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Move Over Millennials: Gen Z Has Arrived

This post is part of our Think 2020 series, in which we explore the mindsets, behaviors and emerging solutions shaping marketing and communications in the year ahead.

Raise your hand if you remember the hours you spent trying to understand the Millennial consumer. The research. The brainstorms. The informal polling of office interns and junior teammates.

(Maybe you were the junior teammate in this story.)

It might seem like just yesterday you mastered your knowledge of America’s young adult consumer, but – surprise – many members of the Millennial set are now well into their 30s with kids of their own.

Which means it’s about time to start getting to know 20-something spenders all over again.

Enter Gen Z, defined as the cohort born between the late 1990s and early 2010s. This generation might just now be on the cusp of entering the workforce and adulthood, but it’s already capturing the hearts and minds of advertisers who see its spending potential.

This is the age group that grew up during the recession. It’s also the first full generation not to remember life before the internet – or smartphones, or social media. It’s an age group that’s comfortable spending large chunks of time online and parsing through an always-on firehose of information.

As a result, we’re already seeing some distinct patterns in Gen Z’s communications preferences and consumption habits.

5 Signature Traits of Gen Z

8-Second Attention Span

It’s true that Gen Z has an incredibly short attention span – just 8 seconds compared to Millennials’ already-paltry 12. But it’s not necessarily for lack of interest. This age group grew up learning how to take in and process lots of information quickly. Adjust your messaging accordingly.

Co-Creator Mentality

Gen Z doesn’t shy away from work or the opportunity to learn something new. This is a cohort that wants to be part of shaping something great, whether it’s a social movement or a new product or service. Tap into Zs’ competitive drive by offering opportunities to participate in beta testing, early releases, etc.

Seeking Individuality

The celebrity endorser is out, and the micro-influencer is in. Zs carefully cultivate their individual brands, which might feature different facets of their identities from one channel to the next. They lean heavily on personalized communities for reviews and advice – whether they’re dispensing or receiving it.

Price-Conscious Consumers

This one shouldn’t be a surprise given the state of the economy during this age group’s formative years. As many as 89% of Zs identify as price-conscious – but that doesn’t mean they’re willing to sacrifice quality. Make price a priority when addressing this group.

Comfortable Online – and Off

Yes, this is the first generation of true digital natives, but that doesn’t mean the online world is the only place Zs spend their time (or money). In fact, a whopping 81% of Gen Z prefers to shop in-store.

The keys to marketing success: memorable brick-and-mortar experiences and seamless transitions from online to real-life.

Why It Matters

Some experts say Gen Z is the most powerful consumer segment today. While the oldest Zs are just now graduating and entering the real world, the rest still wield considerable influence over their parents’ spending – which balloons their buying power to as much as $600 billion.

As of this year, Gen Z is predicted to be the most diverse generation in U.S. history. And perhaps in part because of that, it’s a generation keen to accept, give back and make a difference.

Marketers take note: This is an age group that seeks to support brands that stand for something and wants to be engaged in two-way conversation. Look for authentic ways your brand can connect and build rapport with what’s soon to be the nation’s largest consumer generation.

Let’s Connect

We can’t predict the future – but we can say with certainty great ideas are fueled by curiosity and collaboration. If you’re looking for a partner to tackle this decade’s business challenges with relentless creativity, we’d love to hear from you.


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