How to market to Gen Z by appealing to what matters most to them

They're renowned for their TikTok dance challenges, passionate advocacy, and digital savviness, but there's more to Gen Z than just their online influence.

With an estimated $360 billion in disposable income, Gen Z is setting trends and reshaping markets with their distinct tastes.1 Knowing how to tap into their unique preferences and values is not just vital knowledge – it's a necessity for brands looking to win over their hearts and wallets.

So, what are some tactics for capturing the attention of the most internet-savvy generation yet? In this guide, we’ll explore how to create successful marketing for Gen Z.

Who is Gen Z?

Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012, is a dynamic group that, as of 2023, represents about 20% of the U.S. population.2

Gen Z’s habits compared to other generations

Marketing to Gen Z requires a nuanced approach that differs significantly from strategies aimed at older cohorts. Here's what makes Gen Z unique:

  • Socially conscious. Being socially and environmentally aware is intrinsic to Gen Z, and a brand’s engagement in social responsibility and sustainable practices is often a crucial factor in winning them over. One report found 53% want brands they shop at to support mental health, while environmental causes (including sustainability and climate change) and racial and gender equity tied for second place at 47% each.2
  • Attention span. It takes just 1.3 seconds for a Gen Z consumer to lose active attention for ads – far less time than their older counterparts.2 To capture and retain their attention, marketers must craft engaging, concise, and visually appealing content.
  • Social media discovery. As digital natives, Gen Z's brand and product discovery journey is predominantly anchored in social media – 73% discover new brands or products through TikTok, slightly edging out the 69.7% who use Instagram for the same purpose.3
  • Value social proof. One key difference between Gen Z and other generations is their high premium on recommendations from trusted friends, family, and even influencers. One study found 73% of Gen Z watch influencer videos, and they’re also 41% more likely to shop based on these recommendations compared to the general population.4

Learn more about how the spending habits of Millennials and Gen Z differs.

How to market to Gen Z and appeal to their preferences

By implementing Gen Z marketing strategies that align with their habits and preferences, companies can increase their appeal and potentially secure a coveted position as a rich result in search rankings.

Personalize content

Gen Z values personalization, seeing it as a reflection of a brand's effort to understand and cater to their individual needs and interests. Personalization is such a priority that 45% are likely to leave a retailer’s website if it doesn’t predict what they like, want, or need.5

The key to great personalized content? Knowing how to segment customers. Leverage data analytics to accurately identify and understand the distinct preferences and behaviors of different Gen Z consumers, whether they’re eco-conscious thrift store shoppers, TikTok makeup influencers, or social justice advocates.

Share your values

This generation looks for brands that stand for something beyond their products or services. Sharing your brand's values, especially in areas related to social justice, environmental sustainability, and inclusivity, can foster a deeper connection with Gen Z consumers.

This segment of consumers is especially savvy, so it’s essential to walk the walk and demonstrate commitment to your company’s values by taking meaningful action; that can look like charitable donations or amplifying sustainable business practices, all of which provide authenticity for your brand.

Expand your social media presence

With about 54% of Gen Z averaging at least 4 hours on social media daily, expanding your brand's presence across platforms they frequent is essential.6

Your TikTok or Instagram marketing strategy shouldn’t just involve promotional content but also engaging, entertaining, and informative posts that encourage interaction, sharing, and community-building. They should also align with mobile marketing efforts across other channels.

Be transparent and accountable

Transparency and accountability are non-negotiable for Gen Z. This demographic expects brands to be open about their business practices and product sourcing, and to take responsibility for their impact on society and the environment.

Addressing concerns and, when necessary, being public about making corrective steps can also build trust and credibility among Gen Z consumers.

Optimize for a mobile experience

Given Gen Z's propensity for using smartphones, make sure to optimize for a mobile experience. This means content is easily accessible on mobile devices, navigation is simple, and loading times are fast.

You should also ensure the entire online shopping journey, especially the checkout process, is smooth and intuitive. While Millennials are at the forefront of cart abandonment, having left behind an average of five carts in the past 30 days, Gen Z is not far behind, abandoning four.7

Learn more about how to optimize mobile checkout.

Gen Z’s impact on marketing and spending habits

Gen Z doesn't just wield substantial spending power, they also significantly influence the spending habits of other generations – especially when it comes to sustainability and ethical consumption. Notably, Gen Z's sway over their parents has led to a 42% increase in Gen X’s willingness to pay more for sustainable products.1

To effectively engage with Gen Z and harness their market-shaping power, it's important to build a brand identity that resonates with their ideal shopper authentically. Start shaping your brand's future today by prioritizing these core values.

And once this digital-native generation is ready to purchase? Offer them an online checkout solution built with the power to accept a variety of payment solutions they use every day, like digital wallets, debit and credit cards. Learn more about PayPal's robust online checkout

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