In recent years, Generation Z have arrived quietly on the digital marketer’s radar, easily assimilating themselves, and their buying habits, into the digital space. As this segment of consumers grows in both size and disposable income, the time has finally come for the huge purchasing power and digital savviness of Generation Z to be leveraged to its full potential. We spoke to Brían Taylor, Managing Director at Jaywing, to find out more about these digitally native consumers, and how brands should be carefully managing their data and content types to drive engagement that is genuine, powerful and empowered.
Influential New Habits
Recent research undertaken by Jaywing has revealed fresh insight into the way Generation Z are consuming digital ad their attitudes to content on social, as well as their influence on digital marketing more generally. “Generation Z is a demographic which we find really exciting, because they are fuelling very interesting trends and exhibiting new behaviours that are fundamentally changing how digital is consumed and used. As marketers, we therefore have to react to that,” says Taylor. But the power of Generation Z in the digital space exceeds their own sphere, as this digitally fluent group are “influencing other generations.” With so much power over the direction and movements within digital marketing, brands would do well to look at their data pertaining to Gen Z more carefully, to see how their devices, platform usage and consumption habits are diversifying and maturing over time.
There are several brands who are notably adopting a specific Generation-Z-first approach when it comes to developing their digital engagement and content strategies. “If you look at how social is evolving, a lot of Generation Z’s attributes, activities and behaviours are actually influencing these platforms,” explains Taylor. “Think of what Snapchat or Facebook are doing to remonetise or engage people. Their concerns around losing Generation Z mean they’re making a lot of changes which complement this segment’s specific habits, but that obviously impacts everyone.” As Generation Z continues to influence the wider marketing space, it’s clear that marketers must take these fundamental differences in the way content is consumed and monetised and use this to enhance their offering to other user demographics. In order to drive a digital strategy with consumer needs at the heart, brands should listen to the needs of this expertly plugged-in user base and understand how to translate these requirements and nuances to a wider audience.
A Give-And-Take Relationship
Jaywing’s research reflects the trends shaping the UK market. “We wanted to create an attitudinal piece to understand what Gen Z are doing with brands, on social, how they feel about the way they’re marketed to, what technology they use,” explains Taylor. “We took on an investigation to understand their attitudes and behaviours; with a view to help marketers better reach and engage that audience.” One of the key results that became clear was that there was no ‘norm’ when it came to identifying the best platforms content or channels to communicate with Generation Z. “The biggest challenge is that there are a vast number of people doing the same thing, and the space is very saturated. But as an audience Generation Z are very aware of this and they are used to being bombarded by online advertising. They are annoyed by advertising if they feel it’s not very relevant to them. But also they’re not trying to desperately to block everything, it’s something they coexist with.”
Generation Z also differs from its millennial counterparts by showing a sensitivity to the demands and implications of social media presence on each of the different platforms. “Whereas millennials were very open with their use of social media, Generation Z are far more conscious of their privacy online, and this is something marketers should be aware of when trying to reach these consumers,” explains Taylor. With a far greater understanding of the implications and issues of an online persona, Generation Z have learned from the experimental phase of millennials before them, and are wary of any kind of marketing that comes across as intrusive.
A League Of Contradictions
Contrary to the all-encompassing title for this group of consumers, Jaywing’s study also reveals that marketers are missing out if they lump Generation Z as a single target segment, and don’t dig deeper into defining the diversity within the group. As the digitally native generation comes to the fore, their browsing habits show distinctive characteristics just like any other age segment. “What was really interesting to us is that we picked up on around five segments (which we refer to as mind-sets), which were not mutually exclusive to individuals. We would actually see people move between them depending on the task, the time of day, or what they were trying to achieve,” says Taylor. The relationship between Generation Z and social media shows an innate knowledge of where they want to share publicly and privately. “They understand the difference between curating a version of themselves, and they might do that on a particular channel or for a particular reason. But then they might share an experience with close friends on another channel, privately. They move between those platforms and those personas almost seamlessly.” Understanding what Generation Z do and don’t expect to receive on various platforms will set brands apart as having the sensitivity that this group is coming to expect from its advertising.
It is clear from Jaywing’s research that while Generation Z are selective about the brand messaging they are willing to receive, they are not opposed to maintaining that consumer/brand relationship when it is communicated with sensitivity and relevance. “Gen Z are well aware when they are being marketed to,” says Taylor. While some naysayers have predicted the demise of several social channels for Gen Z, it’s becoming apparent that they can all have a role within the user’s digital presence. “We’ve seen from the data that there isn’t some sort of seismic shift away for any particular channel, or that they’re rejecting it completely, Generation Z are just using more channels, and being very specific about what they’re doing on each of them.” With a whole demographic already so well-tuned into the methods and motivations of marketers, brands must make sure that they are equally aware of the needs and expectations of this diverse and digitally advanced segment, in order to communicate in the way that Generation Z want to be spoken to: as equals.