Understanding Gen Z; Six Insights

There are 72 million people in the United States who are part of the Gen Z (Generation Z) cohort. They were born between 1997 and 2012, and those children and young adults have, so far, had quite a ride. Some remember 9-11 and the rest have grown up in its aftermath. Other recall the Great Recession and the substantial financial and emotional impact it had on their parents.

Their passage through childhood is probably more traumatized than any generation since those who lived through the Great Depression and World War II. The combination of their life experience and their immersion in the digital age makes them a very different generation than those the toy industry has experienced in the past.

There is a lot of research and commentary available about Gen Z. I have read the literature and below are what I think are six points to ponder when marketing to  them and their families:

1.    They like to spend money but don't have a lot of it. Most don't have part-time jobs, even in high school, but they love good things. They, therefore, like to rent rather than own. We need to think about what kinds of business models are going to work best for them.

2.    They see no bright line between what is "real" and what is "digital." They are a bit like someone who is fluent in more than one language and can effortlessly move back and forth between them when speaking. With Gen Z, instead of moving between tongues, they navigate between digital and "real." How do those who see digital as separate or even unreal communicate effectively with those who live comfortably in both?

3.    The parents of Gen Z children include them as partners in family buying decisions. They are major influencers on what the family buys. They study products and brands and continuously look for value purchasing opportunities. They are frequently the ones who research for the family. We automatically think of parents when marketing toys for children, but shouldn't we be including older siblings in our promotions and advertising? They, not mom or dad, may well be the ones who determine what toys the family buys for their younger sisters and brothers.

4.    Gen Z still likes to shop in bricks and mortar locations. They do, however, bring their mobile devices with them. Because they do their research and listen carefully to their peers, they find salespeople to be a nuisance. So far, there are no Gen Z retail buyers, but it is going to be interesting to see how they interact with the salespeople of tomorrow. In the meantime, retail store staff needs to assist them in finding what they want to buy rather than trying to influence what they buy. What types of people are best to fill that kind of a selling role, now and tomorrow?

5.    The average attention span of a Gen Z individual is 8 seconds. That is 1/3 less than Millenials. How do we get our message out in shorter bursts both online and in the store?

6.    Gen Z uses Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. They use each for a different purpose. So, while they use Instagram to express their creative side and Snapchat to share what they are up to, it is Facebook where they go to do their research.  How do we balance how we use these various digital levers to achieve our marketing goals.

It is said that Gen Z influences $600 billion in family spending per year. They're worth thinking about so what do you think?


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