. In general, one reason shoppers are less likely to go directly to a particular brand’s site is because that brand has not set itself apart as being memorable or invaluable. According to our Ecommerce Relevance Report 2022, 68% of those surveyed said that personalized or relevant experiences are still not “often” provided when shopping online.

Practice What You Preach – Building Long-term Customer Value

Although it’s clear that Gen Z relies on technology for most solutions, it’s important to recognize what lies at the heart of Gen Z’s concerns: human issues.

Gen Z is a value-driven generation that cares deeply about the real-world, social, cultural, and political issues around them, and they actively fight to ensure organizations that they support align with the values they hold.

To establish their loyalty, brands need to first convey that they understand and represent the values of this target group.

One of these values is diversity and inclusion. According to Gallup, almost half (48%) of Gen Zers fall into racial or ethnic minorities, and 21% of Gen Z adults (born between 1997 and 2003) self-identify as LBGTQIA+.

Gen Z consistently expects brand advertisements to represent diversity and inclusion, with 62% strongly agreeing that “it’s important for me to see authentic representation of diverse and minority identities, even if I don’t belong to these groups myself.”

Additionally, Gen Z is more likely to factor sustainability into buying decisions (64% versus 25% overall), according to our 2022 Holiday Shopping Report: Spending Trends & Impact, this generation wants to see brands that actively fight for and are aligned with the real-world issues impacting them, not just in the social or cultural spaces. This generation will sense if you’re insincere, they will notice hypocrisy.

Diversity, equity, inclusion, sustainability, and social justice are values that sway Gen Z. Organizations need to remember this, consistently, when marketing to this group.

Gen Z is a value-driven generation that cares deeply about the real-world, social, cultural, and political issues around them…

According to Corey Seemiller, Ph.D, author, and researcher, what makes a Gen Z consumer so unique is that once an organization demonstrates that it is aligned with that consumer’s values, “they will continue to buy products from the brand, rather than being loyal to particular products.”

Building brand loyalty creates long-term consumer value which is more impactful than one-off purchases.

Create Personalized Experiences to Win Their Hearts

Now that we understand some of the characteristics that make this generation unique we can think about strategies and marketing tactics that will meet or exceed their expectations.

The bar has been set by megabrands like Netflix and Amazon. No matter which generation you fall into, we all want our experiences to be personalized to us in some way.

From a commerce perspective, our Ecommerce Relevance Report also shows that 93% of surveyed consumers expect the online shopping experience to be at least equal to, if not better, than in-store.

Added on to that fact, another 68% shared that personalized or relevant experiences are still not “often” provided when shopping online.

Shopping experiences vary widely across retail websites as brands try to keep up with the retail giants and make these important personal connections.

Not all retailers have the access to resources, talent, and data that Google, Amazon, and other large brands have to make the technological investments to offer consumers convenience, personalization, or data-driven recommendations for future purchases.

Not all is lost for smaller brands. The democratization of technology, especially artificial intelligence (AI), can level the playing field by giving organizations access to expertise, technology, and data not otherwise accessible. Let’s face it, if you’re not embracing AI today, you are leaving dollars on the table.

Just over half, according to our ECommerce Relevance Report, (53%) of 18-24 year olds – many of whom are part of the Gen Z population – would be willing to veer away from Amazon if other retailers were able to deliver a more tailored customer experience.

And as per the 2022 Holiday Shopping Report: Spending Trends & Impact study 42% of Gen Zers want tailored offers, discounts, and promotions. And they are motivated by social merchandising badging like best-seller notifications (51%) and product recommendations (40%).

Relevance Removes Friction

When it comes to customer service, Gen Zs have embraced web-based self-service more than other generations, according to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report.

Enabling it is critical for these customers. Our own research shows that 40% of Generation Z say they will abandon a brand if they can’t resolve an issue on their own.

The problem is, this happens a lot: after reviewing 8,000 customer journeys, Gartner found that though 70% of the customers were using self-service channels, only 9% could completely resolve their issue through self-service.

What surprised me most about this generation is that despite the importance they place on human relationships, and societal causes, they don’t actually want to engage with people. They want to solve their issues on their own, quickly and seamlessly.

You can make the customer journey more frictionless by automatically considering a customer’s context even if they are on your site anonymously (such as location, products owned, and in-session website activity).

You can propose the most relevant content to resolve their issues, proactively and in the moment of need. Gen Z doesn’t want to dig for answers they didn’t know existed in the first place. These customers want answers and product recommendations to come to them.

… [Gen Zers] don’t actually want to engage with people. They want to solve their issues on their own, quickly and seamlessly.

There is tremendous value in creating a compelling, personalized brand experience for customers as it generates loyalty and conveys that the brand itself is fully aligned with the Gen Z customer needs.

By understanding the importance of this generation, what makes them unique and how to maximize the long-term customer value by providing them the experiences they seek – you have the opportunity to impact your bottom-line and the stickiness of your brand.

Sheila Morin

Sheila Morin is the Chief Marketing Officer at Coveo and has extensive experience building brands and delivering engaging experiences. Previously, Morin was CMO for Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, where she oversaw branding, marketing strategies, fan engagement, and more. She has also held brand leadership roles at Loop Industries, Danone, Procter & Gamble, and L’Oréal.