Member Article

Retailers Listen Up: Here's How To Speak ‘Gen Z’…

In 2019, Gen Z will comprise 32% of the global population - the largest generation ever! In addition, Gen Z will make up 40% of all consumers, with an estimated global direct spend closing in on $200 billion.

However, this is not the full extent of Gen Z’s financial impact. Recent reports have indicated that over 93 % of parents believe their Gen Z children have significant influence over household spends such cars, gadgets, entertainment, groceries, holidays, and even home purchases. Their soft influence is said to be 14 times that of their direct spend, therefore totalling close to $3 trillion a year globally.

Retailers are acutely aware of this sizable financial influence, and this is undeniably impacting the way in which businesses are communicating with their customers. As digital natives, fluent in rapid information gathering, Gen Z process information in a completely new way. They demand originality, creativity, transparency, accountability and most importantly, authenticity. The stakes for retailers are high – with the consequences of getting it wrong incredibly costly and immediately felt.

Gen Z are a highly driven group of ‘early adopters’, who expect brands to tap into their mind-set with personalised content. Oh, and did we mention they have an attention span of 8 seconds, so better catch their attention quickly!

Although some retailers are nailing their marketing strategy for this socially led demographic, the majority are still falling at the first hurdle. Given the financial power Gen Z wield, this is pretty serious, and could have a dire impact on revenues if not addressed in a targeted, curated, and clear manner.

As two individuals leading the way in Gen Z engagement, here teen entrepreneurs and Gen Z ‘champions’ – Harry Beard (the 19 year old Co-Founder of Future Labs) and Jenk Oz (13 year old Founder & CEO of iCoolKid) have teamed up to share their expert thoughts on the key do’s and don’ts of retail marketing to Generation Z in 2019.


Harry Beard says: “Gen Z know when they are being sold to, so retailers need to be much smarter with their marketing tactics. It’s all about buying into a lifestyle. We’re used to seeing aspirational imagery telling a story on social media, and this is exactly how we want brands to speak to us too.

Get this right, and it’s a golden ticket to Gen Z. Video is a great medium, and as Gen Z live on YouTube, it’s the perfect place to capture an already engaged audience. Drinks companies like Oatley and Innocent have managed to produce lifestyle narratives that resonate well with Gen Z in this space.“


Jenk Oz says: “The world is a lot ‘smaller’ today as we live our lives online. No matter our background, culture, or age, we all have access to the same information and this is leading to shared interests across demographics and age bands.

Today, so many of the brands we love are ageless. Take Apple for example – someone my age (13) wants the latest iPhone just as much as their 30 year old teacher, their 45 year old parent, and even their 75 year old grandparent.

Another good example is Tesla. They have connected those who love tech, cars, and environmentalists, and are said to be sold to parents by their children. Due to this, brands need to find clever ways to market to like-minded individuals, rather than pigeon holing people by age.“


Harry Beard says: “We all like to shop differently, so brands must take a multi-pronged approach so all consumers are covered and no one is alienated.

It’s not enough to just focus on website and in-store sales. Gen Z were born social and are early adopters of digital innovation, so brands need to be on the cusp of this and communicate across social media too.

Shoppable posts have provided a great platform for retailers to engage in this way – and are continuing to increase in popularity. Newcomers to the market are owning this space, but it’s important for more traditional brands to compete here too.

Visual search is also an important tool. This is technology that allows consumers to search for products by uploading an image, and is already popular with brands including ASOS, Amazon and Intu. One billion visual searches are currently being made monthly, and this is expected to grow exponentially as more brands/digital platforms get involved.“


Jenk Oz says: “No longer can retailers think of their business as just a physical shop or website. Gen Z want to buy into a lifestyle, and for this, brands need to step outside of their comfort zone. Retailers should identify where their customers are hanging out when they aren’t shopping, and find a way to get into those spaces.

Whether it’s a pop-up shop at a gaming festival, a mini truck at a music event, or sponsoring an extreme sports event – finding additional ways to infiltrate consumer mind-set is vital. Not only does this demonstrate how a brand is relevant to Gen Z, but there are also huge captive audiences at these types of events to engage with.

Energy drink brands are a great example of this working well, particularly Red Bull, Monster and Lucozade.

Personalization is also a very effective way to engage with consumers outside the norm. For example, Nutella offering the chance for people to get their name printed on a jar to make a mass market product personal – genius!

This type of activity is prime social media fodder, but isn’t seen as a marketing ploy by consumers.“


Harry Beard says: “Gen Z are looking for two things from retailers – transparency and authenticity. This is especially true when it comes to the influencers businesses choose to engage with.

Unlike many Millennials, Gen Z aren’t attracted by glossy A-Listers or the ‘it’ influencer promoting a brand due to a high-priced endorsement deal. Instead, Gen Z want people they can identify with, telling them why a product is great, because they genuinely believe it is.

A ‘real’ micro influencer with a following of 10K, whole heartedly ‘championing’ a business will have a much greater influence on Gen Z than a big name YouTuber with no genuine passion for the brand they are promoting.

Retailers need to find champions who can help tell their story long-term. People who can grow with the business and bring their highly engaged audiences along for the ride. ASOS’s new Collusion line is a great example - bringing together six young influencers, including a YouTuber, a student, and a stylist, to create a range that is truly relevant to them and their peers.“


Jenk Oz says: “To reach Gen Z, it’s important for retailers to pay attention to their social presence, and consider how to build each channel. Each platform appeals to different followers and will attract different age groups, so perfecting the right tone is imperative.

On Snapchat, brands have to keep it real – there is no room for anything too edited here. It needs to be ‘in the moment’ and feel authentic. Instagram is great for posting aspirational content and showing the audience how products fit with their dream life. Whereas Twitter is the ideal place for promoting key messages and honing brand tone of voice.

Sharing content across channels is lazy and Gen Z will see right through it. Instead, communicate frequently with short bursts of imagery, emojis, videos etc. Interestingly, ‘traditional’ newspapers such as the Daily Mail and Telegraph have done this very effectively on Snapchat.“


Harry Beard says: “Retailers shouldn’t be afraid to collaborate with other brands who complement their offering - especially if the brand is well trusted within the Gen Z demographic. Businesses should take opportunities to ride on the success of likeminded companies, to bring something totally new to market which combines the best of both styles.

Genuine collaborations with influencers also work really well. Let an influencer create an advert for you, they are content creators and have big followings because of the amazing content they create on a daily basis – so should be treated as equals. The Supreme x Rimowa luggage collaboration put Rimowa on the Gen Z map. Prior to the collaboration, no one in Gen Z had ever heard of Rimowa. It was a priceless move.“


Jenk Oz says: “Gen Z don’t want to be bombarded with glossy, salesy imagery, so retailers should focus on creating content which is more ‘real’.

Behind the scenes ‘snapshots’ for social are ideal. Give the audience some insight and add some fun to a campaign by shooting ‘unboxing’ videos when new stock arrives in the store rooms. Gen Z want to feel like they truly know the brands they shop – they want to meet the staff, they want to feel they are part of the journey. and they love an exclusive ‘sneak peek’.

Gen Z are used to news breaking fast. As a retailer, make sure that any news breaking about your products comes straight from you. Sneaker companies do this best, with companies like Sole Supplier gaining lots of traction using this technique.“


Harry Beard says: “Gen Z are obsessed with getting their hands on something first and sharing with their online community. Retailers can take advantage of this by creating a buzz around product launches and causing a frenzy amongst fans to drive people to purchase immediately.

Brands like Palace and Supreme have got this down to a T, with a combination of seasonal and/or weekly drops. There is an exclusive feel to these well-timed drops which make consumers feel like they are part of something special. This sense of ‘knowing’ and being involved in a community is an important to Gen Z and should form part of all retailers’ marketing strategy.“


Jenk Oz says: “Although there are multiple different ways to shop, it’s still important for retailers to think traditionally, and make sure they are driving foot fall to physical stores. However, due to the convenience of online, businesses need to get innovative and create a ‘destination’ for shoppers.

Retailers should think about the added ‘bolt-ons’ they can offer to keep shoppers under their roof. This could be a pop up candy store, a gaming area, a social hub where groups of friends can hang out.

Topshop’s flagship store on London’s Oxford Street is a great examples of this – with live DJ’s, a cupcake stand, bubble tea and a blow dry bar – consumers can pop in to make a quick purchase and stay all day!“


Harry Beard says: “Gen Z are more socially conscious than previous generations and want to make the world a better place – so retailers need to tap into this.

How is a business using their profits? How are surplus goods being used? Businesses should align with Gen Z activists and make sure that their views on how to make the planet a better place for everyone are abundantly clear.

Over three quarters of Gen Z (76%) say they have or would consider purchasing a socially conscious product. With over two thirds (67%) stating they have stopped or are considering stopping purchasing from a brand, if they behaved in a way that didn’t align with their values.

Buying power is a key vehicle for Gen Z activism, and they expect brands to give back to communities. A socially-responsible mission should be deeply instilled in everything a company does - from work processes to product manufacturing and customer experiences.

If Gen Z customers don’t like what you do, and how you do it, they will let the world know about it before you have time to fix it.“


Jenk Oz says: “Diversity is one of THE most important words to Gen Z, and businesses are expected to take this equally seriously too - from employing people from different backgrounds, to representing diverse young people in their marketing.

Brands must understand the defining issues that Gen Z stand behind if they hope to connect. In the same way that environmentalism empowered Millennials, social equality will define and fuel the motivations of teens today.

Starbucks, Lush, American Eagle, Nike, Ben & Jerry’s, Cover Girl and H&M are currently paving the way here.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Sandra Griffiths .

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