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Seamless Experiences for Generation Z: Tailor Your Strategy to the Needs of Digital Natives

young adults holding a phone while sitting on stairs

It’s time to start marketing to the next generation. Generation Z is growing its buying power and their habits, needs and behavior are significantly different than what we’ve learned from previous generations. Technology is shaping their lives – but they are also forcing businesses and industries to change.

It doesn’t make any sense to claim that the same approach will work for a 35-year-old and a 15-year-old. Very soon, this adjustment won’t be a matter of targeting another audience, but the key factor that will make brands thrive or die on the market.

But let’s start from the beginning. Who are we talking about?

In simple words, Gen Zers are the post-Millennials. While there is no firm line between the age of these two generations, it is considered that Gen Zers are born after 1995. Their predecessors are born not that long ago – somewhere in between 1980 and 1995, yet the buying behavior of Generation Z is different in many ways, and technology is the most influential factor here.

Gen Zers are the first real digital natives. They’ve never known about the world before the Internet and they are used to being constantly online. Mobile is not only their main communication channel but also a tool that harmonizes and enhances their offline activities – from travel assistance apps to language learning games or health trackers. They navigate in the digital space with ease and power and can quickly find any information necessary to shape their opinions independently. Gen Zers are the ones in your family that would be the first to search for a new brand or product online. It’s no surprise they influence over 70% of family food choices, even though it’s their parents who spend the money. While the youngest ones still don’t have their own source of income, the oldest Gen Zers are now graduating from college and getting first serious jobs. In any case – you’ll be working with them before you know it, and it’s about time to prepare.

They Don’t Care About Channels

Instead, they look at your business as a whole. Even though smartphones are a part of everything they do, they enjoy the in-store experience more than you could have guessed. Nearly two in three Gen Zers (65%) prefer being able to touch and feel products before making a purchase, and 67% use their phones in stores to research items they plan to purchase. This means that what brands provide online must match with the in-store experience 100%. If a company’s website says an item is in stock, it must be in the store when the customer gets there. Your customer service agent must know all about the sale customers have seen online, and your in-store staff must be able to explain all the details of the loyalty program app. For the generation that has grown up with mobile, connecting all the channels is not an enhancement, but rather a necessity.

You Must Catch Them Fast

An average attention span for Gen Zers is 8 seconds, comparing to 12 seconds when it comes to Millennials. They are overconnected and always multitasking – looking at the phone while watching TV, while they shop, and even while they talk to each other. You have to be quick and straight to the point. This generation grew up with an overload of ads, so they are used to filtering the content fast. You’re either immediately relevant or out of the game. Therefore, brands must have a deep insight and proper understanding of their needs, habits and buying behavior. Another thing to consider here is website responsiveness and user experience. If your website takes a long time to load or the menu is not easy to find, it’s not only the website to blame, but your entire brand will be labeled as incompetent. And don’t forget – you have only 8 seconds to stay in the game.

They Have Big Expectations

The internet has given GenZers endless opportunities to research, get informed, find a better price or a better loyalty program. They demand authentic experiences and fast two-way communication. They don’t mind seeing ads as long as they are relevant. In fact, a research shows that 47% appreciate relevant ads. The challenge with that is – how to make it really personal? If Millennials would consider a newsletter with their name at the beginning personal enough, Gen Zers are aware this is still mass communication. They don’t just want information about the sale – they want to know when their preferred shoes are on discount, and in which store out of the ones they usually visit. The truth is – if one brand doesn’t offer an individual approach like this, the other one will. It’s only a matter of choosing the right technology platform – as this has the power to both delight and destroy the customer experience.

Quality and Customer Service Really Matter

This generation spends more time on smartphones than any other. Social media is becoming an essential part of everything they do and a preferred communication channel as well. Moreover – they hate waiting. 60% of Gen Zers are more likely than average consumers to hang up if their call isn’t answered in under 45 seconds. As digital capabilities develop, social media will soon become a preferred communication channel for customer service too, and brands must prepare in advance. It doesn’t matter if you provide perfect targeting, great buying experience and one-day shipping – if your customer service fails, the entire experience is ruined. And in the time of personal recommendations – it gets worse. Gen Zers will tell all about it on social media, causing one friction in your processes to negatively influence the buying decision of many customers. Timely and responsive customer service is a very important factor in the overall customer experience of this generation.

Human Touch is Crucial

Gen Zers won’t tolerate a traditional sales approach, cold calls and the feeling of being manipulated into buying. They don’t want to be marketed to – instead they want to purchase a product or service for a purpose. As we’re shifting from celebrity TV commercials to Instagram influencers, personal recommendations are becoming one of the most important forces that make Gen Zers buy. They live in a world of emojis and Instagram stories. They are taking photos and videos more than any other generation and expect your brand to be present on social media and act like a human being as well. Brands must provide a two-way communication and leverage the huge opportunity social networks offer, however – this also needs to be done carefully. This generation, more than any other, is capable of recognizing spam and aware of the power to stop communicating with your brand at any point.

The relationship between online and offline when it comes to GenZers is special and complex. The good news is – brands do have many options to manage and exploit this relationship to the full potential. Yet again, the answer is technology – what gives so many options for GenZers, also provides opportunities for brands.


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Mila Petrovic NETCONOMY

Mila Petrovic, Demand Generation Strategist

Experienced in developing positioning and messaging strategies and running marketing projects within the Technology & Software industry. Passionate about innovation, customer behavior and brand building. Inspired by the power of content marketing and effective storytelling. Driven to contribute to growing people, teams and organizations, and helping brands to provide outstanding experiences.