For the past few years, we have all seen how consumers continue to define e-commerce through their quick adaption of new technologies to make purchases, their proclivity to shop online more and more, and their demands to buy what they want, how they want, where they want. This is not anything new to those of us in the e-commerce industry. And for the most part, many merchants have kept pace with the changes and even thrived because of them.
But what about looking forward? How can merchants keep up with the rapid changes being driven by both technology and consumers? And how can our industry address the millennials?
“It's time we wake up and start paying attention to a generation that is unlike its predecessors, the overanalyzed millennials.”
Not Your Parents’ Consumers
Focus has been shifting from the Millennials to understanding of Gen Z shopping behaviors. Caught up in the millennial whirlwind, it has been easy to overlook the generation coming up fast on their heels.
In order to effectively market to this group, we first need to understand who they are. Studies show that this generation is shaping up to have unparalleled buying power in the vicinity of $150 billion. In short, it's time we wake up and start paying attention to a generation that is unlike its predecessors, the overanalyzed millennials.
A crucial distinction between Gen Zers and millennials is that Gen Zers have never known a world without unlimited digital access. Millennials aged into adulthood as the power of the internet took the global stage. But Gen Z has never known a “before.” For this generation, pretty much everything they want can be purchased through their phones. Half of them have gone through puberty in the turbulence of social media, navigating intense bullying, trolls and unfortunate moments captured for all eternity. Their world is so profoundly different from any generation before them that we might actually treat this generation as a pivotal turning point in how we historically discuss society.
Millennials have been the opening act. Our fixation on their differences and peculiarities is only warming us up for how Gen Z is going to reshape the way we think about brands and marketing. While only half of this generation has grown into spending power -- unless you add their parents’ contribution (equaling billions) -- it is important that we understand some marketing truths now.
Last year, Think with Google studied this aspect for teens in the Gen Z generation, writing, “While millennials were mobile pioneers, Gen Z teens are mobile natives.” Because of this, Gen Z is the generation that is much more exclusive on mobile and less so on laptops compared to other generations.
At the start of this article, we looked a bit at some of the ways Gen Z are shaping, and will shape, the e-commerce industry. What becomes significant is not necessarily what they’re doing now, but what they will be doing. No, there is no crystal ball over here in the offices — I wish! However, a study by Forbes sheds light on some interesting trends when it comes to consumers’ ages and income levels.
Let’s face it. We’re all getting older. There’s just no stopping the clock or calendar. And while Gen Z’s may be shaping markets as they become a powerful consumer segment, here are some things worth noting. According to the Forbes study, as people age their preferred method of payment changes. It tends to be heavily skewed toward debit cards for those aged 18-34, then actually switch to credit card for those aged 35-44. Similarly, as people gain more income over the course of their lives, credit card becomes a pretty dominant favored method of payment, with a preference rate as high as 60 percent.
And? What's It All Mean?
Smart marketers realize that digital-first Gen Zers present a unique opportunity to instill brand loyalty early. When someone becomes a customer at a young age, they will spend three times as much over their lifetime.
Another reason for the focus on Gen Z is that their social media activity means they have tremendous influence on channels like Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. They’re also relative experts on these platforms. In addition to their social media expertise, they are more influenced by these channels to make online purchases than any other generation.
Gen Zers view their smartphones as extensions of themselves more than millennials and Gen Xers, so a five-second Instagram video will resonate more than, say, a TV commercial. The best advice for marketers, then, is not to abandon digital advertising, but to adjust ad creative and approach social media in ways that ensure your brand is perceived as authentic and accessible.
Generation Z will make you work harder for their attention and won’t fall for traditional advertising tactics. Savvy marketers will figure out a way to offer Gen Zers something of value – whether it’s entertainment or personalized information – that also blends seamlessly with their online identities, earns their trust and entices them to make purchases.