Gen Z and its Implications for Companies

All businesses have a unique symbiosis with their clients and consumers. On the one hand, businesses must actually create and supply products and services consumers want and yet at the same time, it can be difficult to convince clients and consumers of the value of new or updated products. Just because a product or service may be revolutionary does not always mean you can get good buy-in from the market. For businesses to create products and services that clients and consumers want, they must understand the unique needs and values of their client and consumer base. The better they get to know their clients and consumers, the more they can tailor products and services to meet their needs. Understanding your market starts with understanding the broadest categories and then narrowing it down from there to a very specific and unique market.

For instance, hundreds of apparel companies sell jeans, but most create them for an entirely different market segment. Jeans for little girls are going to be very different from jeans for little boys, not just in design but also in features. Jeans made for 30-somethings will be designed, created, marketed and branded very differently than jeans made for their grandparents. While hundreds of companies may make essentially the exact same product, they all have unique variations to appeal to a very specific market segment. In order to market to a specific segment, however, you have to understand what that market segment values. Some segments want a good value for the price. If they pay upwards of $100 for jeans, they want to be able to wear them for several years, while others will pay upwards of $200 for a pair of jeans they will only wear for a single season. Some want jeans that are actually made of denim, while others want more form-fitting denim blends and the list goes on and on.

In order to market to Gen Z, it is important to understand the unique values that Gen Z holds. For instance, Baby Boomers might be more inclined to buy jeans from a company that makes their products in America, while Millennials simply want to know that the workers made a fair wage and were not exploited. Too many businesses make the mistake of thinking they can simply make a product with the features consumers want, without considering how the values that market holds also plays a huge role in their decision making.

If businesses want to market their products to Gen Z, they have to understand the unique nature of Gen Z and what sets them apart from their millennial, Gen X and baby boomer predecessors. Here are five values Gen Z holds that businesses will need to understand to successfully market to them.

Technology

Gen Z was born into an age of connection. Even the youngest tots are just as comfortable conversing with a digital assistant as they are a human. They don’t know a world without social media or video chat. Whereas baby boomers and early Gen X are still likely to pick up the phone if they have a problem, issue or complaint, Gen Z is more likely to turn to social media first. Their data usage is massive but their minutes of talk time on their cell phone plan is likely to remain in the double digits. Because Gen Z has grown up having their entire life on display, they don’t trust brands and businesses that lack transparency.

Environmental impact and sustainability

Gen Z has grown up seeing images of trashed oceans, decimated forests and receding ice caps. They are quite rightly concerned about the planet they are inheriting, so they also value sustainability and responsible manufacturing practices. If you want to market to Gen Z, you’re going to have to prove to them that you put great stock in caring for the planet where we all live.

Transparency

Gen Z has grown up on social media – literally. They are used to having not just their pictures, but essentially their every action broadcast to the world. First by their parents and relatives, then by their peers. They are the first generation to start developing their personal brand almost from the moment they can walk. They understand the concept of having a platform at a young age and learn early the necessity of using it responsibly. Living as much in the glare of the public spotlight as they do, they do not look favorably on secrecy, privacy and what takes place behind closed doors. While baby boomers and Gen X may fear the loss of privacy that technology brings, Gen Z doesn’t even understand what that means.

Individuality

Gen Z is both comfortable and familiar with taking off and putting on various personas as the need arises. They are the first generation to dismiss gender norms completely and favor alternative personal pronouns like “they” instead of he or she. This is very important for businesses that traffic in gender norms to understand. Gone are the days when retailers can simply make pink or pastel things for girls and blue or primary color things for boys. In addition, they also value small batch or craft items that more closely reflect their personal taste and style, rather than mass-marketed branded items that everyone has or wears. Even major retailers may soon see a return to smaller, boutique stores with additional online offerings.

Ownership

From car sharing to bike sharing to subscription services for “gently used” clothing, Gen Z is growing up in a world where everything can be shared. This makes individual ownership much less attractive. Soon, businesses will have to focus more on making high-quality products that can withstand the rigors of being shared by multiple owners, versus products that are made more cheaply for single owners. Think of cars that have a 10 year/200,000-mile warranty versus a car with a 6 year/60,000-mile warranty.