How to Market to Gen Z: 7 Smart Tips for e-Commerce Brands
If you’re an eCommerce brand, it’s time to start paying attention to Gen Z.
They already make up a fifth of the population and 40% of all consumers. Besides, Gen Z is a unique generation, and they demand unique marketing.
That’s why we’ve put together seven tips specifically tailored to brands looking to reach this demographic.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to create marketing that resonates with Gen Z and drives conversions from this valuable demographic.
Keep reading below.
How Is Gen Z Different?
Generation Z has a unique set of (sometimes) antagonistic traits. And as any self-respecting marketer knows, you have to leverage your audience’s particularities when trying to market to them.
Here’s what to consider:
Gen Z-ers love brands that represent their causes. A whopping 84% of Gen Z shoppers are likelier to buy from brands that stand up for their values.
And since this generation is born with smartphones practically attached to their hands, they will actively search for these brands.
Even better, Gen Z will actively manipulate the Internet for these companies to find them.
Studies show that Generation Z avoids typical advertising. They will install ad blockers and firewalls to block unwanted ads.
But if they want to find a specific product, they will actively click on similar products until the almighty algorithms start catching their drift.
Another unique trait of Gen Z is they know what they want.
Sure, losing spending two hours and 43 minutes per day on social media doesn’t inspire much trust.
Especially not considering the associated attention span of just 8 seconds.
However, Gen Z is very much with their feet on the ground.
Some sources highlight they are more financially responsible than other generations, being interested in apps that help them save money or get cashback benefits. Gen Z-ers also know what they want to do with their lives, whether that’s going to college or getting a job – and that’s another interesting contrast compared to Millennials.
Now back to their social media consumption.
Gen Z spends the majority of their time on these platforms:
- YouTube: 95%
- TikTok: 67%
- Instagram: 62%
Side note: Studies show that Gen Z has started using TikTok as a search engine instead of Google.
These social media have two things in common:
- They are very visual.
- They promote user-generated content (UGC).
You can notice specific differences, too, such as (but not limited to):
- TikTok and Instagram promote short content that aims to entertain users, whereas YouTube is better for research. That’s a nice contrast between Gen Z-ers’ interests; however, we’ve seen these people hold very diverse and sometimes clashing interests. So Generation Z shoppers may spend hours watching educational content on YouTube about the products they like, but they also want these brands to entertain them with bite-sized content.
- TikTok and Instagram are more versatile. These social media channels have diverse formats ranging from trends to challenges, takeovers, and more. These formats can be adapted for promotional content, ads, and even your Instagram shop. By comparison, YouTube is more limited, though it may appear more noise-free and trustworthy.
Another important trait of Gen Z is their need to be unique.
Spending so much time generating and browsing user-generated content means Gen Z customers want to show off their creative side. They want to stand out from the crowd and be noticed.
Corroborate that with their dislike for traditional advertising to get one more potent truth:
Gen Z-ers want brands that address them directly. That’s why so many sources show that, for instance, customized marketing e-mails are more likely to be opened and generate sales.
But this statement is true for all other channels.
7 Strategies to Adapt Your e-Commerce Marketing to Gen Z
Now that you understand what makes Generation Z tick, let’s see some strategies you can leverage when marketing to them.
1. Relate with Their Values and Causes
If you do not connect to Gen Z in terms of the causes they believe in and the values they hold dear, you will lose a lot of money.
Building a brand community around shared values helps create a pool of loyal customers that:
- Buy your products regularly because you will be their go-to brand in that specific niche.
- Recommend your brand to other people.
- Post their purchases on social media to show their beliefs, define their personality and help others.
Basically, you will tap into a pool of customers that also:
- Generates free advertising
- Is easy to mobilize to support your company in difficult times
Here is an example:
REI connects with its audience using one essential value for them: spending more time outdoors.
Pro tip: Notice that REI pictures this user-generated content on their website and social media to build their outdoorsy community. The submission process is easy (which you should always do for your shoppers) and has an evocative hashtag.
That brings us to the following point:
2. Use the Algorithm
As we’ve seen before, generation Z knows how to manipulate the algorithm to get served with specific ads and recommendations until they find the right product.
So, they will actively click on similar products to what they are looking for until they get the right one.
And hopefully, that would be yours.
Of course, you should leverage the same algorithm so the Internet Gods can feature you in the above recommendations.
Use the right SEO strategy.
One example is using hashtags and keywords on social media.
Think of hashtags and keywords as signals pointing to your company/products. These words define your industry, company, and products’ essential features but also differentiate you from the competition.
You need very specific “signals” and a comprehensive mix of these words to point people in your direction.
Next step: Integrate your social media SEO strategy with your e-commerce website.
Because getting people to notice your brand/products is just the first stage of your sales funnel. You want people to convert, and they won’t be able to do that if they get bored.
Remember the Gen Z attention span we discussed above.
So you have to help move Gen Z shoppers very smoothly through your website until they finalize the purchase.
Here’s another example to consider:
Karl Lagerfeld’s “#KARLxKENNETH” hashtag allowed them to source unique user-generated content, thus increasing their order values by 20.84% and their conversion rates by 7.02%, according to this case study.
3. Use the Right Channels (and Messages)
Gen Z-ers are easy to target on social media, especially YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram. You should also look for niche channels, depending on what you’re selling.
For example, Twitch is an excellent choice for video game-related e-commerce stores.
Your job doesn’t end with finding the right mix of channels:
- You have to adapt your message for that channel according to what your Gen Z audience wants to see.
- You must leverage that channel’s potential to the maximum.
For example, Gen Z wants direct, non-promotional, and personalized messages. They crave genuine content and authentic experiences that inspire or prove their point.
Gen Z shoppers also look for relevant content that responds to their needs.
Here’s one example:
Loop Earplugs partnered with autistic content creator Lauren Melissa Ellzey to promote these earplugs that help autistic people with sensory overload:
Pro tip: Notice the extra relevant content and explanations too.
But you don’t have to limit yourself to that type of content. You can also create inspiring social media ads like this one:
Alternatively, you should leverage the platforms’ full potential, meaning:
- Start a specific shop on the platform – you can currently do that on Instagram via Instagram and TikTok Shops.
- Leveraging shoppability features that allow you to tag your products so users can click on them to purchase. That’s much easier than including a link in your bio or product description.
Here’s one example of an Instagram shop creating relevant content and offering its customers plenty of options:
Pro tip: Social media is not the only mix of channels to include in your Gen Z marketing. Studies show that e-mail marketing is another wise solution to attract Generation Z customers.
Sending marketing e-mails allows you to send very specific, relevant information to this audience, and that’s exactly what they need from you.
Warning: Your marketing newsletter must be personalized and engaging if you want to make Gen Z tick.
4. Offer Quantifiable Rewards
Generation Z shoppers are conscientious about their purchases and know what they want. That’s why it’s always good to include a discount or other type of quantifiable reward in your messages.
Pro tip: Including unique discount codes also helps you monitor your campaign results.
For example, you can have different codes and links for each platform or influencer you’re partnering with. Then, your software will automatically monitor what links were clicked and which codes were introduced, creating a hierarchy between your channels and content creators.
Here’s one example:
Alternatively, you can build a contest-based campaign that allows you to introduce the reward seamlessly.
Gen Z shoppers are likely to favor these campaigns because they get the chance to highlight their creativity and gain recognition.
Chipotle offers an excellent example with their #ChipotleLidFlip challenge:
5. Craft Customized Messages and User Experiences
You cannot trick Gen Z shoppers into buying your products with traditional marketing glam. These people want to ensure your products are a good fit before buying them.
How can you do that?
First, offer as many details as possible.
You want all your social media, ads, and website content to be relevant and complete. You need thorough product descriptions that respond to people’s needs and follow SEO practices.
Then, customize your interactions and personalize the shopping experience. Even if your store is online, you can still do that with the following:
- Chatbots that learn what your potential customers want, funneling them to the right pages. The bonus with chatbots is you can use the data they gather about people to optimize your campaign and products or create better ones in the future.
- Quizzes. These quizzes are fun and engaging, helping people find products that would fit their needs, budget, and personality more.
- Virtual try-on or makeovers. You can allow your customers (Gen Z-ers or not) to see how your products would look on them.
Here are a few examples:
- Sephora’s chatbot allows you to find the perfect make-up:
- Modsy lets you see how a piece of furniture would look in your home:
- Adidas uses Augmented Reality (AR) to help customers try on their shoes:
6. Allow Gen Z Shoppers to Stand Out
Generation Z shoppers want to stand out from the crowd, and you can help them do that by combining:
- Non-quantifiable rewards with:
- Engaging, interactive content
- Customize your responses to people’s messages instead of leaving generic emotions or statements.
Brit Schmit offers an excellent example. After presenting one of their jumpsuits on Instagram, a skeptical customer wonders about the issues of going to the bathroom wearing this product:
- Offer them the ability to take ownership of your brand. You can organize social media takeovers or allow Gen Z-ers to contribute to your products. Even something as easy as taking their feedback into account is a good start.
Eco-friendly menstrual wear brand Thinx is a good example to follow, with its variety of duets, user mentions, and relevant content:
- Create contests that allow Gen Z-ers to show off their creativity. Leverage the opportunity to:
- Use your products as props.
- Build a community that is united through common interests and, thus, sets itself apart from the outsiders.
- Build a common language based on shared values and experiences. Of course, better advice would be to transform those shared experiences into long-lasting traditions.
e.l.f. Cosmetics offers an excellent example of a dance that went viral, so much so that stars the tally of Reese Witherspoon even joined without being paid. The results are outstanding, at 7 billion views, 5 million user-generated videos, and 1.5 billion impressions.
7. Use Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing helps you customize your messages and elude the traditional, salesy-sounding branded content. Besides, studies show that Gen Z trusts influencer- and user-generated content more than branded messages.
In fact, they are more willing to wait for longer and even pay more for a brand that uses this type of content.
Because Gen Z-ers crave authentic, relatable, and helpful advice from people they identify with. Remember, these content creators share your audience’s values and also know how to craft persuasive messages.
And they’ll help you with useful insights into your customers’ minds.
Warning: Some people only pretend to be influencers by purchasing bot accounts. To avoid being duped, use a TikTok or Instagram fake followers checker.
Weighing Your Options
While there are many different ways to market to Generation Z, the seven strategies we’ve outlined should give you a good place to start. Keep in mind that what works for one brand might not work for another, so it’s important to test and measure your efforts regularly.
What will you do differently in your next campaign to appeal to this powerful demographic?