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How Generation Z Makes Buying Decisions

First of all, who are Generation Z? Obviously, the lines between generations are blurry and always have been, so it’s hard to nail down an exact range of consumers to fit any given profile.

That said, the marketing world as a whole has generally concluded that Generation Z is the group of people born between the mid-90s and roughly 2010. They’re today’s teens and tweens, with some overlap between the older end of Gen Z and the younger end of Gen Y (more commonly known as millennials).

Socially, they’re more racially diverse than any previous generation and their attitudes reflect that — they’re more politically progressive than previous generations, with more awareness and acceptance of races, nationalities, religions, genders, and sexual orientations beyond their own.

Forbes reports Gen Z is on track to become the largest generation of consumers by 2020 and currently accounts for between $29 and $143 billion in purchases. CASSANDRA says that ninety-three percent of parents claim their children influence family and household spending, meaning a significant portion of overall market spend is attributable to Gen Z.

So how should we market to Gen Z? Here’s our take.

They’re Doing Their Research

Previous generations have, to some extent, been limited in how much they could find out about a product before buying it. Generation Z has no such limitations. Most of them own smartphones, virtually all of them have internet access, and they’re using it to conduct their research before buying.

They use social media in addition to search engines to find out what they need to know about a product, then ask the opinions of their social networks, both friends and more distant acquaintances.

In this way, Gen Z shoppers should be treated more like B2B buyers — they’re extremely informed and they put a huge amount of stock in the opinions and experiences of their peers. That’s why customer service is so important; one customer with a bad experience will tell their story to their peers and influence dozens of other purchasing decisions.

This also means that physical stores are a relatively minor piece of the buying process — by the time Gen Z buyers arrive at a storefront (if they do at all), the buying decision is all but complete. The store is not where they learn about new products, it’s simply where they pick them up.

They’re Telling Their Own Stories

Narrative is crucial when marketing to Generation Z. More than any generation in history, Gen Z buyers are authoring their own stories on a daily basis and sharing them with the world — Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter allow them to tell everyone how they feel, what they care about, what they buy and why, what they eat, etc. Older generations often scoff at this sharing culture, but Gen Z takes it very seriously.

What that means is that if you want to be a part of their story, you have to have a story of your own. Your brand, your product, your company culture, and your own social media accounts have to tell a story that Gen Z buyers want to weave into theirs.

Everything they buy, whether it’s a major purchase like a computer or something as small as a cup of coffee, says something about who they are and what they value. Every brand tells a story — if you want to succeed in their world, you’ll need to put the time into telling yours.


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