These young consumers born since the mid-1990s represent nearly a third of the world’s population and are the first generation that doesn’t remember life before the internet. Here is how to reach these consumers as they enter their prime shopping years.

Miriam Tremelling, director of marketing strategy and operations, Partnerize

Miriam Tremelling, director of marketing strategy and operations, Partnerize

Millennials have been the darlings of marketing and media for the better half of a decade. But it may be time for them to pass the baton.

A new generation has taken root, wielding more potential buying power than any before them. Generation Z—those born in the mid-1990s thru 2011—will comprise 32 percent of the global population of 7.7 billion in 2019. That makes Gen Z an estimated 2.5 billion strong. Gen Z is also 20 percent of the U.S. population and will grow to the largest generation, at 27 percent of the total, by 2025.

We’ve been saying mobile-first for years, but when it comes to Gen Z, it’s mobile-only.

Clearly, one of the most notable things about this group is that it is the first whose entire existence has been within the digital age. They’ve never known life without online, apps, mobile and instant communication. For this generation, being offline might only refer to when they are sleeping—if then. As retail marketers race to understand the psyche and capture the attention of this group, one way to get a leg up is by expanding and diversifying your connection with this audience through partnerships. Here are four ways to do this successfully.

Leverage the Right Influencers

 Similar to the Millennial generation before them, Gen Z lives their life on social media, and their usage of certain platforms continues to grow. A recent study showed that Gen Zers say they have increased their usage of Snapchat and Instagram in the past year, 55 and 56 percent, respectively. They deeply value the opinions of their social community, seeking advice on most purchasing decisions. Sixty-eight percent of Gen Z internet users say they read three or more reviews before making a first-time purchase.


Given their heavy usage and capacity for content consumption on social networks, working in collaboration with their favorite influencers to connect your retail brand to their hearts and minds makes sense. That said, this group is not easily duped, and their attention spans are short. Brands must seek authenticity when partnering with influencers in order to make a valuable impression. Those creating branded content on your behalf must be natural extensions of your brand. If they are engaging with their audience in a forced way, Gen Z will not fall for it.

Find the Mobile-Friendliest Partners

We’ve been saying mobile-first for years, but when it comes to Gen Z, it’s mobile-only. Consider these staggering facts: Gen Z spends double the time of Millennials using mobile devices for shopping and converts about twice as much on mobile than any other demographic.

Having lived only with the convenience and immediacy of mobile and constant connection, this generation requires mobile access to information and offers more than any other. Brands that want to attract this group of consumers absolutely must invest in best-in-class mobile-shopping platforms. If your app can’t close the deal seamlessly, Gen Z will take their purchasing power elsewhere.

Retailers need to prioritize partnerships with brands and apps that deliver stellar mobile browsing and shopping. In addition, marketers must ensure their methods of measurement and attribution can accurately track and report on all mobile conversions.

Amplify Your Social Consciousness Through Your Partners

Despite their young age, Gen Zs are vociferous about making the world a better place, and they tend to be drawn to brands that follow the same moral compass. In fact, more than half of Gen Z says that a brand showing dedication to social impact is a driving factor when they make purchases. Additionally, 84 percent of Gen Z will actively promote a brand that stands up for something they believe in.

Retailers can demonstrate their interest in making a difference by partnering with organizations or other brands that known for their social consciences. A number of resources work with brands to help drive charitable donations, environmental awareness and community impact in authentic ways.

Gen Z shoppers are simply more trusting of brands that partner for the greater good. Given that more than 70 percent of Gen Z says they influence family decisions regarding items such as furniture, household goods, and food and beverage, the opportunity to create a stronghold by cross-pollinating altruistic values is undeniable.


Invest in Non-Traditional Brand Partnerships

Eighty-six percent of Millennials cite promotions or discounts as influential, compared with 76 percent of Gen Z respondents. That said, 76 percent of 2.5 billion Gen Zers still represents a substantial opportunity. Brands should seek non-traditional brand partners that are interested in cross-promotions in order to grab this audience’s attention.

By partnering with established Gen Z retail brands in innovative ways, a new base of customers opens up for acquisition. Given that brand loyalty for Gen Z is less about specific programs and more about brands creating experiences that align with their lifestyle, it’s really important to consider how you can partner with brands to give them what they crave.

Apparel and food/beverage brands are very popular with this younger generation, so if your brand is in one of these categories, consider partnering with the other.  When forming brand-to-brand partnerships, look for categories that align with your brand equity and the Gen Z mindset, and then develop co-marketing programs to attract them.

This is a pivotal time for brands. Breaking through with Gen Z can be challenging, but the opportunity they represent makes it worth the effort. With the right partnership strategy in place, retailers can win them over and turn them into loyal customers. And, if you’re lucky, they’ll put in a good word about you with their peers.


Partnerize provides a software-as-a-service platform for managing online marketing partnerships, such as with affiliates and influencers.