The beauty industry was one of the first industries to embrace Millennials. Successful salon companies were soon comfortable with this group’s individuality, expectations (whether unrealistic or not) and tech obsession. That’s just as well; Millennials are now most of the workforce. But don’t get too comfortable, because the next generation is already disrupting the market. Welcome to Gen Z. Yup, time to recalibrate your marketing once again.
This time we know we need to be talking to this generation while they are still in high school, because they already spend $44 billion of their own money (from allowances and part-time jobs) and they influence their parents’ spending to the tune of $600 billion. (As a point of reference, the oldest Gen Z’s are 21 and graduating college, while most are still in high school and junior high.)
Understanding the differences between this generation and Millennials is crucial, because Gen Z are not “Millennials on Steroids,” as some have called them. To avoid being labelled a dinosaur, you need to establish a real connection with teens. And it can’t be wrapped up in the same way you talk to Millennials because these guys are even more tech and mobile-savvy than their big brothers and sisters. Here are some of Gen Z’s expectations of brands:
- Keep it real and authentic – they have been plugged in since they were born and they can spot marketing BS a mile away.
- Your messaging must be highly visual and compelling or they won’t even notice you.
- They like human stories and are not interested in “corporate speak” – it’s part of the real and authentic vibe.
- They care deeply about important issues – the planet, sustainability, gender, race, diversity, equality, etc. And they expect brands to care too. And prove it.
- These guys grew up in a monster recession, so they are very knowing, financially responsible and frugal. They expect both quality and value for their money.
- There is no one better at managing their own brand than these guys, and they are more savvy than Millennials were. You can’t accuse them of over-sharing like Millennials did. In fact, Gen Z learned from Millennials’ mistakes and are much more private and careful about what they share in social media, on what channels, and with whom.
- The biggest influencers of this group are not traditional celebrities. Gen Z isn’t so interested in the global branding Millennials grew up with – they look to “people like me” in their (online and offline) community, who have shared experiences. Friends are the authority. And remember, those friends are not just those in physical proximity, but online friends and influencers. Smart brands are finding ways to partner with influencers to share custom content (like how-to videos and before/after shots) with Gen Z.
Their mastery of social channels must be met by a sophisticated marketing response that recognizes what Gen Z wants from each platform.
- Facebook is more of an information hub than an engagement platform. It’s often where they stay connected with family. Don’t expect your Facebook posts and ads to resonate with Gen Z.
- They lead Instagram usage at 63 percent compared to Millennials at 47 percent, and this is where they go to be inspired by highly visual content. Brands should consider using Instagram posts and Stories to connect with Gen Z. It also makes sense to consider Instagram video since video content is the ultimate storytelling tool with teens.
- Gen Z stays linked with their buddies 24/7 on Snapchat, checking it at least 11 times a day. Snapchat is quickly replacing texting with teens. Brands like Taco Bell have had luck engaging with Gen Z through fun Snapchat filters.
- All of these platforms present opportunities: create video content for YouTube and other channels; consider having a unique, visual branded backdrop for post-appointment selfies, and a salon filter for Snapchat. Think about offering incentives for recommending a friend or even just posting via Snapchat and all the other platforms.
Gen Z wants to see real people on these channels as well as what’s on offer. And they want constant connectivity. Their stylist is their friend; the brand responsive and approachable.
I could go on and on, but let me conclude with one very important point. This generation leads the way in mobile payments. If you don’t already offer Apple Pay or Google Wallet, you may be missing a big opportunity with Gen Z.