Guest Column - January/February 2019

Hashtag Loyal

How Brands Can Win Over Generation Z

By Ken Fishman


Move over millennials, there's a new generation in town.

Raised during the Great Recession, the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression, millennials grew up to become savvy consumers and penny-conscious spenders, who developed a certain degree of immunity to the seduction of advertising and traditional marketing tactics. For years, brands and retailers have struggled to gain an understanding of how to both attract and engage the millennial customer and sought ways to earn millennials' loyalty.

Now, more than a decade later, the attention turns to generation Z. The generation of post-millennials who are defined as anyone born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, this group includes more than 2 billion people worldwide and holds more than $44 billion in annual purchasing power.

Like the millennials before them, gen Z has been conditioned to respond not to marketing tactics found on paper, but those found on a screen. They were taught to shop not by the push of a cart, but by the click of a button.

Gen Z is considered the first "digitally native" generation, having never seen a day without technology. This tech-focused generation seeks products and services that offer customization, convenience and ease of use.

Gen Z expects technology to be not only engaging, but also intuitive and relevant. For this reason, brands like Apple, Google and Amazon have won over the Gen Z consumer, having delivered virtual assistants like Siri, Google Home and Alexa.

We see this not only at retail but through our reward programs as well. The smart-home craze will continue to gain momentum over the next several years, and with gen Z gaining more spending power, they are sure to contribute to the growing trend.

Gen Z's interest in and focus on technology leads them to other interests as well.

Social Media

Because of gen Z's attachment to social media, brands and marketers have found new and unique ways to connect with this generation via Facebook, Instagram and even Twitter.

Many successful brands utilize social media influencers to serve as online brand ambassadors who can promote relevant content to a targeted audience to appeal to this generation. Brands like John Hardy have recently created campaigns that feature relevant celebrities and have stayed visible on social media platforms where many gen Zers now go to shop for the latest in fashion and technology. Keep brands like John Hardy in mind when you're developing your rewards selection, because they'll motivate gen Z audiences.

Social Consciousness

Gen Zers take pride in being socially aware and creating connections with people, both in real life and online. This generation is very socially conscious and pays close attention to the brands they are loyal to and what they stand for.

Brands and companies that are philanthropic or have a cause that young consumers can stand behind tend to stand out more to this generation. A good example of this is BioLite, which not only provides an energy resource for users, but also provides safe, affordable energy access to off-grid households across India and Africa with every purchase of their products.

By 2020, the population of gen Z is expected to reach 2.6 billion, with their spending power and influence continuing to grow. When it comes to brands and marketers' strategies for winning over this demographic, it's essential to keep in mind how connected this generation is, but also that they hold brands to higher expectations than previous generations. They are loyal to brands that stand for something, that understand them and that provide them with a personalized experience.

When designing a loyalty program to appeal to gen Z, it's not only important to be on top of current trends and include the product verticals that appeal to them most, like technology, but also to create elements of personalization in your program, to better target and capture their loyalty.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ken Fishman is Director of Purchasing for Rymax Marketing Services Inc., a full-service loyalty marketing provider in the incentive industry solely focused on creating programs and events to drive ROI through brand name rewards. For more than 20 years organizations partnered with Rymax have seen an increase in employee performance and retention, customer loyalty and overall revenue. For more information, visit www.rymaxinc.com.