Retailers Should Market Based on Gen Z’s Traits

They are savvy, quirky, independent financial planners.

May 02, 2019

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Generation Z, those born between the mid-1990s and late-2000s, will soon outgrow all previous generations and be the most ethnically and culturally diverse generation to date. Retailers shouldn’t consider this generation to be an extension of millennials, because there are vast differences in their generational truths, according to a report in Women’s Wear Daily.

Written by Drew Carlin, brand analyst at Vivaldi, a New York management consulting firm, the article explains what makes Gen Z tick.

The savvy, irrational and quirky nature of Gen Zers is well documented. They are digital nomads trained to constantly adapt, learning new systems and platforms daily. This nimble adaptability comes at the expense of their attention spans. This “always on” generation lacks prolonged focus and edits their views with every new piece of information received.

Raised in a recession, they value money and the need for a secure income. They are financially planners, who value entrepreneurialism and independence. This is complemented by a desire to drive progress socially and politically, and they’ve already shown themselves to be a formidable generation, taking on social and political issues with poise and determination. Their view of the world and how they interact is driven by personal satisfaction and betterment. They demand that the world bend to their views, not conforming to the social and professional status quo.

Looking deeper, Gen Zers are marked by three core personas: Conscious Consumers, Security Seekers and Inclusive Individualists. In line with their generational perspective, these personas exist along a spectrum.

As Conscious Consumers, Gen Z is a generation of invested, social and political warriors. They actively self-reflect on the sustainability and ethicality of their habits. Their weapon of choice against socially questionable corporations tends to be purchase power. More than half of Gen Zers consider the ethical implications of a brand to have a significant impact on purchase intent. Gen Z lives in a world of messaging overload. They need to see, hear and feel the practices in the brand.

As Security Seeker, Gen Z’s approach to money and wealth is influenced by the financial situation in which they were raised. They saw their parents struggle with finances, and they do not want to experience similar stress and anxiety. Instead of immediate gratification, Gen Z favors savings as a means of ensuring long-term lifestyle stability. They are less flippant with their spending than previous generations and more risk-averse, spending money on the necessities and seeking to understand the value of every purchase.

As Inclusive Individualists, Gen Z seems hardline and serious. Their love of individualism and entrepreneurialism is balanced by their intrinsic allegiance to collective community. Their unparalleled cultural and ethnic diversity encourages values of individualism and independence, but it also fosters a sense of inclusivity and compassion. Unlike millennials, who are constantly attached to their phones, Gen Zers are apathetic to constant social engagement and seek privacy from constant contact.

The great irony of the most socially connected generation in history is that they just want to be alone sometimes. The rapidly growing wellness movement, putting mental and physical health first, results from the desire to ground oneself through connection with self. Raised to be socially equitable global citizens, Gen Z realizes that cultivating a community of individuals requires prioritizing the individual. Retailers must understand this fundamental truth in order to effectively interact with this generation.

The sheer size of Gen Z demands that retailers recognize and react to these intricacies in order to appeal to this group of diverse, ambitious individuals, a group that will eventually lead this world, socially, politically and economically.

For more on marketing to Gen Z, see “Generation on the Rise” in the April 2019 issue of NACS Magazine.