Hey Foodie Friday fans, I’m back with another guest post delivered through the rosy, idealistic, Google-Glass lens of my Millennial generation. For the past few years, marketers have basically performed yoga-master backbends with efforts aimed at successfully selling products to my age group—the older-than-high-schooler, younger-than-the-cast-of-Friends population. But lately, the target market has started to shift. Today’s topic is the shopping, dining, and thinking habits of another emerging demographic: Generation Z.
Let’s consider 4 unique ways these young upstarts (ranging somewhere between ages 10 and 20) are shaking up the way we view communication, learning, purchasing, and—naturally—eating.
1. Generation Z have an entrepreneurial spirit and designer mindset.
Raised in a overstretched economy that’s put their parents through some staggering paces, the kids and teens of Gen Z are wise to the challenges of the workforce. The result? They’ve sparked their own creativity and ingenuity to find ways to cut their own trail in commerce. As AdAge explains it, “Gen Z is a generation of highly-educated, technologically-savvy, innovative thinkers. They look for solutions on their own. They set out to make things on their own.”
What’s more, they’ll likely see themselves as permanent freelancers or experts in their field, not interested in hunkering down at a desk for a lifelong career of 40-hour work weeks. In fact, one survey cites that 72% of high school students want to start a business someday and 61% would rather be an entrepreneur than an employee when they graduate college. Retailers who recognize that desire for independence and self-starting ambition are finding smart ways to communicate it with their branding and marketing—whether that means championing a bohemian aesthetic or simply allowing customers to get in on the design and creation process for themselves.
2. Generation Z are digital natives—and are always connected.
The biggest difference between my generation—the Millennials—and Generation Z is our relationship to technology. While my friends and I have vague memories of card catalogs, pay phones, screeching dial-up internet connections, and other outmoded technologies, Generation Z has always lived in a world with instant access to, well, everything. We Millennials can fluently communicate with Gen X’ers and Boomers about the changing landscape of informational technology, online commerce, and social media because we’ve seen a clear and dramatic evolution in those areas.
On the flipside, Gen Z has been plugged in from birth. They don’t expect to wait to find out whatever they need to know about what they’re buying—whether it’s the story behind the brand, price comparisons, customer reviews, or how environmentally sustainable it happens to be. The widespread use of smartphones, and texting in particular, gives them immediate feedback, even if it means they communicate just in the form of emojis. What should brands targeting this demographic do with this reality? Well, for starters, they really ought to focus on their online presence, making a seamless transition between what they offer in stores to “the public” and what’s available as instantly accessible digital info about who they are and what they represent as a company. Gen Z does their research.
3. Generation Z are philanthropic and cause-oriented.
Like many of their Millennial forerunners, Gen Z are all about making a positive difference in the world. Perhaps because they’re surrounded by a constant buzz of information detailing every possible thing that’s wrong with the world, many within the Gen Z category report worrying about everything from their family’s finances and their own education to broader social and political issues like income inequality, violence, and the environment (check out a handy infographic that shows many of these concerns here).
The good news is that all this worrying, combined with that entrepreneurial spirit, translates to action. One recent study puts them well ahead of conscientious Millennials in this regard, saying that 60% of Gen Z report wanting to have an impact on the world versus only 39% of Millennials. When it comes to either generation, marketers who make an effort to connect their business to a charitable cause have a better opportunity to gain young consumers’ trust and provide a strong incentive to buy into their brand.
4. Generation Z value quality and individuality over brand loyalty.
Since so much of the conversation between Gen Z and what they’re interested in begins online—where they’re inundated with advertising and awash with endless choices—members of this group have to work hard to stand out. As it turns out, Gen Z aren’t terribly concerned with brand loyalty. Rather, like Millennials, they’re more likely to seek out quality wherever they find it. Part of that quality is an inherent sense of independence and straying from tradition.
Retailers who emphasize multiculturalism, customization, reinterpretation, sustainability, exploration, and diversity of every kind will make the most meaningful connections with this demographic whose members live, breathe, type and eat these values 24/7.
What’s the message behind all this research on the next emerging generation? We’re all hungry to learn continually, to engage more authentically, to express our passion, to pursue quality, to speak our minds and to be heard. Let’s keep the conversation going!
And, of course, for something a little weird…
Among select businesses popular with Generation Z shoppers, AdAge reports that the clothing retailer Free People has experienced a 25% increase in sales over the first quarter of 2015. The publication credits their emphasis on independence, unconventionality, and bohemian styling as a probable point of connection with young customers.
But $374 for a pair of pink wool culottes? If Gen Z shoppers are going to spend so much on pants, I’m glad their spirits, at least, are free.
Happy Foodie Friday!
About the Guest Blogger:
Stephanie Jackson is a content writer and instructional designer living in oh-so-trendy East Nashville with her charming husband and their fluffy Himalayan cat. She enjoys exploring the local food and beverage scene, creative writing, and the occasional travel adventure.