How to Win Over Younger Consumers This Holiday Season — And Beyond
It’s the question every marketer is asking: “How can our brand connect with Gen Z?”
In a crowded market that’s dominated by Amazon.com, Walmart, and Target, top-of-funnel strategies are of primary importance during the holidays. But reaching Gen Z will require brands to dive into the mindset of Gen Z, understanding their values, their behaviors, and what ultimately drives them to purchase. The payoff, while big for the holidays, could last much longer.
From their social presence to their shopping preferences, Gen Z is a lifestyle. They value sustainability, authenticity and affordability. The brands that succeed will be the ones that tune into that lifestyle.
Here are five ways app marketers can tap into the Gen Z lifestyle:
1. Transition your app from mere brand to aspirational lifestyle.
This is the holy grail to connecting with Gen Z: transcending from a shopping app a person occasionally uses to becoming a part of their day-to-day lifestyle. Brands that achieve this are able to stay top of mind at all times, and not just when someone is looking to make a purchase. Consider Amazon, which has successfully cemented Prime membership as a lifestyle, with customers flocking to the app simply because it’s “Prime Day.”
Fast-fashion brand SHEIN provides more inspiration. By combining low-cost, trendy clothes with hip, fun marketing promotions, it managed exceptional growth (+40 percent) in its brand funnel compared to apps with similar awareness and install intent, according to the latest BRAG Index, which measures changes to brand funnels of leading mobile apps. To connect with Gen Z, SHEIN partnered with YouTube celebrities and TikTok influencers to promote its #SHEINhauls hashtag. The overarching message: shopping with SHEIN isn’t just about buying clothes, it’s about a fashion-forward lifestyle.
2. Promote value through affordability.
Expect brands offering recommerce (like OfferUp), discounts, and low-cost products to shine this season. Shoppers are more aware of their budget during the holiday, when they have lots of gifts to buy. Brands can attract budget-conscious shoppers through traditional methods like sales and holiday promotions. However, they can also highlight gently worn resale items (like Anthropologie does) or even host branded clothing swaps (a popular activity among Gen Z consumers).
Gen Z is more price-sensitive than other generations, with 62 percent saying affordability is a key decision factor for them when making a purchase. Brands that emphasize the value of the product behind the price will win with this generation, especially if they find a way to throw in a discount, too. Funnel users into your app ecosystem by showing off products and current discounts with ads that deep link directly to the relevant page within your app.
Overall, low cost and fast fashion don’t seem to be going away with younger audiences. Apps that featured one or both of these all ranked highly in Digital Turbine’s BRAG Index. Tapping into those trends through promos, flash sales, gifts and other gimmicks certainly will drive app growth and usage among younger audiences. The key is to stay fresh and on top of people’s minds while the trends last.
3. Embrace emerging payment methods that resonate with Gen Z.
Buy now, pay later (BNPL) apps have solidified their space in the market. An increasing number of Americans now understand how these apps work, with 50 percent of consumers having used BNPL to make a purchase. As a result, BNPL apps like Klarna are seeing huge increases in their brand funnels and in brand favorability among consumers.
Who can we thank for driving that change? You guessed it: Gen Z. Gen Zers are 123 percent more likely to use BNPL today than pre-pandemic, a significantly larger jump than other generations.
BNPL apps are attractive to Gen Z because they speak to their price sensitivity, allowing them to break up the cost of a purchase into more manageable, budget-friendly payments. Given the large number of purchases people make during the holidays, offering BNPL as a payment method allows more shoppers to purchase more, and more expensive gifts, with your brand.
4. Make the in-store experience worth it.
Gen Z may be the tech-savviest generation of us all, but a vast majority prefer shopping in-store, including two-thirds who do so specifically to try out new things. The primary factors driving Gen Z to shop in-store include price-related rewards, such as free samples, giveaways, discounts and promotions.
One thing that retailers can and should focus on coming out of the pandemic is pushing those returning to in-store shopping to their apps. It’s a tactic that saw success in other categories, like food and fitness. Offer in-store promotions, coupons and loyalty programs that are only available to app users. For example, brands like lululemon and HGM regularly offer special discounts to app users that are exclusively redeemable in-store.
Deepen loyalty by using your app to make the in-store experience more enjoyable, in addition to more affordable. More than two-thirds of Gen Z consumers say they're more likely to shop at a store that uses technology to enhance the shopping experience.
5. Upgrade your app with holiday-ready features.
If you’re using your app as a carrot to bring shoppers in-store, that carrot better be tasty. Consumers are more judicious than ever about the apps that take up space on their phone — especially Gen Z — so the focus should be on demonstrating value. Make your app irresistible to holiday shoppers by:
- storing their payment information;
- enabling one-click checkout;
- implementing smart searches and product recommendations; and
- offering mobile checkout in stores.
Apps that offer these features arose as leaders in Digital Turbine’s latest BRAG Index, including Amazon, H&M, Klarna, CVS, and Etsy. Creating a frictionless experience that’s easier than shopping on a browser will not only get people to download and use your app, but reuse it every time they need to make a purchase.
The next step is to get people to open up the app, even when they’re not actively looking to purchase. Build loyalty by keeping lists of items they like, establishing loyalty programs, and promoting items similar or complementary to ones already purchased.
Becoming part of your customers’ lifestyle is key to cementing their loyalty, especially for a customer set that lives and shops by the values that represent their lifestyle. Use your app to connect with Gen Z this holiday season. Make their shopping experience affordable, valuable and fun — whether they’re in-store or online.
Dan Levy currently serves as head of advertising sales, U.S. at Digital Turbine, leading the U.S. app media division that brings global brands on-device.
Dan Levy currently serves as Head of Advertising Sales, US at Digital Turbine, leading the US app media division that brings global brands on-device. Dan has been working in the media & adtech industry for 18 years and has held leadership roles for Dstillery, DoubleVerify and Convertr. He graduated from Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management with a degree in Marketing and Supply Chain Management.