How To Market to Gen Z: Engaging the Digital Natives

With a significant portion of the global population, Generation Z represents an essential and influential consumer base. As they mature, their purchasing power continues to grow. But, more importantly, their attitudes, behaviors, and expectations reshape the marketplace. They demand authenticity, social responsibility, and digital excellence from the brands they engage with.

Unlike the generations before them, Generation Z has a unique perspective on brand interactions, shaped by a world of social media, instant access to information, and unprecedented connectivity. As a result, they value experiences, stories, and brand relationships rather than just products or services. This makes marketing to Generation Z a unique challenge and an exciting opportunity.

Understanding Generation Z

Characteristics of Generation Z

Generation Z is a unique and diverse generation, with characteristics that set them apart from their predecessors. Here are some key traits:

  1. Digital Natives: They’ve grown up with the internet and are comfortable with technology. Approximately 98% of Gen Z own a smartphone, and over half are online for 10 hours or more daily.
  2. Diverse and Inclusive: Gen Z is the most ethnically and racially diverse generation yet. As a result, they value inclusion and are more likely to support brands representing diversity in their marketing.
  3. Socially Conscious: They care deeply about global and social issues. For example, 76% are concerned about humanity’s impact on the planet, and 60% want their jobs to positively impact the world.
  4. Value Authenticity: Gen Z favors transparent, authentic, and unpolished brands. They prefer real people and stories over celebrity endorsements.
  5. Independent: This generation is self-reliant and entrepreneurial. A Center for Generational Kinetics survey found that 72% of teens want to start a business someday.

Critical Differences Between Generation Z and Other Generations

While it’s essential to understand the characteristics of Gen Z, it’s equally critical to know how they differ from previous generations, as these differences significantly impact their consumer behavior.

  1. Technology: Unlike previous generations, Gen Z has grown up with technology. They’re accustomed to instant access to information and services, which impacts their expectations from brands.
  2. Attitudes towards work: Millennials are known for pursuing passion and purpose in their careers, but Gen Z is more pragmatic. They are more likely to prioritize job security and financial stability.
  3. Communication Preferences: Gen Z prefers quick and to-the-point communication. They’re more likely to engage with brands via social media and chatbots than by phone or email.
  4. Spending Habits: Gen Z is more frugal and deal-driven compared to Millennials. They’re also more likely to influence family spending.

Consumer Behavior of Generation Z

Understanding the consumer behavior of Gen Z is critical for marketers. Below are some important insights:

  1. Online Shopping: Gen Z loves online shopping but also values in-store experiences. A study by IBM found that 67% of Gen Z mostly prefer shopping in a physical store, but they use their digital devices to research products before buying.
  2. Brand Loyalty: Gen Z is less brand loyal than previous generations. They’re more likely to switch brands if they find a better product or if the brand’s values don’t align with theirs.
  3. Influence of Social Media: Social media significantly impacts Gen Z’s purchasing decisions. According to a survey by RetailDive, 80% of Gen Z are influenced by social media in their shopping.

Social and Environmental Values of Generation Z

Gen Z is a socially conscious generation. They care deeply about climate change, social justice, and equality. Brands that commit to these issues have a better chance of winning their loyalty. According to a Cone Communications study, 94% of Gen Z believe companies should help address social and environmental issues.

Furthermore, they value companies that promote diversity and inclusion. They expect brands to represent all types of people in their marketing and to take a stand against discrimination and social injustice. This generation values action over words and will likely hold brands accountable for their claims.

Marketing Channels for Generation Z

Social Media Platforms

Social media is a crucial marketing channel to reach Gen Z. Here are some top platforms and their significance:

  1. Instagram: Instagram is a favorite among Gen Z, with 85% using the platform, according to Pew Research Center. The platform’s visual content and features like Stories, IGTV, and Shopping make it an effective platform for marketing.
  2. Snapchat: Snapchat appeals to Gen Z’s quick, brief content preference. Statista reports that nearly 63% of Snapchat’s user base comprises 13 to 24-year-olds.
  3. TikTok: TikTok has seen exponential growth and is widely prevalent among Gen Z. The platform is known for its short, engaging videos and viral trends. As of 2023, TikTok has 1 billion active users globally, with a majority being Gen Z.
  4. YouTube: Another popular platform among Gen Z. Approximately 90% of Gen Z use YouTube for entertainment, learning new skills, and product reviews.

Influencer Marketing

Gen Z trusts influencers nearly as much as their friends. A survey from Morning Consult found that 52% of Gen Z trust influencers for product or brand advice. This makes influencer marketing an effective strategy for reaching this demographic.

Mobile Marketing

With nearly all of Gen Z owning a smartphone and spending significant time online, mobile marketing is crucial. This includes mobile-optimized websites, apps, and SMS marketing.

Email Marketing

Despite the dominance of social media, email is still a viable marketing channel for Gen Z. A study by Campaign Monitor found that 58% of Gen Z check their email multiple times a day, and 23% purchase products through email marketing.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) Marketing

With Gen Z being tech-savvy, they’re more likely to engage with AR and VR experiences. Brands can leverage these technologies for interactive marketing campaigns. According to eMarketer, 68% of Gen Z are interested in using AR for shopping.

Developing an Effective Marketing Strategy for Generation Z

Importance of Authenticity and Transparency

Gen Z values authenticity and transparency from brands. They favor brands that are real, honest, and not overly polished. A study from WP Engine found that 78% of Gen Z trust brands that show real customers in their ads.

Engaging with Social and Environmental Causes

Gen Z expects brands to take a stand on social and environmental issues. As a result, they’re more likely to support brands that align with their values. According to a study from DoSomething Strategic, 76% of Gen Z have purchased, want to buy, or would consider purchasing from a brand to support the issues the brand stands for.

Personalized Marketing

Gen Z expects personalized experiences. They’re more likely to engage with content tailored to their interests, behavior, and location. A study from Epsilon found that 80% of Gen Z expect personalized experiences from brands.

Interactive and Experiential Marketing

Gen Z values experiences over products. As a result, they’re more likely to engage with interactive and experiential marketing campaigns. This includes AR and VR experiences, interactive content, and live events.

User-Generated Content

Gen Z values user-generated content (UGC). They trust content created by real people more than traditional ads. A study from TurnTo Networks found that 65% of Gen Z trust UGC over brand content.

Leveraging FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

FOMO influences Gen Z. They’re more likely to engage with limited-time offers, exclusive content, and trending products or experiences. According to an Eventbrite survey, 69% of Gen Z experience FOMO. By creating a sense of urgency and exclusivity, brands can effectively engage with this demographic.


In conclusion, marketing to Generation Z requires a deep understanding of their characteristics, preferences, and behaviors. By being authentic, socially responsible, and digitally savvy, brands can effectively engage with this influential generation and build lasting relationships.