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June 28, 2018 Shownotes:
Who is America’s youngest generation? We explore the mind of the average Gen Zer – their buying habits, social media interests and more – on the latest episode of The 19: Retail.
The 19: Retail – Episode 7
Who in the Gen Z Are You?
This is The 19. In 19 minutes or less, game-changing Insights in Retail from Orange Label, the leading response marketing agency for established brands that are driven by a fearless entrepreneurial mindset.
Hey there its Gina, creative writer Orange Label. I’m going to say a word and I want you to tell me the first thing you think of:
Okay, did “America’s youngest generation” come to mind?
Maybe you thought of the average freshman or sophomore in college.
Well, I’m sorry to tell you that all of these assumptions are incorrect.
What you’re really thinking about is Gen Z. But, this is a very common misconception. Like, extremely common. Many are completely unaware this generation exists and those who do aren’t 100% sure on the traits and features that make it unique.
When I asked a group of people ages 24-45 to actually describe Gen Z, I heard the full spectrum of answers.
“Gen Zers are ages 14-21; they’re digitally savvy, they’re connected , they’re resilient,” said one person.
“They’re up to 20 years old; social media obsessed, they challenge the status quo and they have a short attention span,” said someone else.
“Gen Z falls between the ages of 16 and 24 years old; they are privileged, they’re not money conscious and they’re definitely entitled”.
and one my favorites: “Gen Z: Ages 12-21 – liberal, sensitive, Tide Pods.”
Clearly, there are some inconsistencies when it comes to defining America’s youngest generation. The people I interviewed provided so many different descriptors, I couldn’t figure out what was fact and what was fiction. But, then I realized something. Who better to explain Gen Z than a Gen Zer?
So, I decided to reach out to participants who fall under the Gen Z category. That is, people who were born in or after 1995, so ages 23 and younger, to hear about their interests, their shopping habits and how they choose to define themselves as a generation.
Please note that these interviews have taken place in a variety of locations, so sound quality may vary.
When you hear people talk about Gen Z, one thing you might hear over and over again is how obsessed they are with technology and social media. But is that the truth? Well, talking to our Gen Zers, it turns out that yeah, it is – and then some. It turns out that Gen Zers aren’t just ON social, it’s a massive part of their everyday life and they are incredibly self-aware about it.
Talking to these Gen Zers, it was clear that they were incredibly tech savvy and social media literate. By far, Instagram was the group’s favorite platform. People considered it the ideal place to connect with friends and they loved Instagram’s visual focus:
Interviewee 1: “I think I’m a very visual person and I think what I like about Instagram is that it’s solely just photos, like I honestly rarely ever read captions or comments.”
Interviewee 2: “Brands, clothing brands that are looking to sell product on Instagram typically to do well just because it’s solely based off of aesthetics but it’s a good outlet for short digestible content. It’s a good way to stay connected with my friends.”
And, in addition to using social media for connecting with friends, a lot of these Gen Zers have even found ways to profit from it, using it for personal branding and their careers.
Interviewee 1: “I feel like mostly my social has become a thing for work, so I follow where I work. And then I follow a lot of, you know brands who are either similar for inspiration or look at our competitors to see what they’re doing.”
Interviewee 2: “Well, social media is a large element of my occupation in the sense of marketing and creating strategic awareness so for that aspect you know I have automated systems that do it for me.”
Interviewee 3: “I have some companies I wear their clothing for and then post pictures in their clothing. And then people will like see me wearing that clothing and the company can reposts that picture too. So, I think that kind of like helped promote other companies as well. Like for me using Instagram, you could say.”
Considering that Gen Z is arguably one of the most social media-driven generation of the bunch, I wanted to know who these people were following. For the women, influencers took the top spot.
Interviewee 1: “Well recently I’ve been loving Anine Bing and her brands the main thing. Probably I follow her and not her brand because she does a really great job of you know posting all of their new products that are going live and she’ll have 6 or 7 pieces go live at the beginning of the week so it’s like first come first serve. So on Monday, Tuesday when she puts these products live. she’ll post it on her personal Instagram, and it’s kind of fun to keep up with it.
Interviewee 3: “I go on the ‘discover’ part of my Instagram and I’ll like see somebody post a really cute picture and I’ll just go on their Instagram and then, like, I’ll kind of look at them and follow them. So, I think I follow more influencers than brands.”
The Gen Z guys I interviewed tended to follow brands, athletes and musicians. Our youngest Gen Zer follows Nike for the brand’s the colorful merchandise and vibrant social posts.
Interviewee 4: “I like Nike…A lot of their stuff is really cool. I like it and it makes me want to get it.” “I’m really into bright colors, I’m just that type of person, I’d probably get those over just plain black shoes.”
And I learned from one of the older Gen Zers that rapper 50 Cent has mastered the art of meme marketing.
Interviewee 2: “50 Cent has been absolutely hilarious lately.” “He posts a lot of memes. 50 Cents a great example of how to use Instagram to stay relevant and promote some of his shows and other business ventures.
Another commonality among our Gen Z interviews, whether they were in their early teens or early 20s, was YouTube. Now, this is another quality I’ve heard from people outside of the demographic – Gen Z LOVES YouTube. But, why? Well, as response marketers, we already know that video content directly correlates with higher levels of engagement, but part of the answer also lies in the variety and the accessibility – I mean YouTube is literally the Google of video content – it puts cat videos and educational tutorials in one spot.
Interviewee 2: You can find a lot on YouTube – I mean a lot of a lot. You can watch cat videos, and then book reviews, basketball reviews, car reviews, news, you can find a playlist of a guy smashing countless objects, with a hydraulic press on YouTube. You can find anything to peek your curiosity. It’s just – it’s just a great way to waste time.”
But, social media isn’t the only place Gen Zers get their information. They’re also willing to slow down and take in the latest news story or peruse an article written by one of their favorite influencers. Blogs were also a favorite among GenZ because again they’re part of an Omni channel experience. This female GenZer not only follows her favorite influencers on Instagram but also takes the time to read their blogs. Why? Because they give her the opportunity to get the story behind the Instagram photo. And actually observe the information that’s being provided.
Interviewee 3: I’ll read their blog. One of my best friend’s blog and so I’ll read different things, there are a few other people that I’ll read their blog. So, I think I prefer to like read and kind of take it in and like take my time on it. Cause I feel sometimes on videos people may go very fast, and for me I’m more of a take my time, let me kind of process it more and then like maybe even write notes and those bits and pieces and kind of just pull things out from it and then like go look it up myself.”
But, for many of our interviewees, life was all about multitasking and jumping from screen to screen.
Interviewee 4: “Yeah, Ok, Ok. So, I’ll be texting on ahum Instagram with one my friends and then it says like Snapchat from blah blah blah and then I try to finish the text and send it before the notification goes away cause then it’s just like more movement for my hands and I know it sounds really lazy but it’s like something a lot people do because I’ve asked them because I’ve seen people do it.”
Interviewee 1: “Gosh, Honestly this morning. I was drinking coffee and I had Queer Eye playing in the background but then was also on my laptop checking my email this morning and then like kind of like going to my personal email and just like cleaning it out and then I was you know online shopping and reading The Skimm.”
You should also know that Gen Z is a generation of cord-cutters. Asking if they could think of any favorite TV commercials as of late, this question was pretty much met with radio silence – and it kind of makes sense. With the rise of Netflix and Hulu, more and more households are adopting the anti-cable mentality. And, with many of Gen Zers in college, they might not even have access to a television.
Interviewee 3: “I mean mostly in school I found it’s a lot more difficult to find a TV or turn on TV and sit down and watch who you want. While you’re trying to do homework and things like that.
Interviewee 1: “I don’t have cable, I only have Apple TV so I don’t see a lot of commercials per say, because I don’t see commercials on Hulu or Netflix.”
Hulu. Netflix. Instagram. YouTube. A lot of Gen Z activity happens online. But, do they prefer shopping online as well? I was surprised to find that half the Gen Zers I interviewed far preferred shopping in-store than shopping online:
Interviewee 3: It’s hard to online shop because if you get it, and then it doesn’t fit or doesn’t work, you need to get it altered then that takes more time and maybe you have to ship it back. And, so, I think I prefer to go in the store and try it on and see if I like how it looks on me. I know it’s not like normal for my age group. But I know a lot of people love to online shop. I do look at on online shops and then I’ll see it on their website and then I’ll go in and look at the clothing.”
Interviewee 2: “I kinda prefer to shop in-person.” “Granted I don’t shop very much, it’s a lucky thing that I don’t shop very much. So if I want something I’ll just go get it and I’ll leave with it.”
The other half chose online shopping because, based on their current circumstances, it was simply more convenient.
Interviewee 1: “When I was living in Orange County, I’d say hands down I’d love to go to the mall and and shop and feel everything in person. But, since moving to LA, and dealing with parking and traffic and how crowded the malls are it’s like a totally different ballgame. I would say online shopping has become my jam since moving, since moving here.”
And, whether they preferred shopping in-store or online, everyone agreed that shopping on Amazon is a must.
Interviewee 4: “If I’m buying something that’s not in any stores, I’d get it on Amazon because it’s just easier, you don’t have to go out and it’s delivered to your house.” “I buy almost everything that I buy online on Amazon and ahum I have the Amazon app, so it’s really easy to go to my phone and open the Amazon app.”
In addition to offering convenience and variety, Gen Z also shops on Amazon for the great prices. Gen Z is definitely a generation of price-conscious buyers that are very receptive to deals and discounts. Gen Z is so aware of the value of a dollar that a sale or coupon might even encourage them to purchase from a brand they’re unfamiliar with.
Interviewee 1: “If it’s something that I’ve really been dying to try and it’s something totally new that I haven’t tried before I usually do look for a little promo code or discount. Because even if I’m only saving 10 or 15% I feel a little bit better about trying something new because if I don’t like it I feel like okay I didn’t pay full price.”
Interviewee 2: “It might inspire me to make a purchase two for one on whatever. Or 80% off on whatever. I’m like oh 80% that’s a little crazy.”
But brands can also go overboard with promotions, especially via email, and that’s when Gen Z buyers start to get annoyed.
Interviewee 3: “Sometimes you get so many emails from certain companies, like you get maybe two a day, and that’s kind of overwhelming. Like for example right now I have like 2000 emails and I know there’s nothing really important in their it’s just from companies. So, like I would say like emailing is kind of an annoying part of it.”
And, for some Gen Zers, Mom or Dad handles the discount shopping:
Interviewee 4: “Like if we’re buying say a basketball at Big 5, she’ll be like “Oh do I have a coupon on my phone?” I would never ever think of that.”
Yes, it’s true that there are some pretty massive age differences in Gen Z alone. I mean, think about it, we’re talking people who are somewhere between the ages of 2 and 22. So, for our final question, we were expecting some drastically different responses. However, when we asked our participants “What matters to them most right now?” and the answer was a resounding:
Interviewee 4: “My friends and family”
Interviewee 2: “My loved ones; Friends and family.”
Interviewee 3: “My family matters a whole lot to me.”
Interviewee 1: “To be cliché, ahum, my friends and family are so important to me.”
In light of all of these technological advancements, social media and entrepreneurial opportunities, friends and family are still Gen Z’s top priority. What can I say? This generation is full of surprises.
Alright, response marketers, let’s jump right into today’s Sum Up, where I provide you a few key takeaways from today’s episode. If you were to leave with anything after this episode it’s that Gen Zers are here, they are unique and they are NOT millennials. And I should know because I am a millennial. As someone born between the years of 1981 and 1997, I grew up with Nokia Cell Phones and first-gen iPods. This was back when kids took mirror selfies for MySpace and the coolest game you could play on your phone was Snake. My point is, millennials didn’t grow up with technology in the same way Gen Z did. Gen Zers are accustomed to using lightning-fast smart devices and social media, which has influenced the way they consume and seek out information. Because Gen Zers are multitaskers who are frequently on multiple screens at a time, brands have a very small window of time to catch the attention of this demographic, so marketing content needs to eye-catching and attention-grabbing from the get-go.
These young people have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge – I mean they’re looking up everything from current events to viral videos to customer testimonials on all kinds of products. And they’re using nearly every device – sometimes at the same time – to access this information. For this reason, brands absolutely need to have a presence on multiple platforms – mobile and desktop; on social media, blogs and beyond – to reach this bourgeoning audience of buyers. Another thing to remember is that, ultimately, this generation loves to be entertained just as much as they love to entertain others. They are constantly searching for content that resonates in a humorous and authentic way, hence the rise in shareable content like memes and YouTube videos. YouTube, especially, is becoming the key to reaching Gen Z audiences because it offers everything they’re looking for: a wide variety of relatable video content that is highly engaging, useful and easily shared between peers. For Gen Z, visual content is king and brands need to have a presence on platforms like Instagram and YouTube to get this demographics attention.
In terms of purchase behavior, older Gen Zers don’t seem to mind spending money on personal items every now and again, but I say older because this age bracket spans some pretty formative years. The majority of Gen Z are not adults – they still live at home, probably don’t have a job and, as a result, their parents control the purse strings. However, those Gen Zers with some purchasing power are ready and willing to make the purchase, so long as the item provides the highest level of quality at the best price.
There’s a lot we know about Gen Zers and there’s a lot that we’re still learning. Just when we think we have them figured out, they turn around and do something entirely unexpected. They’re living, breathing anachronisms who are buying a new watch while watching a cat play the piano while group chatting with 50 of their friends. They love social media, but they also fear overdependence on technology. They are hyper connected through technology but thrive on interpersonal relationships with friends and family. And they are a puzzle that we response marketers can have fun solving.
Thank you for listening to The 19: Retail – Who In the Gen Z Are You?
If you have additional thoughts on this topic, send us an email! You can send questions, comments and more to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure subscribe to The 19 on iTunes and Google Play, and, if you like what you heard today, leave us a review!
This was The 19. Brought to you by Orange Label. If you’re interested in MORE retail response marketing, visit our blog and subscribe to our content, where we share our response marketing expertise on current retail industry topics. Visit orangelabeladvertising.com for all the details.
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