Gen Z is a digitally savvy generation like no other. What does this generation really care about and how can you align with their values in a real way?
Gen Z has only recently entered the workforce, which sometimes makes them a little less known. But in general we know that they are digital natives in the sense that they have had access to technology and the internet all their lives.
When it comes to doing business with brands, Generation Z, born between 1995 and 2010, have a strong preference for supporting brands that have values and ethics they agree with. This article looks at how brands are engaging with this young generation, how they ensure their values align, and how they see Gen Z influencing their business strategies.
What are the characteristics and core values of Generation Z?
According to Business Insider, Gen Z will be the largest generation by 2026 with around 82 million people. While previous generations were strong advocates for social causes, Gen Z focused on social issues from an early age and is passionate about social justice issues.
They believe in equality and care deeply about it. Most members of Gen Z were too young to remember what life was like before 9/11 or even cell phones. Other characteristics of Gen Z include:
Values access over ownership
Racial, sexual, religious diverse
Social Media Activists
Supports women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, BLM movement
For Gen Z, consumption means having access to a product or service, rather than owning it. Access to car ride services like Lyft and Uber, streaming video services like Prime and Netflix, and subscriptions to Software as a Service (SaaS) like Adobe Cloud are of great value to Gen Z.
Technology is very important to Gen Z. In fact, Laserfiche surveyed over 1,000 British Gen Zs aged 21-24 and found that 20% quit their jobs because of “useless technology” they had to use at work. The survey also found that 66% of Gen Z think their personal technology at home is better than what they use at work, a surprising statistic considering so many companies are tackling the pandemic because of digital survived the transformation.
A report by Deloitte indicates that while salary is still the number one factor in deciding a job, Gen Z values it less than any other generation. Given the choice of taking a better-paying job that’s boring, or a job that’s more interesting but lower-paying, Gen Z was indeed evenly split over the choice.
Generation Z values their unique identity
A report by OCAD University found that 73% of Gen Z believe they need more self-expression to lead happy, healthy lives. Before social media, one person expressed themselves through how they dressed, how they wore their hair, where they worked, the car they drove, and the music they listened to, among other things.
Gen Z lives a large part of their lives on social media and in online games and metaverse, and this is where they meet friends, express themselves and create their unique identities. There they also get social validation (i.e. likes, comments, followers) for the things they do both in real life (IRL) and online.
Additionally, social media is where they share their beliefs and values with their peers. Gen Z celebrates a variety of unique distinctions, including racial diversity, gender expression, sexual orientation, height and shape, and neurodiversity.
Aneesh Dhawan, CEO of Knit, a Gen Z insights platform and video feedback solution provider, told CMSWire that Gen Z’s sense of self-expression is reflected in their decisions about the brands they do business with.
“With a unique approach to self-expression and identity, and as the most ethnically diverse generation, Gen Z is a group that thrives on celebrating difference while maintaining a strong sense of individuality,” said Dhawan. “Your purchasing decisions are simply an organic extension of that self-expression. That’s why 89% of Gen Z choose to shop from brands that are socially and environmentally conscious.”
Core brand values that attract Gen Z
To attract Gen Z, brands must highlight their commitment to societal challenges such as diversity, environmental protection, sustainability, climate change and world hunger. A brand’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) statement needs to be something that lives the brand, not just represents it.
CSR statements can include a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, reducing environmental impact, increasing outreach, promoting sustainability, and eliminating corporate prejudice and bias.
Gen Z wants to know that the brands they do business with align with their values, both internally and externally. Nabila Salem, president of Revolent, a leading provider of cloud talent, told CMSWire that when Gen Z people talk about brand values and ethics, it can sometimes seem like lip service. “If your values and ethics are there only to align with theirs, then your organization may be missing the whole sense of ethics and values.”
Diversity and inclusion should be a core value for a brand if it wants to attract Gen Z as customers or employees. “We are genuinely committed to diversity and inclusion, both within our organization and in the industry in which we operate,” said Salem. “68% of our tech pros identify as Arab, Asian, Black, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Mixed Race or Northern African, and more than two-thirds of our leadership team identify as female.”
Brands that genuinely care about their values should do so out of a desire to make the world a better place, rather than just attracting a specific segment of the population.
“While we hope Gen Z will see us as an employer to work for – because we hope our values and ethics will align with their own – we have not created these initiatives or made these changes specifically to apply to our workplace.” to win,” Salem explained. “We did it to make the sector we work in fairer for everyone. For me, that’s what ethics and values are for.”
What are brands doing to attract Gen Z?
By understanding the changing shopping habits of Gen Z consumers, brands are better prepared to update their customer retention strategies as consumers return to a new version of normal.
After price, digital experience is the biggest driver of Gen Z customer satisfaction. Generation Z is more likely to shop online than in a physical store. According to the latest Verint report, less than 36% of consumers under 40 prefer to visit stores when interacting with retailers. Rather than shopping in person at a store, 51% of Gen Z customers are more likely to shop online and then pick up in store or curbside pickup.
The report also found that 44% of Gen Z shoppers and 43% of Millennials had to expend more effort than expected to complete an interaction, likely indicating that younger generations have higher expectations for their digital experiences. Therefore, brands need to ensure that the shopping experience is pain-free, seamless, and frictionless from start to finish.
Jenni Palocsik, VP of Marketing Insights, Experience and Enablement at Verint, explained in the report’s press release, “As Gen Z is the age group most likely to use digital solutions for some or all of their purchases, retailers need to ensure that this is the Fall is digital experience offers a wide range of suitable products with seamless purchasing processes to have the best chance of keeping their business.”
Because Gen Z are digital natives who use social media more than other generations, many brands like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Aerie and Doritos are using social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram and YouTube to engage Gen Z customers To attract content that presents and promotes diversity, individuality and authenticity.
However, this type of marketing needs to be done very carefully, as Gen Z is quite capable of spotting disingenuous advertising and marketing, and discerning a strong dislike when brands try too hard to sound genuine.
That’s not to say that brands should avoid social media to connect with Gen Z. “A lack of social media presence is a red flag for Gen Z,” said Alana Christou, operations director at Frankel, a peer company based in Gainesville, Fla. “A brand without a social media presence/digital footprint raises questions.”
Christou continued, “Thanks to TikTok, Instagram, etc., Gen Z has a behind-the-scenes insight into the personal details, thoughts, and opinions of friends, family, and complete strangers like no other generation has. And their expectations of brands are the same. You have to be willing to give them a deeper dive into your brand and let them in on what makes your identity unique in order to best connect with them.”
A Knit 2022 report titled Gen Z’s Brutal Feedback on Your Marketing is a must-read for brands wanting to understand how Gen Z thinks about marketing efforts directed at themselves. The report reveals that 44% of Gen Z said they would no longer consider a brand inauthentically collaborating with a celebrity or influencer to promote their products, and unfortunately only 25% of Gen Z believe that brands in their efforts to actually do so, are genuinely making the world a better place.
“With approximately $150 billion in spending power, Gen Zers use their individuality to shop from brands that understand those values,” said Dhawan. “The brands that are successfully targeting Gen Zers do so because they don’t lump them all together. They not only market based on a widespread identity, but target specific consumers and hone their unique individuality as a generation.”
Dhawan told CMSWire that her research showed that Gen Z actually want to help brands market to them. “In fact, about 67% of the Gen Zers we surveyed said they would be more likely to buy from a brand that asked for their opinion on marketing or product decisions. This young generation wants to be at the table, and brands will achieve better results if they find a way to collaborate effectively.”
Final Thoughts on Gen Z Personal Values
Gen Z is a digitally savvy generation that values their unique identity and diversity. Brands that truly live the values they espouse, provide an exceptional digital experience, and foster a diverse and inclusive workplace are more likely to attract and retain Gen Z customers.