Do You Attract Generation Z Buyers?

They're the new wave of spenders, so you should.

by Dennis L. Prince
- Oct 14, 2014

You think you know what today's customers want and how they want it, but what about the next wave of spenders coming over the horizon?

While you needn't become an expert on generational psychology, you do need to understand and anticipate the wants and needs of the next population of shoppers: Generation Z.

Gen Z-ers appear to be a more cost-conscious and frugal-minded group, noticeably more selective in what they seek out and buy

This is a completely Internet-minded generation, weaned on the World Wide Web (now an archaic term) since their birth. While businesses previously worked to respond to free-spending Generation Y "Millennials" within their adopted e-commerce and social media hangouts, Gen Z-ers appear to be a more cost-conscious and frugal-minded group, noticeably more selective in what they seek out and buy.

If you plan to be in business in the coming 10 years, you need to sharpen your strategy to properly serve the next wave of consumers. Here's how.

The generation breakdown

Each generation has a philosophy of its own, driven by the situations to which members are subjected.

Yet different generations don't always understand how the preceding generation might have shaped those attitudes. For those in commerce, though, it's important to gain insight into each generation and how its thinking shapes buying.

Generation X: Born between 1965 and 1984, this was the generation that many say were left to raise themselves (either home alone or in day care centers) by aspiring dual-income parents.

Gen X-ers developed a markedly cynical outlook on the world ("Doesn't anybody care?") and responded to marketing messages that reflected their somewhat dour attitude. This was the generation that became exposed to emerging technology at a young age and yet grew up to make the arguably glum "grunge" movement commercially popular in the mid-1990s.

Generation Y "Millennials": Born between 1985 and 2001, the Gen Y Millennials grew up in the burgeoning computer age. Although technology was ever-increasing prior to this generation's birth, it was truly maturing at a time when these youngsters were ready to engage.

They developed expectations of continual gratification and a belief that they were entitled to whatever they desired; they were, after all, "special" (according to a purple dinosaur). As such, they would be more inclined to buy on a whim to satisfy a craving. Many in this generation might also be driven by a philosophy of "live for today for tomorrow we may die" (arguably an effect of 9/11 and the war on terrorism).

Generation Z: Born after 2001, this is the generation that acquired almost innate understanding and acceptance of technology. "Connectedness" is defining this generation, both in terms of technology as well as in multicultural coexistence.

'Connectedness' is defining this generation, both in terms of technology as well as in multicultural coexistence

Having seen and now feeling the effects of a protracted economic downturn, this generation is emerging as frugally minded. They expect quality in whatever they choose and are not as inclined to chase each newfangled offering of shiny objects; if what they already own is suitable, that's what they'll stick with until such time as it truly outlives its usefulness.

Of course, there's debate over the exact birth-year boundaries attributed to the aforementioned generations, but such precision isn't necessary to this discussion. What is important is understanding how the generations' buying habits have been formed by their situations.

How to connect with Generation Z

As noted, Gen Z-ers are highly connected and integrated with technology and media. As such, to effectively communicate with them, it's important to meet them on their ground and to get—and keep—their attention.

Here are a few things to consider as you court these shoppers:

Be collaborative and inclusive: This is a generation that has been weaned on two-way communication, sharing ideas and collaborating through open conversation. When it comes to products and brands, this generation expects to provide input (what they like and don't like), not merely be delivered a one-way pitch.

This generation responds to visual stimulus more than to written content. Be sure to merge both into your outreach

And, as a highly creative generation (e.g. YouTube, Vine, etc.), these shoppers want the ability to create their own homegrown pitches for the products or brands they choose to adopt. Harness that!

Be able to tell and show: Following that previous point, this generation responds to visual stimulus more than to written content. Be sure to merge both into your outreach. It will form a longer lasting impression.

Be consistent: As this is a truly multimedia generation, members expect to get the same look, feel, and experience from products and brands no matter where or how that comes to them. Be it marketing collateral, social media engagement, or music or video content, the ultimate tone and style should be the same.

Be quick: The attention span of the Gen Z-ers is even shorter than that of the Millennials. According to recent research, you have only eight seconds to make a connection with a Gen Z-er, down from the previous 12 seconds afforded by Millennials.

Be flexible: This is probably the most important aspect of your outreach to Gen Z-ers. At the time of this writing, these folks are in their college years and readying to enter the workforce. Clearly, their attitudes will change as they move into their next stage of life. It will be critical that you stay mindful of their thinking and adapt to it to maintain a relationship with them. It won't be easy, but it is essential.

This is only a sampling of the information about Generation Z. Hopefully, this has given you incentive to better understand who might come shopping at your store very soon. Be ready.

About the Author

Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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