Everything marketers need to know about Gen Z: Authenticity with individuality

Everything marketers need to know about Gen Z: Authenticity with individuality Shane Phair is the Chief Marketing Officer of CM Group. Prior to joining CM Group, he led marketing and demand generation teams as VP of Demand Generation at Cleo, a global leader in enterprise integration solutions. Prior to Cleo, he held senior sales positions with Brainshark, Ipswitch, and Motorola; while also spending several years in South Korea working in the education space. Shane holds an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and earned his bachelor’s degree at Michigan State University.

After years of reading about the woes of marketing to millennials, it’s time for a new group of headlines. We’ve already seen articles that exhort the challenges of connecting with the first generation of consumers who have practically grown up online: Gen Z.

But Gen Z, for all the ways they seem to be changing the world around us, aren’t a mystery. We know exactly what these consumers want and, even better, we know exactly how to connect with them.

This is about to become a huge factor to the success of any business: Estimates say that by next year, Gen Z will represent 40% of all consumers and about £34 billion in buying power. With that kind of juice—in addition to the buying power they have through their influence on their parents’ spending—it’s no wonder so many marketers seem concerned about connecting with this specific audience.

Who exactly is Gen Z?

Gen Z—which consists of people born between the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s—grew up with vast amounts of technology and information literally at their fingertips.

That means they approach decision-making a little differently than consumers of earlier generations used to. But truthfully, it isn’t just Gen Z that’s evolving toward a new way of doing business. What we know about this upcoming generation represents a larger cultural shift in what consumers want from brands.

This means if you can figure out how to connect with Gen Z, you’ll connect better with all of your audiences.

How Gen Z is changing marketing

The greatest influence on Gen Z is their constant connection. In a recent study, 45% of teens claim to be online “almost constantly” and another 44% say they’re online multiple times a day. They go online to showcase their lives, get their news, and connect with friends.

So it’s no surprise they go online to research products and services long before they’re ready to buy. But they aren’t just researching your products. Gen Z wants to know everything about your brand, from your mission and values to the people working behind the scenes.

All of this is great news: Gen Zers want to connect. All you have to do is deliver a great experience—something marketers have been doing for decades.

Delivering not just a phenomenal experience, but the right experience, starts with optimising everything you touch for mobile technology. Gen Zers, like the rest of us, check email and social media, click through to your site, and make their purchases all without ever using a computer. For instance, when we surveyed Gen Zers as part of our own research, 70.2% of respondents said they’d made at least one purchase—and some as many as eleven or more purchases—after seeing an item on social media. Similarly, 63.6% of respondents made purchases as a direct result of an email.

If your site isn’t optimised to allow your audience to convert on their phones, you’re most likely losing Gen Z sales. Because they’re checking email and social media almost entirely on a phone, you’ll want to make it as simple as possible for them to convert on that same device.

What Gen Z wants and doesn’t want

They don’t want the hard sell.

Having grown up with an overwhelming amount of content in their back pockets, Gen Z has learned to be skeptical. This means they take the opinions of their peers more seriously than they do the claims of any marketing department.

As marketers, we need to find ways to gather feedback from our customers and then showcase that feedback to encourage prospects to convert. Featuring your best product reviews in your email marketing or social media posts puts trustworthy recommendations in front of your potential customers.

Additionally, Gen Zers want to be treated as individuals and not as a homogenous group. You’ll want to deliver hyper-segmented messages and treat customers as human beings with individual interests and challenges, not just potential money makers.

They want to help you cultivate authenticity.

Authenticity needs to be at the core of your marketing philosophy. It’s what consumers of all ages crave—especially Gen Zers. But plenty of marketers aren’t sure exactly how to do that without pulling back the curtain too far.

There are plenty of simple ways to increase your brand’s authenticity:

  • Feature user-generated content. UGC allows your biggest fans to share what they love about your company and your products in their everyday lives. By featuring this content and interacting with it, you establish users as co-creators with you
  • Create a community for your customers. Invite your followers to become even more invested in your brand by facilitating conversation through hashtags and sharing your customer stories on social media, your blog, and email marketing
  • Partner with influencers who share your values. By joining forces with the right influencer for your business, you have a trusted authority vouching for you

What’s most important is that you invest in platforms that allow you to connect personally with Gen Z. When we asked respondents how they prefer to communicate with brands, social media ranked first, with email following closely behind. Our Gen Z respondents then ranked in-person interactions next, showing that Gen Z still values a more personal platform.

They want to support brands that share their values.

It’s probably no surprise that today’s consumers want to know what your brand believes in, so don’t shy away from sharing your story and being socially engaged. Too often brands don’t take a stance because they’re afraid they might alienate their audience. But even if you do, you’ll gain devoted and engaged followers in their stead.

Further, our research showed that Gen Z wants to hear from you often: 31.8% of our Gen Z respondents said they prefer to receive emails from a brand a couple times a week, while 27.5% preferred once a day. This means that over half of the audience we surveyed wants to hear from brands multiple times a week.

That’s a lot of opportunities for you to create lifelong, Gen Z brand advocates. Sharing your brand values and the work your company does to fulfill your mission statement keeps people emotionally connected to your company.


Here are a few actionable takeaways that will improve your ability to connect with Gen Z:

  • Focus on authenticity in your marketing messages
  • Share the story behind your company and the values that set you apart from your competitors
  • Avoid the hard sell
  • Invite your customers to become co-creators to inspire a cult following and lifelong brand loyalty
  • Treat consumers like the individuals they are

When you implement these tactics, you’ll see better results across the board, not only when connecting with Gen Z, but with the rest of your audience as well.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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