Gen Z is a major force in the consumer market, but marketers should avoid tailoring their approach towards just this demographic, advises Emplifi’s Zarnaz Arlia.

Born between the mid-1990s and mid-2010s, Gen Z was the first generation to grow up in a digitised world that’s fully immersed in technology and social media. This generation’s unique upbringing has allowed them to develop a distinct aesthetic that reflects their cultural identity and sets them apart from previous generations. Given their strong presence on social media, Gen Z has also proven its power to shape trends and influence what’s popular.

With this demographic now a major force in the consumer market, with an estimated buying power of $360bn, brands have been quick to align their marketing strategies with the unique needs of this demographic. However, this poses an important question; are brands failing other generations in the consumer pool?

Avoid a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach

It’s easy to get caught up in the marketing needs of the demanding ‘instant gratification’ Generation Z, but brands should be mindful of audience diversity. While TikTok reviews, for example, might win over younger consumers, the benefits of these marketing tactics will be less impactful with other key audiences that respond well to more traditional marketing approaches. Ultimately, brands using a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach will miss a valuable opportunity to boost ROI and sales.

So, what are the key differences that brands should be aware of to better tailor their marketing strategies to the unique needs of every generation? And how can marketers use these insights to develop a strategy that works for the many, not the few?

Baby Boomers, who make up $2.6tn in buying power, are a generation of customers that are more ‘old school’ in the way they shop. They’re less likely to embrace social media and often have less confidence in using technology compared to the generations that follow them. As such, influencer partnerships will be less effective in reaching this generation. Instead, this generation prefers to shop in-store, so traditional brick-and-mortar marketing such as in-store displays and merchandising is crucial to engage this group. Baby Boomers also tend to have more loyalty to brands they are familiar with, opting for what they know works well over taking a risk on the unknown, so loyalty schemes and discounts can be very effective for cultivating long-term relationships.

Much like their parent generation, Gen X (who are estimated to have considerable spending power of $2.4tn), also value a more traditional style of marketing. However, this generation has had access to technology from an earlier age and therefore has a more developed understanding of how it works. This group responds well to targeted email marketing campaigns and isn’t opposed to omnichannel marketing tactics, with Facebook tending to be the platform of choice for this generation.

Millennials are the closest in the bifold to Gen Z, having grown up alongside technology. This group of shoppers value brands that are authentic and are the closest to Gen Z in choosing to shop from a brand whose values align with theirs. As digital natives, this generation is very responsive to targeted digital marketing strategies, while also enjoying strategies like User Generated Content (UGC) and reviews to influence their purchasing decisions.

And finally, the majority (73%) of Gen Z shoppers prefer to buy from or advocate for brands based on their beliefs and values. Before making a purchase, they are more likely to research a brand’s history, values and practices, and are often influenced by peer reviews and social media presence. Authenticity is key for Gen Z, and they are more likely to support brands that are open and honest about their products and practices across all channels.

Finding common ground through personalisation and authenticity

The power of personalisation shouldn’t be ignored by marketers in their efforts to appeal to all generations. Regardless of their age and economic status, every consumer craves customised experiences that appeal to their specific needs and wants. Brands can easily provide personalised experiences through multiple channels by implementing AI and data analytics. By analysing customer data, such as purchase history, browsing behaviour and social media interactions, AI algorithms can provide tailored recommendations and messages that meet your customers’ needs and preferences. With these insights, emails will make more sense, target apparel will be just the right shade of blue, and landing pages will greet customers with content aligned with their needs, interests and ideals.

At the same time, authenticity in your marketing approach will go a long way in targeting all generations. Fundamentally, all shoppers want to see images of and hear from people like them who are using your products, trusting this more than unrealistic, airbrushed model shots. 

Marketing strategies that focus on authentic, consumer-driven content, whether that be user-generated images (UGC) or product reviews, will appeal to shoppers of all ages. By simply featuring existing user-produced content and images on key product web pages, as done by brands like Nike, in email marketing content or even in physical stores, brands can easily demonstrate the functionality of products in a trusted and authentic format that appeals to all generations. 

While Gen Z’s aesthetic encourages brands to think outside the box, a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy is unlikely to resonate with every generation. Taking a personalised approach will avoid coming off as generic or inauthentic, showing consumers that your brand is invested in building genuine relationships, rather than just trying to sell products or services. Don’t shy away from the challenge but embrace it, taking a customer-centric approach that’s aligned with every generation’s needs, interests and values.