3 Ways to Attract and Retain 'Zillennial' Customers
“Zillennials” are the oldest members of Gen Z, who were born during that demographic’s first five or six years, approximately 1997 to 2002. While still considered digital natives, zillennials can remember a time before tablets or smartphones and were not pervasively online during their elementary school years, unlike the majority of their generation.
This age group bridges the gap between millennials, the oldest of whom are nearing 40, and the core of Gen Z, whose youngest members are just starting their second decade. Zillennials are just entering the workforce and are beginning to experience adult life and no longer identify with the teens and tweens in their assigned cohort. But they can’t relate to younger millennials either, who have been in the workforce for at least five years, never mind the older ones (unfortunately nicknamed “Geriatric Millennials”), who might have started families or bought houses and are nearing middle age.
This group is a niche one for brands to market to. Zillennials are just getting buying power of their own and have grown up with strongly held beliefs and preferences. Attracting the zillennial consumer can be tricky, but when done successfully, brands have the opportunity to establish a strong, ongoing relationship with a burgeoning consumer group.
Purchasing With Purpose
Like their Gen Z cohort, zillennials are broadly influenced by the content they see on social platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Twitter. They're also broadly driven by their passion for causes, from climate change to social justice to human rights.
Transparent and sustainable brands win this group’s loyalty. This includes brands such as outdoor goods retailer Patagonia, which shares information about the provenance of the materials for its clothes, and home-cleaning product brand Grove Collaborative, the world’s first plastic-neutral manufacturer that has pledged to become plastic-free by 2025. Research has found that zillennials are willing to spend up to 10 percent more on a sustainable product or service.
Brands should be warned, however, that surveys also have found that nearly all zillennials say that when a company makes a commitment to the environment, social cause or other issue, it needs to fund the program for success. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of all Americans said it's important that Black Lives Matter-related statements from brands and other organizations are empathetic and followed by measurable action, with three-quarters of Gen Z stating they research companies to confirm they're following through.
To attract the zillennial buyer, brands need to communicate the issues they stand for across a number of channels, from social media to TikTok to SMS (text message). Short videos or graphical posts that feature real people, not celebrities or influencers, work best with this cohort.
As digital natives, zillennials spend an average of eight hours a day online, five of them on their phones. They first look for new products or services on their phones, whether on their preferred social media platform or within a brand’s app.
In a recent survey, two in five (41 percent) zillennials said they would abandon a purchase requiring bank authorization if they didn't immediately receive two-factor authentication (2FA) via text message. The features most zillennials wanted to see when shopping inside an app was integration with payment methods such as Apple Pay or Venmo, again indicating a mobile-first orientation.
Brands can convert these consumers by making it as easy as possible to complete a purchase via a mobile device, including integrations with social media and payment platforms. Once a purchase has been made, brands can add SMS as an additional platform on which to engage zillennials with simple click-to-buy links.
Frugal Approach to Finances
Zillennials were around the same ages as today’s youngest Gen Zers during the economic downturn of 2008. While parents protected them as much as possible, some saw their mom or dad lose jobs or homes, and many more faced cutbacks on household spending. These experiences manifest today in a generational frugality among zillennials, many of whom have embraced shopping at thrift stores (aka “thrifting”) and shopping secondhand in general.
Flocking to brands such as DePop, Mercari, and Poshmark, as well as traditional brick-and-mortar consignment and thrift stores, zillennials love both a bargain and recycling or repurposing existing products vs. buying new. This can prove challenging for most brands.
Promotions or special campaigns like Levi Strauss’ partnership with Cotton Inc.’s Blue Jeans Go Green initiative, in which shoppers can bring in their old denim to Levi’s stores to be recycled into new garments, can attract zillennial shoppers while also appealing to their sustainable sensibilities. The campaign also established Levi’s Tailor Shops, where consumers can take damaged garments for professional repair, as well as online DIY resources to upcycle old clothing.
When developing special promotions or sales, brands should prioritize appealing to zillennials’ frugal nature. It's an easy way to attract net-new consumers early in their adulthood who will likely upgrade the products they purchase as their buying power increases during their lifetime.
Despite being a very small sub-demographic, zillennials is an important one for many consumer brands. Developing marketing campaigns and promotions — and reaching them on the mobile platforms they prefer — is an effective strategy for engaging these newly independent consumers as they begin to form their adult tastes and preferences.
Laura Apel leads Mitto's global marketing operations. With a background in journalism and over six years within the CPaaS industry, her focus is on increasing visibility of Mitto’s industry expertise and differentiated technology through strategic brand messaging and communications.
Related story: How Retailers Can Win Over Gen Z
Laura Apel leads Mitto’s global Marketing operations. With a background in journalism and over 6 years within the CPaaS industry, her focus is on increasing visibility of Mitto’s industry expertise and differentiated technology through strategic brand messaging and communications.