4 ways to market to Gen Z consumers who have never known a world without the internet, mobile phones and social media.

Joe Montgomery, vice president of marketing, 250ok

Joe Montgomery, vice president of marketing, 250ok

It’s not every day you get to watch the next wave of mass-market consumers come into their own, but while many marketers are still scratching their heads about Millennials, the oldest members of Gen Z turn 21 in 2018. In doing so, these digital natives will become a new focus as brands try to find ways to reach the segment of the population that has never known a world without the internet, mobile phones and social media.

As any retailer selling into this demographic already knows, U.S.-based Gen Z carries around a $44 billion wallet. By 2019, tens of millions of Gen Z-ers—out of the roughly 72 million of them in the United States—will enter the workforce. In 2020, they are forecasted to possess approximately $3 trillion in purchasing power.

Who is “Gen Z”

The Gen Z demographic was born between 1995-1996 and 2010-2015 (depending on who you ask). They account for approximately 2 billion people globally and make up a quarter of the North American population.

They are the most ethnically diverse cohort in the U.S., with one estimate reporting a makeup at 55% Caucasian, 24% Hispanic, 14% African American, 4% Asian, and 4% multiracial. Millennials and Gen Z comprise 65 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population.


The early narrative on them is that they are financially savvy and value-conscious, due in large part to the pressures of development during the Great Recession and the emergence of the student debt crisis. They fancy themselves as independent and highly competitive—there’s little interest in participation trophies.

Respondents in early surveys appear to possess a spirit of inclusiveness, likely forged by growing up with the first African American U.S. president, women owning powerful roles in government and business, and LGBT members of society being openly accepted. Additionally, the Occupy movement, BLM, #MeToo, and other social awareness campaigns came online during their coming of age.

As expected, they are the first truly digital native demographic, owning more devices than previous groups, and twice as likely to shop on a mobile device than the Millennials before them.

Some reports note a general distrust of “the establishment,” and a willingness to forgo the traditional concepts of brand loyalty for a “what have you done for me lately” mentality.

What Opportunities Exist for Marketing to Gen Z?

Consider the findings from a Crowdtwist-commissioned 2017 survey of 790 North American consumers aged 18-37, where respondents said loyalty programs provide a competitive advantage with 64 percent of both Gen Z and Millennials drawn to a brand if there is a loyalty program or incentive. Based on the particular thriftiness of the Gen Z, the finding is not surprising. Regardless if you’re Starbucks or Target, email is typically a critical piece of the omnichannel mix to drive greater loyalty program engagement.


Additionally, based on findings from a Bluecore-commissioned survey of 1,174 consumers across Baby Boomer, Gen X, Millennial and Gen Z demographics within the United States during July 2016, the channel of choice clearly stood out: email is still the most preferred and most personal way Gen Z-ers engage with their favorite brands. Gen Z respondents overwhelmingly preferred brands to communicate with them via email with 65 percent citing email to be the preferred method of communication, followed by In Store (6.9%) and Text (5.6%). Gen Z respondents said that email felt like the most personal channel when communicating with brands (60%), followed by Facebook (8%) and SMS (8%).

4 Recommendations for Marketing to Gen Z

Based on what we know about Gen Z, below are four recommendations to consider when planning marketing campaigns in 2018 and beyond.

  1. Deliver a custom CX (at scale) – Let their behavior in email, in app, in-store, on-site and across social channels drive their experience with your brand. But remember, email is where they feel you can create the most personalized experience for them and it’s their preferred channel for brands.
    While the traditional customer personas still provide value to brands, the reality is every customer is on their own journey. This highly individualized group demands you think of them that way. As a result, it’s time for you to become very smart in your message, design, and communication cadence.
  1. Everything mobile – You would think there would be no need to say this, but there is: make everything mobile-friendly. Raised on tech, Gen Z demands that you possess the same command of it as they do. Use design rendering tools to ensure your emails look great across the platforms that you send to. Because Gen Z predominantly uses Gmail, spend the proper amount of time on everything Gmail-related. As an extension of the email experience, get responsive with sign-up forms, email preference centers, landing pages, websites, etc. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and, more importantly, theirs.
  2. Show them the value – Remember, this group watched family members struggle through the Great Recession and witnessed older siblings and friends fall victim to the student-debt crisis. Early analysis notes similarities between how Gen Z thinks about money and Greatest Generation, who came of age during the Great Depression. While they appear to be cost conscious and react positively to no frills options (e.g., Frontier Airlines success with Gen Z), they are open to paying more for value. Again, this advertising-adverse group will shut down old school marketing fluff in a heartbeat. You will fail in talking them into your world, so build and message around theirs.
  3. Let’s get visual – Images, GIFs, memes, emojis, video—they are accustomed to visuals—and simple, clear text. Keep in mind they have built defenses to block out advertising. Focus on human emotion, and humor is winner with this group. Consider their communication preferences as you design your touchpoints. They are the epitome of TL;DR (too long, didn’t read). They will ignore your messages if you fail to do so. Their 8-second attention spans demand that you get to the point.

250ok specializes in email analytics and deliverability.