A Crash Course on Marketing to Generation Z

There will still be a few millennials roaming the halls of universities and colleges this fall, but Generation Z will be the ones taking over campuses everywhere. Right now, the early 20-somethings among them are stocking their dorm rooms, while their younger counterparts are shopping for back to school duds or asking their parents for a bigger backpack. And when it comes to today's back to school marketing strategies, it's all about Gen Z.

A retail company marketing to Generation Z by providing meaningful messages
Marketing to Generation Z means matching their values and providing them with seamless communications.

Marketing to Generation Z is also a brave new world for retail marketers, who have only recently mastered the art of marketing to millennials. Of course, retailers have known for a while how millennials want to interact with brands — personalized emails, meaningful content, text alerts, Facebook messenger — but it took a while for the communications and marketing technology strategies to catch up.

But marketing to Gen Z is very different from marketing to millennials.

Gen Z wants everything millennials want and more — and they want it faster. So if you're a marketer hoping to connect with Gen Z and use cloud communications technology to deliver a meaningful, satisfactory customer experience, pay attention to these tips.

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Marketing to Generation Z: Think Social

There's good news and bad news for retailers. The bad news is that Gen Z tends to be even less loyal to brands than millennials, but the good news is that they tend to be less motivated by price. Members of Gen Z are looking to do business with brands that value what they value and care about the issues that matter to them, according to an Ernst & Young survey.

The survey reports that nearly half of millennials (45 percent) say a loyalty program makes a store special to them, but only 30 percent of Gen Z consumers agree. Both younger generations are even less interested in shopping cards and special events than they are in loyalty programs.

Gen Z might not be particularly loyal to brands, but they are loyal to their friends and their values, which makes social media the perfect place to reach them. More than three-quarters of millennial and Gen Z consumers say that social media influences their purchasing decisions. Just as importantly, these digital natives are a socially- and values-driven generation, and they expect brands to be part of conversations about social issues that matter to them.

Getting the message right and circulating that message is a great start to social media marketing, but advanced communications technology can help retailers deepen those connections and monetize interactions. Communications Platform-as-a-Service (CPaaS) lets retailers use developer-friendly APIs to embed real-time communication features (voice, video, text, and instant messaging) into various social channels. So when customers first engage with a brand's content, they can also communicate with the brand directly. Without ever leaving the social site, they can ask questions, get recommendations, and even complete purchases via call, text, chat, or even a social chatbot.

Meaningful marketing and seamless communication — that's exactly what Gen Z wants from retailers.

Communications APIs can help retailers deliver the meaningful, seamless experiences that Gen Z consumers want, without being too time-consuming or overly intrusive.

Gen Z and Self-Service: Why it Works

Most adults remember when it took 20 minutes to boot up a computer and get it online via dial-up. Today, though, most people are annoyed when their inboxes take more than a couple seconds to load. It's even worse for Gen Z, largely because they don't even remember waiting to communicate, so it's no wonder they want to order their food via an app — fast food just isn't fast enough.

Along with their need for speed, Gen Z has also established a reputation for being self-reliant. After all, they grew up with smartphones in their hands and the ability to look up whatever they wanted to know online, usually more quickly than the adults around them. Their self-reliance doesn't mean they don't appreciate good customer service; they just don't need or want much hand-holding, and they often prefer to research and shop on their own because it's faster that way.

Communications APIs can help retailers deliver the meaningful, seamless experiences that Gen Z consumers want, without being too time-consuming or overly intrusive. CPaaS increases brand availability on social channels, mobile apps, and brand websites when and if customers want help. Social media chatbots can answer customer questions immediately and even process purchases, all without sending customers to an e-commerce site for checkout. Meanwhile, retailers can pair location APIs with SMS alert APIs to send real-time updates on delivery or shipping status, keeping customers in the loop without keeping customers on the phone.

These are just a few of a large number of marketing strategies for retailers that will help them connect better with generations to come. With many schools already back in session, the back-to-school marketing season will be over soon, too, but retailers will likely be closely studying the science of marketing to Generation Z for years to come.

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