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Let’s Talk About Gen Z

If your brand hasn’t put considerable effort into incorporating Gen Z into your current business strategy, it’s time to re-evaluate!  Gen Z currently makes up about 1/4 of the global population with an estimated spending power of $143 billion a year.  As this demographic continues to grow up, so too will their impact in terms of spending power and influence.

“Authenticity is table stakes; it is a requirement for this generation.  You cannot build a brand story that is something you made up in the boardroom with the marketing department.  It really has to stem from something that’s real for your brand… if your product doesn’t deliver on that ethos, then that’s going to ring hollow for today’s consumer.”

-Christiane Pendarvis, Savage X Fenty, Co-President and Chief Merchant

Many brands fail to connect with Gen Z – especially those used to traditional marketing methods.  To make your brand appeal to this generation, you need to understand what is important to Gen Z’ers, how they prefer to interact with brands, their customer service expectations, how they want to interact with technology, and how to gain their attention and loyalty.

Who Is Gen Z?

Gen Z’ers are defined as those born in from 1997 to 2012.  This generation has been defined by important economic, public health, political, and social events, including the aftermath of 9/11, the Great Recession, and COVID-19.  These events greatly impacted this generation and shaped their ideologies and beliefs.  This generation is different from millennials and any generation that preceded them.

Most Gen Z’ers grew up with a smartphone in their hands – some before middle school.  These digital natives were raised on touchscreens and social media.  They have lived “glued” to their devices and are deft in rapid information gathering.

What’s Important to Gen Z?

According to TechTarget, Gen Z’ers have “uncompromising requirements of authenticity, inclusivity, and environmental sustainability – and on top of that, they want a good deal.”  Where once retailers could amass a dedicated following by simply offering lower prices than the competition, Gen Z’ers are demanding something different.  They value convenience, speed, social proof, and authenticity.  Gen Z is also uniquely savvy at personal branding and doesn’t hesitate to research their potential purchases.


Authenticity is one of the highest priorities for this generation.  They want brands that stand up for their values or principles and back that up with action rather than empty slogans.  According to research from McKinsey and Company, Gen Z’ers place value on the core idea of the “search for truth.”  At the same time, Gen Z wants brands that don’t take themselves too seriously; Gen Z appreciates voice, personality, and humor from brands expressing important ideas.


Gen Z’ers want the shopping process to be as streamlined and convenient as possible.  According to the IBM Report, “What Do Gen Z Shoppers Really Want,” proximity, product availability, and pick-up or delivery options were their chief areas of concern.  Gen Z’ers are more likely to prioritize and spend money for convenience and ease than previous generations.


Along with convenience, Gen Z’ers want speed.  Fast Company coined the “eight-second filter” to refer to how quickly Gen Z chooses an option.  Brands need to understand the need to deliver short, bite-sized pieces of content to appeal to Gen Z.  These young people exploring social media have a shorter attention span for the content they consume – especially if it doesn’t connect with their core values.

Further, Gen Z customers are 60% more likely than average to hang up on a phone call that isn’t answered within 45 seconds.  The average response time for business emails is 12 hours. If you are relying on phone and email as your primary form of customer engagement, you may want to think again.  Your brand needs to consider quick service options like online chat and chatbots for more immediate service.

Social Proof

Gen Z is attracted to brands that have social and political values like their own.  They tend to be more liberal and place value on social rights and equality along with gender equality, race relations, and nonconformity.  This generation craves exposure to different perspectives and interactions with people from all walks of life.

Gen Z is concerned about climate change and other environmental issues.  They are determined to make a difference and choose sustainable brands.  The First Insight 2019 Report on the state of consumer spending shows that 62% of Gen Z shoppers prefer sustainable brands like HydroFlask and Patagonia.  In fact, 61% of GenZ is willing to pay more for products produced ethically and sustainably.

Personal Branding

Gen Z is driven by their need for a branded identity – this is a significant behavior driver for them.  You can see this in the causes they choose and the things they buy.  This generation is adept at presenting their personal brand through various social media platforms.  Instagram and TikTok tend to reward users with a deep-seated understanding of their brand and how it can be used to engage with their following.


PowerReviews reveals that over 95% of Gen Z consumers validate their purchasing decisions by utilizing online reviews.  While this demographic takes recommendations from their favorite influencers, they also look to consumer ratings.  Even if a Gen Z’er plans on purchasing an item in-store, they will still take the time to research the product online.  This demonstrates how important it is for brands to have user-friendly and convenient websites.  Further, Gen Z will also gather information from the brand’s social media presence.

Brands That Are Successfully Marketing to Gen Z

Let’s take a look at a few brands that are successfully marketing to Gen Z.  Nike, a Gen Z favorite, is a great example.  During the 2019 Oscars, Nike released its “Dream Crazier” ad narrated by tennis-great Serena Williams.  This ad was trending on Twitter with millions of views within 24 hours.

Gen Z celebrities quickly embraced this ad, which boosted its reach to more than 30 million views, 445,000 likes, and 190,000 retweets.  Nike has used technology to gather the insight they need to market to this demographic.  Nike listens to its audience and delivers the premium content this generation is accustomed to.

Kylie Jenner’s cosmetic line, Kylie Cosmetics, is another brand that resonates with the Gen Z crowd.  Kylie launched her brand in 2014, and it quickly became a teen favorite through the clever use of social media.  Kylie Cosmetics engaged with its audience by asking them to suggest products and product names on social media.  Kylie Cosmetic also offers its followers Instagram filters which allow followers to virtually try on various products and, of course, share their new looks with their followers.

Crafting Your Strategy

Now that you understand who Gen Z is and what is important to them, here are some ideas to craft your business strategy towards them.


Brands must incorporate social media as an essential part of their Gen Z business strategy.  54% of Gen Z say social media influences them more than any other marketing channel.  And according to McKinsey & Company, 52% of Gen Z trust social media influencers for product or brand advice.

Clothier a.k.a. Brands, “tested many different combinations of social media influencers,” said CEO Jill Ramsey.  They finally settled on a mix of 17,000 micro-influencers.  “We find that smaller influencers with smaller followings, are actually perceived as more authentic to the customer.  They’re more cost-effective, they don’t charge (what the) celebrity influencers charge, and you have less reputational risk.”


As we mentioned, Gen Z is the first generation of true digital natives.  This generation is comfortable around technology – and many would probably say – uncomfortable without it.

Blending Technology and Experience

Gen Z integrates virtual and real-world activities to form a seamless experience.  They expect brands to behave in the same way.  While this generation values in-person experiences, they like these experiences enhanced with technology.

We can look to Target for a great example of blending technology and experience.  The retailer’s app uses beacon technology to provide various location-based services.  The store’s beacon technology is a GPS for each shopper’s cart.  Users benefit from personalized offers and shopping lists based on location and history, which drives the user experience and engagement.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is another feature that enhances the digital shopping experience.  As online shoppers often struggle to visualize the products in their environments, augmented reality gives them a better idea of how products will fit into their lives.  In the Ikea app, for example, shoppers can see how a chair or a bookshelf would look in their family room.

Live Chat and Chat Bots

As mentioned above, this generation also demands speed.  Technology advances like live chat or chatbots make it easier for visitors to get answers without navigating away from the website.  The average wait time for a live chat interaction is around 1-2 minutes, with the fastest being under 20 seconds.  If you want to capture and hold the attention of Gen Z’ers, set up a live chat widget and make sure replies are rapid.

In addition to rapid response times, live chat is a great way to offer your audience a more personalized experience – which can help build trust and more authentic relationships.  You can customize your live chat greeting with chat triggers like “welcome back” for returning visitors, or you can address visitors by name.

ChatBots – software programmed to provide basic information based on keywords or phrases – is another way to offer quick self-service to your customers.  ChatBots are always available to help and can answer visitors’ basic questions until a live person can follow up with the visitor.

Social Media Shopping

Social media shopping or social commerce includes any in-app purchase made from an influencer’s page to a platform such as Facebook or Instagram.  And according to Accenture, social commerce will grow faster than e-commerce in the following few years.  Social commerce lets users shop directly from photos and videos when browsing through a platform.  TikTok is experimenting with shopping features that could position this platform as a future social commerce powerhouse.

The Employee Experience

One area we haven’t touched on yet is the Gen Z employee experience.  Attracting and keeping Gen Z employees also needs to be a critical part of your business strategy – as this generation will continue to make up more and more of the workforce.

In addition to the values already mentioned, you should understand that Gen Z is hyper-focused on actual growth opportunities within your organization.  They crave an upbeat work environment that encourages innovation.  Some things you can offer to attract and retain this generation include flexibility, peer coaching, work/life balance, growth opportunities, and social awareness.


Gen Z is growing in market share – and significance – to your overall business strategy, and you’re now equipped with some ideas for optimizing your strategy around this increasingly important demographic.  Is Gen Z already a part of your business strategy?  How have you geared your brand’s strategy to this generation?