Gen Z

Gen Z and Digital Marketing: Social Media, E-Commerce and Brands

published on: 11.04.2019 last updated on: 15.10.2019

Gen Z and Digital Marketing: Introduction

Only wear designer, esskeetit (ouu!)
Hoppin’ out the Wraith, esskeetit (esskeetit!)
Smashin’ on your bitch, esskeetit (ouu!)
Runnin’ up a check with no limit (chyeah!)
Poppin’ on X, poppin’ on X
Poppin’ on X, pills (yuh, X)
Got a new car, got a new bitch (ouu), yeah
And I got a new deal (ouu!)

-Lil Pump. Esketit. Harverd Dropout (2019)

The reign of the millennials has ended.

It is time for the world to embrace Generation Z.

Fondly referred to as Gen Z, this new class of consumers has been born in the age of social media. The average age of the Gen Z generation varies between 7 and 22 years of age. Unlike millennials (who are now in their 30s), Gen Z was born after the World Wide Web (internet), started dominating mainstream life.

Gen Z is here to stay and dominate digital marketing. There are plenty of reasons for that. According to Wall Street estimates, Gen Z consumes about $143 Billion Dollars.

The spending is concentrated on social media, e-commerce buying, and thrift shopping, and organic eating.

For brands and marketers, this is a new challenge. While this is a new and interesting development, there are few challenges that arise.

For starters, Gen Z is vastly different from the earlier generations, most notably the millennials. In a couple of years, millennials will become dinosaurs when Gen Z fully comes into its own.

The ways, habits and digital behavior of Gen Z are nuanced, authentic, and loyalty driven. For brands, digital marketers and investors, it is essential to understand their new target audience.

This trend opens up a host of interesting possibilities for brands and digital marketers. Gen Z and Digital Marketing are not the same as Millennials and Digital Marketing.

Questions about Gen Z:

In this article, we will try to address some critical questions about Gen Z.

Gen Z or as some people refer to them- teenagers, are not the teenagers you used to know. With access to cell phones, internet and most importantly, money, they have reinvented consumption and spending.

  • What are the consumption patterns of Gen Z?
  • How does Gen Z approach social media?
  • What makes Gen Z different from the millennial generation?
  • Brand name or brand authenticity? Which is more important for Gen Z?
  • How is Gen Z spending their money?
  • How should digital marketers target Gen Z?

Who is Gen Z?

Born between 1997 and 2010, Generation Z is the newest entrant to the global workforce. Comprising 25% of the entire US population, and similar percentages in growing economies like China, and India, they are a force to be reckoned with.

If the millennial generation was labeled as ‘digital natives’; Gen Z has been labeled as ‘social media natives.’

Let us get some facts straight-

The Gen Z population are the children of the millennial generation. Unlike Millennials, Gen Z has grown up witnessing the economic recession of 2007-2008. Due to this, they tend to be more pragmatic, communitarian, and hopeful.

There is a need to understand who the Gen Z is. If marketers and brands are unable to address this new target audience, they stand to lose out big time.

98% of the Gen Z population owns a smartphone. Compared to millennials, this is a bump of over 50%.

Gen Z is authentic, loyal, and driven by issues. They are not afraid to take a stand on global or national happenings.

Same-sex marriage, abortions, immigration, LGBTQ rights, terrorism, and elections are some issues on which Gen Z has strong opinions.

As compared to millennials, who were fascinated and attracted to brands and brand names, Gen Z is remarkably different.

How Gen Z understand Brands?

Gen Z prefers loyalty, authenticity, and brands that have a definite storytelling process. Like them, they also want their brands to speak out on issues and take a stand.

For Gen Z, it is not about the brand; rather, it is more about the brand’s story.

Brands who have not been able to adapt to Gen Z’s digital consumption (even to Millennials) have suffered. On the other hand, brands that have been able to adjust their strategies accordingly have been the biggest beneficiaries.

The rise of several new brands and product categories is a testament to Gen Z’s appetite for consumption.

If we see the rise of organic brands, and how they are marketing themselves we see a definite correlation. Similarly, ethical brands in industries like food, health, beauty, and clothing is a big hit amongst the Gen Z crowd.

This is the reason why even big brands like Nike took a stand on immigration with the Colin Kapernick advert. While Nike’s investors were wary of what effect it will have, the boom in Nike’s revenues and stocks told another story.

Gen Z wants to be part of a movement. It wants to have a voice. It wants to take a stand. Rather than consumers, they want to be ‘Philanthroteens.’

Gen Z and Social Media:

If you think that Facebook was the social media medium of choice for millennials, for Gen Z it is different.

Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube are what dominates Gen Z’s social media habits. This is both a new and welcome change. For starters, it has helped brands and digital marketers to target the Gen Z population in different and newer ways.

According to studies, the attention span of Gen Z ranges from six seconds to eight seconds. How has this been capitalized by social media companies- YouTube Six Second Banner Ads!

Snapchat and Instagram, along with YouTube is the dominant habitat for the social media natives (Gen Z). More and more beauty and clothing companies are moving away from their budgets from Facebook to these platforms.

Some industry insiders compliment Mark Zuckerberg’s social media vision for his acquisition of Instagram. This allowed him to control both the millennial population, as well as the Gen Z population.

One needs to pay attention to the diversity of social media consumption for Gen Z. Even though YouTube is the preferred medium for Gen Z, their attention span has been said to be not more than 8 seconds.

Likewise, for Snapchat, Gen Z consumes a lot of content through Snapchat’s in-store displays. However, when it comes to buying, more than 35% refer the same to their friends and ask for opinions.

Gen Z is an amazing bundle of contradictions that has forced social media companies to evolve their offerings accordingly.

Gen Z: Entrepreneurs and Not Job Seekers:


Another major difference between Gen Z and the millennials is their choices when it comes to working.

Gen Z believes in joining the workforce early- right at the age of 16 to 18 years of age. If we compare the same to millennials, this is a stark drop in years.

The millennial generation aimed to get fat jobs on Wall Street and six-figure salaries. Gen Z wants to be entrepreneurial. Rather than working for someone else, Gen Z wants to work for themselves.

This has opened up a host of new and interesting career opportunities. From YouTube ‘Vlogging’, to the Snapchat reviewer, Gen Z is earning big and earning well.

While Millennials were more interested in ideal experiences, Gen Z wants to be more pragmatic. They also want to save and invest money and stocks.

There has also been a shift in the way Gen Z approaches the office workplace. A majority of Gen Z members prefer working from their own houses, garages, and basements.

Many members of Gen Z also prefer working in co-working spaces. This has helped companies like We-Work to become successful. We-Work is able to attract the Gen Z workspace and offer flexible and customized solutions.

A growing trend is Gen Z investing in companies like Electronic Arts (EA), Under Armour, Red Bull, and others.

Why these companies? For starters, these companies represent what the Gen Z stands for. They have a storyline to their brand narrative. Individuals who have fought through diversities and achieved it all represent them.

Gen Z and E-Commerce:

For Gen Z, clicks are more important than bricks. 90% of the Gen Z population admit to buying products online, or doing their shopping online, once a month. This is a huge number. The company, which is the number one beneficiary of this- Amazon.

While Amazon has been able to be a hit with both millennials, as well as Gen Z, its approach has been different. Amazon helps foundation its business on millennials, but, its expansion and profits are coming from Gen Z.

Gen Z is powering the e-commerce revolution, with more and more members of the Gen Z buying online. We have tried to project the online purchase trend for a typical member of the Gen Z-

  • Viewing Paid Ads on Instagram or Snapchat
  • Seeing the product review on YouTube
  • Going to Amazon and making the purchase

It is essential for brands to have an e-commerce presence. Almost all the biggest brands in the world offer their products and services on Amazon.

Many brands are collaborating with Amazon to create brand pages on Amazon. This is true for brands, which do not even have their own brand website. It makes more sense for them to have a brand page on Amazon, as it drives more business for their brand.

Even automobile brands, for whom e-commerce does not make any sense for their business model, have come on board Amazon.

Instagram has recently started trying the checkout feature on the app in a bid to rival Amazon. This is a huge development for Instagram, as it seeks to integrate display and review with purchase.

Gen Z and Online Services:

Online Services

Generation Z is not only interested in outrightly buying products online, but they are also interested in subscriptions.

The word of the day is ‘Access’ to online content. Think about why Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime, and Apple Music have become billion-dollar corporations.

For Gen Z, consuming content online whenever they want to is necessary. Yes, affordability is a factor. This is also one area, where Gen Z is different from millennials.

Apple Music lowered its subscriptions because of the pressure from Gen Z, who were opting for Spotify. Likewise, Netflix is looking at flexible subscription models for cell phones as Gen Z nearly spends two hours consuming video content on YouTube.

Similarly, we see why Gen Z prefers ride-hailing services as opposed to buying automobiles. Uber, Grab, Lyft, Ola, and other ride-hailing companies are the new model of transportation for Gen Z.

How can Brands target Gen Z?


‘Keeping it real’!

The key approach for brands is to be genuine and real. Gen Z hates it when brands try to overdo it in terms of their marketing communication.

By being true to who you are, you will be able to attract a larger chunk of the Gen Z population. Brands should maintain active, engaging and creative social media profiles. This will help you be easily identified by Gen Z members.

A good social media strategy is essential when it comes to luring Gen Z to your brand. Most Gen Z members will look up a brand or a service on social media. If your page does not have character, chances are, you will never be able to attract Gen Z.

Brands need to rethink their brand ambassador strategy when it comes to advertising for Gen Z. Going with mainstream actors is not going to win you any brownie points with members of Gen Z.

Social Media Influencers is the way to go when advertising to Gen Z. Their reach, presence, and influence on Gen Z are far superior to that of aging Hollywood stars.

Social Media Influencers are members of the Gen Z community. As such, their acceptability and convincing powers are phenomenal when it comes to advertising and digital marketing.

Brands should not be afraid to raise their voices for issues they feel strongly about. However, brands need to be careful about sensitivities.

Jokes on stereotypes, fat-shaming jokes, gender insensitive jokes, and content are simply intolerable to Gen Z.

A small mistake can wipe off billions of dollars. The dove who championed the ‘Real Beauty’ campaign faced criticism for converting a dark woman into a white one.

Gen Z: The Final Word:

Love them or hate them, brands and digital marketers cannot afford to ignore them. Gen Z has changed the marketing discourse in ways that even millennials had not.

I had never imagined a situation in which Walmart would try to ramp its digital quotient, to stand a chance of competing with Amazon.

Gen Z acts, buys, and consumes differently and it is high time that marketers and brands wake up to this reality.

With millions of individuals adding to the Gen Z generation over the next couple of years, this offers a huge possibility.

USA, India, China, and Brazil will see the biggest growth in terms of sheer numbers.

Let us know what you think of Gen Z and Digital Marketing in the comments section. If you specifically need help in terms of aligning your brand strategy or social media to address Gen Z, hit us up in the comments section.

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Tags digital marketing E-Commerce and Brands Gen Z Gen Z and Digital Marketing Generation Z social media
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Part-time blogger, full-time dreamer! Ejaz Ahmed likes to think about how technology will ultimately transform human lives for the better. He is deeply fascinated with using technology to democratize the spread of useful information on the internet.

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