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Understanding Gen Z Consumers in 3 Steps

Anybody involved in marketing has probably gotten the “how do we reach the young consumer?” talk. T

he need to reach the next generation weighs heavily on companies and individuals, yet their efforts are usually unsuccessful. It’s not their fault; they just don’t have the same mindset as Gen Zers.

Modern marketers are most likely 30+ years old, so they were not developing their brains at the same time we Gen Zers were. Gen Z came out of the cradle with access to technology that surpasses anything today’s adults experienced at the same age.

Instead of dial-up internet that would freeze every 5 seconds, the average Gen Zer has a supercomputer in their hand at all times. Our fashion is different, our values are different, our lifestyles are different, and even our brains are different.

Social media platforms have disrupted the traditional channels of advertisement: billboards, newspaper ads, TV ads, etc.

The great thing about social media is that anybody can use it. The issue for an advertiser is this: how do I successfully connect myself and my brand with these Gen Zers? Here are some tips.

1. Use their time wisely.

The attention span of Gen Z is short, but their ability to quickly filter content is remarkable. Instant downloads and instant digital access have “spoiled” Gen Z and diminished their patience for nonsense marketing.

If you are not able to get your point across in the length of a Snapchat or a two-second pause while scrolling down, you will fail every time with Gen Z.

Grab their attention and make it mean something. The silly gag ads that kids saw on TV in the ’90s for the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures will not work on the kids of today.

With access to the world news at their fingertips, the next generation has a more realistic grasp on the world and how money works. A more aware target audience means you need to provide more aware and meaningful advertisements.

2. Prove that you are legit.

Credibility and honesty are very important to Gen Z, thanks in part to Google. Previous generations had to rely on the word of the advertiser, so the advertiser held all the power in the relationship.

But the rise of customer review apps such as Yelp and Angie’s List place the power in the buyer’s hands. Poor reviews destroy a product’s credibility. The principles of caveat emptor (buyer beware!) are now being upheld by customer reviews.

In a recent Yelp review scandal, a Long Beach moving company was caught offering money for positive reviews. Don’t be tempted to cheat in this way. Instead, improve your product and incentivize customers to place their thoughts on Yelp or your own customer review board.

Ethical business practices may not be as well covered in the media as corporate scandals, but a strong reputation will sit well with Gen Z consumers.

3. Let other people talk about you.

Everybody has experienced that really annoying guy in the conversation who only talks about his own accomplishments, his new ideas, and what he thinks is cool. Don’t be that guy. Find promotions to encourage social media users to spread the word for you.

Customizable experiences are much more enjoyable for Gen Z consumers than the generic, prefabricated experience that everybody else has.

A number of companies have successfully implemented creative customizable experiences. For example, Converse started the “Made by You” campaign last year after the release of their new Chuck Taylor shoes.

The campaign encouraged consumers to share images of customized sneakers they had made. And we all know about the success of Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign.

The most effective way to get people to talk about you is to give them a story they can tell. The power of vloggers and YouTubers comes from the idea that everybody wants to have a good story.

Whether it stems from their life or is something they found, Gen Zers love to be able to charm their audience with a compelling tale.

The key to connecting with Gen Z is to reach their values and cater to how they want the product. The power lies with the buyer now; technology has empowered every individual, so that means you must make them feel powerful.

Caveat emptor still holds true, but now the seller must be aware that the market has changed.

Written by David Matlock

David Matlock is a senior in high school at Stratford Academy. He is currently writing his first book and is a contributor on the Huffington Post. Matlock is a freelance writer and young entrepreneur.

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