The spark of change has begun in the world of online shopping, and Generation Z is at the forefront of the metamorphosis. But who is Generation Z?
Gen Z describes a group that's far from underwhelming. Individuals in this category include teens and those in their early 20s, born after the millennial age. Millennials, or those born between 1980-1995, currently are a primary target for advertisers and brands. However, the post-millennial demographic is rapidly evolving into the most influential group of online shoppers.
It’s time for marketers to customize their ads and go from two-dimensional pieces to interactive experiences if they want to keep up with Gen Z’s unique way of shopping.
In 2017, a report found that 60 million Gen Zers reside in the U.S. and have a total spending power of $44 billion annually. What makes this upcoming generation so distinct is the fact that they were born into an entirely online world. Being digital-born makes Gen Z the “relative experts” in social media channels. As the largest demographic group in the U.S., Gen Z stands on its own in terms of the way it prefers ads and shops in the digital sphere.
Social Media is Still Crucial
Social media continues to play an influential role in terms of online shopping for both millennials and Gen Z. However, there are a few differences that set Gen Z apart.
While millennials prefer Facebook, Gen Z favors Snapchat and Instagram. YouTube is also more popular with Gen Zers. Several statistics show that Gen Z is heavily influenced by social media channels when it comes to online shopping. More than 80 percent of Gen Z is impacted by social media in regard to online shopping vs. 74 percent of millennials. In particular, Snapchat has double the impact on Gen Z than it does on millennials.
Gen Z has completely embraced social media, making it part of themselves. Social media is the most impactful way to connect with Gen Z; a normal TV spot doesn’t work for them, but a five- to 15-second video with no sound on Instagram can leave a lasting impression.
Ads That Don’t Look Like Ads
What Gen Z desires is an ad that doesn't look or feel like an ad. This group delights in ads that blend seamlessly with their Instagram feeds and Snapchat stories.
Using flat lays, picturesque rooms, pets and food photography will help your brand resonate with each viewer. For example, Anthropologie creates eye-catching photos on Instagram that mimic moments of daily life. The brand produces a mixture of family, fashion and travel images with products camouflaged within each photo.
Gen Z Desires Engaging Experiences
When creating an ad, it's important that a photo engages the audience. Requiring some form of participation in ads often resonates more with Gen Z. Whether you’re asking people to repost a brand’s photo as part of a giveaway, post their own photo with a hashtag, or click on a photo carousel with easy-to-reach links for products, engagement is key to reaching Gen Zers.
Marketers are quickly catching on to these trends. Gen Zers don't want to see a static banner ad follow them around. They want ads that are stories, feel authentic and engage with the audience. Invasive, non-engaging ads are ignored and blocked. Investing in richer content and media will be key to reaching the next wave of consumers.
Involving social movements in ads is also highly effective for gaining Gen Z’s attention and approval. Feminine product company Always found major success in its #LikeAGirl video ads that present women discussing their definitions of acting “like a girl.” The empowering video garnered nearly 65 million views on YouTube, with following videos in the series also reaching millions of viewers.
How Can Marketers Keep Up With Gen Z?
In addition to creating engaging and impactful ads, advertisers should focus on mobile-friendly content. Gen Z uses smartphones more than TV, tablets or laptops. In creating mobile-specific social media ads, it’s important to make them image-heavy and easy to navigate. Mediums such as YouTube videos and Snaps also offer the opportunity for quick, yet memorable ads.
When it comes to who represents your brand on social media, be it mobile or video ads, celebrities and ultra-famous influencers are no longer in fashion for Gen Z. That group prefers influencers who are more approachable, such as beauty bloggers, YouTubers and fashion trendsetters on Instagram.
Many famous YouTubers and Instagrammers partner with brands to release sponsored content, benefiting both parties and reaching a high volume of Gen Zers.
By catching up with the generation's idiosyncrasies, retail marketers can redirect their efforts toward bite-sized visual ads across mobile, video and social media spectrums. Wasted media spend is an age-old problem, but by following these pieces of sometimes counter-intuitive advice, you'll have a better shot at maximizing return on investment.
Michael Mothner is the founder and CEO of Wpromote, an integrated digital marketing agency.
Related story: What Retailers Need to Know About Generation Z
Michael Mothner is the Founder and CEO of Wpromote, the largest independent marketing agency in the US. Along with founding Wpromote in 2001, he has also ventured into other enterprises such as ScanDigital and CouponPal, which was spun off of Wpromote’s performance marketing division into an independent company. A regular industry speaker and commentator, he has been featured by Inc. Magazine as one of "30 CEOs under 30 To Watch" and was the recipient of the PricewaterhouseCoopers Entrepreneurial Spirit Award.