June 16, 2020 / Trend, Consumer

Why now is the time to be thinking about Gen Z

There was once a time when we couldn’t get enough of Millennials. We were obsessed with marketing to a generation that was defined by pink, their preference for experiences over things and their pursuit for avocado toast.

Yet against the backdrop of climate change, Greta Thunberg making it as Time magazine’s person of the year and a global health pandemic that is COVID-19, millennials’ successor, generation Z has come of age. 

However, they are coming of age amidst two global catastrophes that will have long-lasting impacts on this generation. The weight of both concerns will greatly impact how they will want to be communicated to, how they navigate the world moving forward into adulthood and the kind of future they seek to create.

Against the backdrop of climate change, Greta Thunberg and a global health pandemic, Generation Z has come of age.

Whilst they are taking early steps into adulthood, it is crucial for brands to understand the complexities and challenges this consumer group faces and strategize on how best to support them as they face forthcoming hurdles. Their exams have been cancelled or delayed, or they are graduating in 2020 via zoom ceremonies and arriving at a moment in time where they are searching for employment in COVID-19 landscape. YPulse reported that not only are 71% of this group anxious about the pandemic’s impact on their future, they are also anxious for the health of their family and friends in response to the virus. Additionally, they are deeply concerned about the health of the environment and demand greater activism by the government and brands to protect the future of their planet. 

Since the generation accounts  for 40% of global consumers (McKinsey, 2019), we summarise the strategies brands need to consider moving forward in order to connect with this consumer group:

Mental health and wellbeing

It should come as no surprise that wellbeing and mental health is a key priority for this group. Due to the uncertainty of COVID-19 and the environment, they need greater support from their community and the brands they engage with more than ever before. 

Noting the pressure that this group feels when it comes to exams, The Gym Group enabled teens to workout for free during the 2019 exam period. This gave Gen Z the opportunity to combat their anxiety, whilst also understanding that exercise can boost performance. 

What’s more, 57% of this group states that social media is one of the biggest pressures for them to look good (Stella Rising,2018). Therefore, it is intrinsic that brands help this group build self-esteem and provide a support network to help this group establish confidence in the safe space of a community. Fundamentally, providing the tools to elevate anxiety and stress will go a long way when engaging with this group.

Sustainability

Alongside COVID-19, sustainability and the welfare of the environment is at the forefront of this consumer’s mindset. When safe to do so, reopening stores and creating future stores will need to embed sustainability into the store design. Not only is this important for combating the climate crisis, but it is also imperative for engaging with Gen Z is both the short and long term. 

Stores need to become eco-destinations, defined by sustainable architecture and regenerative design. To draw inspiration for creating this future, we just have to look to the likes of Veja, who debuted their first New York store in a sustainable manner. The space draws upon ethically sourced organic materials and is left untouched or stripped back to its original state, to maintain simplicity and ecology in design. Moving forward post COVID-19, retail experiences should embrace sustainable design – not only to counter climate change and relieve ecological damage but to connect with an emerging consumer group who seek to engage with brands that put the environment at the heart of their business.

Inclusive Culture

35% of this group knows somebody who refers to themselves by using a gender-neutral pronoun

Pew Research

Due to their digital upbringing, Gen Z grew up with social media and the internet. By consequence, they are the most diverse and genderfluid. According to Pew Research, 35% of this group knows somebody who refers to themselves by using a gender-neutral pronoun. Fundamentally, they are seeking to engage with brands that are inclusive, celebrate individuality and self-expression and provide a platform to create community. This sentiment is echoed by the fact that 61% of Gen Z are likely to buy products or services from a brand that feature diversity in terms of models and representatives.

Gucci has connected with this group by debuting its first universal perfume ‘Mémoire d’Une Odeur.  Reinforcing the message, the  August 2019 campaign for the perfume featured gender-fluid designer Harris Reed

61% of Gen Z are likely to buy products or services from a brand that feature diversity in terms of models and representatives.

Finances

78% of this consumer group is worried about personal finance

Raddon Research Insights

One of the early challenges of adulthood is navigating personal finance. Raddon Research Insights reported that 78% of this consumer group is worried about personal finance. Last year, financial tools targeting women came into the spotlight. One example includes Vestpod who has the ambition for women to ‘make their money work for you’. The branding is fun and accessible and has provided a platform for women to have the confidence to talk about money and taboo subjects surrounding that. An opportunity for brands would be to tap into this market for Gen Z, and provide advice and counsel to this consumer group who are at the start of their career and often confused by financial advice.

What this means for retail

  • Design spaces and experiences that facilitate positive mental health and wellbeing. Whether through brand communication or in-store experiences
  • Sustainable design will become increasingly imperative within retail. Consumer experience should increasingly drive towards reuse, recycle and repair and consumerism should work alongside creating a circular economy
  • Retail experiences that go above and beyond in terms of celebrating individuality will resonate with Gen Z. At the same time, spaces should create a community for consumers who believe in this sentiment
  • For consumers who are seeking to be financially savvy, brands who seek to offer consumers empowerment and self-development can host in-store lectures to help Generation Z navigate the financial landscapes