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Gen Z Consumers: The Most Important Generation to Understand

The Digital Teens were born between 1997 and 2017. They are more self-centered than any previous generation. It is impossible to ignore Generation Z in the workplace, as they are making their presence known. This guide is for organizations targeting Gen Z customers.


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Manikanta Racharla

3 years ago | 3 min read

At the moment, seven generations are living on this planet. My generation is Gen Y, born between 1980 and 1996. Different generations will have different needs, abilities, and ideas.

Digital marketers probably know the doomsday warnings about marketing to Generation Z, aka anyone born after 1995:

  • They don't check their email.
  • They've got a short attention span.
  • They're killing any business that's not online.

Your metrics may even be telling you—or your team—to start reaching out to Instagram influencers or think about using Snapchat to engage your new customers.

Illustration by Anh Dang
Illustration by Anh Dang

Why this generation is important

Let's be honest: If you're an entrepreneur, you're probably well aware of how difficult it is to reach Gen Z. From a young age, they've been fed a steady diet of brand messaging, so you'd better make sure it sticks. And the first reason they're important is because of this: Gen Z is your biggest customer demographic in this next decade. But here's what makes them different: They're not apathetic, and they're not lazy. They're hard-working, savvy, and hyper-connected. The second reason they're important is that, as a generation, they're often hard to target. With the growth of social media and online communities, many of Gen Z's strongest influences have come from online and influencer-driven content.

The new consumer

Generation Z is the most tech-savvy generation since the Baby Boomers. However, it is crucial to understand a few key points before sweeping it aside as a generation incapable of doing what you do. They are the first generation to grow up with smartphones and social media. They have more expendable income than previous generations (and some of them are going to college). They value authenticity over validation. They're over the age of 18. Millennials and Generation X consumers already own smartphones, and Gen Z members just started to learn how to navigate them. Their access to the Internet doesn't require parental supervision. Although Millennials have learned on their own and adapt to change, Generation Z members are entirely different.

Generational differences

Generation Z is very different from any generation we've previously worked with. They're different from millennials and even more different than boomers and Gen Xers. They're tech-savvy, open-minded, connected to other generations. They expect brands to respond to them with ideas, ideas, and more ideas. But as marketers, the challenges aren't just technological. Generation Zers have a different perspective on what it means to be a customer, so helping them understand their role in our world is crucial. 

How digitalization affects Gen Z

Before you race to deliver whatever new gimmick or marketing strategy you think will make you relevant to Gen Z, remember one fact: Gen Z's are so diverse that it's impossible to pin down their target demographic. That doesn't mean they aren't important to understand. Gen Z is an essential demographic for your brand. Consider these insights from the Deloitte Millennial Survey: Younger Gen Zers and Baby Boomers will greatly influence each other. "These generational cohorts may both be technically savvy, yet Gen Z needs guidance from older generations when it comes to navigating the internet." Seventy percent of Gen Zers have experienced at least one significant negative consequence from the growing use of technology, such as bullying or losing trust in people.

Image source: Institute of Business Management
Image source: Institute of Business Management

Marketing to Gen Z

Marketing to this generation is crucial for a brand that wants to be relevant. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Gen Z grew up primarily with mobile phones, so they're already accustomed to texting and posting photos on social media. In addition, they're among the first cohort to attend college (and not through high school), so brands would do well to reach out to them as they're tech-savvy and have a lot of life experience. Because Gen Z is such a broad age group, it isn't easy to pinpoint what they're looking for or how to reach them with the right message. Therefore, it's imperative to speak with various agencies and consultancies to find one that understands Gen Z's needs.

There's some truth to the general hype, but it's important to note that these bad experiences are becoming outliers. Gen Z, while they do have different preferences than other generations, has one big thing in common with the older Millennials: They don't trust brands. When the newest Millennial generation started entering the workforce in the early aughts, it was rare to see high turnover in team members. Why? Because this new generation of workers saw their employers as non-tangible, like brands. It didn't occur to them that companies might require extra effort on their part to succeed. As a result, these Millennial workers stayed put— even when their jobs needed more work and travel. But by 2017, nearly half of Gen Z had entered the workforce.

Nobody can agree on exactly when the Millennial generation stops and Gen Z starts. They have unique work ethics, different perspectives on work, distinct and preferred ways of managing and being managed, distinctive styles, and unique forms of viewing such world issues as quality, service, environment, etc.

Thanks for reading!

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Manikanta Racharla

My passion for startups can be traced back to my college days. Whether as a member of an event organizing committee or as an intern of an NGO, I have been on a path of entrepreneurship right from the start. I like going through hurdles and discovering a new path time and again. As a 21-year-old university student, I founded my first fintech startup back in 2012. As a bootstrapped startup, we'd grown from a startup with 7 full-time employees to partnerships with Qiwi, Goa government, India Post, and co-founded ShopTap and Nytro. Building a brand from the outside may seem effortless, but starting a business at 21 with no resources or funding soon made me realize that early-stage entrepreneurship is anything but transparent. I have been sharing my entrepreneurial experiences to help more young people start, launch, and scale their own businesses with all the knowledge I gained over the years.


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