Zeal opinion

Gen Z: Buying into Better

Callum Saunders, Senior Planner at ZEAL Creative shares how companies can target Gen Z audience segments to win a younger shopper demographic. 

It would be easy to dismiss ‘Gen Z’ as simply another marketing buzzword.  But a closer look into this audience segment shows some key differences that brands need to recognise and cater for if they are to win with a younger shopper demographic. 

At ZEAL Creative, we’ve been immersing ourselves in the world of Gen Z and its preference for what we call ‘Buying into Better’.

Lazy segmentation or demographic differences?

Loosely defined as those born in the mid-90s onwards, Generation Z is the latest consumer cohort to enter the market and subsequently, the vernacular of marketing departments and agency presentations nationwide.

At its worst, generational stereotyping can be a lazy form of segmentation, grouping a diverse range of people and attitudes into a neatly-defined (yet ultimately unrepresentative) label.

But at a macro level, unique contextual factors are informing and shaping the cultural attitudes, outlooks and beliefs of this new generation as a whole.

The ever-changing retail landscape is where many of these changes are becoming visible, reflecting new shopper behaviours: what they buy, how they buy and why they buy.

Whilst you can’t segment this population by age and assume that they all think, feel and behave in the same way (it’s simply not representative, or true), members of Gen Z display some critical differences from their Gen Y ‘millennial’ predecessors.

At ZEAL Creative, we talked to nearly 1,000 members of Gen Z over a two-month period.  From economic outlook to ethical preferences, we identified a range of insights that are helping us to understand and empathise with this emerging shopper segment.

At a holistic level is Gen Z’s preference for ‘Buying into Better’.  From the purchase decisions they make, to the brands they support and engage with, there is a concerted to shift to more considered and conscientious consumerism.

Pursuit of Progressive

We’ve long heard the mantra ‘health is wealth’.  But in a world where content is currency, this proliferation of digital information and social inspiration has thrust progressive lifestyles into the spotlight.

Everyday wellness is now part of the collective conscience, and Gen Z is investing, big time.  These digital natives see informed decision-making as an inherent behaviour – the decline in alcohol consumption amongst young people is merely one example of societal shifts.

Barriers are also being eroded:

“I eat vegan food sometimes but I’m not ‘a vegan’.”  (Female, 16-17)

“Anyone can eat anything; including meat-free products; without a label.  They are not exclusives.”  (Female, 21-24)

Consumers now have the tools and products to live the best versions of themselves.  This pursuit of progressive is an actively lifestyle choice, and brands that embrace this shift in consumption behaviour stand to curry favour with a wellness-focused generation.

Purchase with Purpose

It’s not only their own health that is capturing their attention of Gen Z, but the health of the planet.

Bob Gleisner, CEO Conscious Consumers, claims that “Generation Z is the most environmentally and socially ‘aware’ consumer market yet. Even more so than millennials.”

66% of Gen Z believe that their individual actions can help the planet, whilst 46% are buying more environmentally-friendly products compared to this time last year.

But when it comes to purchase with purpose, the onus is not just on the individual shopper.  Brands have a critical role to play, and anecdotal feedback from our qualitative interviews suggests that those leading the charge are also reaping the commercial benefits.

“It’s [helping the planet] bigger than you; what you can do to help.  You support brands that are doing the things.”  (Female, 21-24)

We’re seeing a shift in brand consumption, from aspiration to inspiration: brands are no longer a shared symbol of status, but a signal of shared values.  Brands recognising the nuances of this shift stand to succeed in this bold new world.

Buying into Better

Still children during the recession, Gen Z has been hardened by the economic turbulence in which they’ve grown up.  While millennials are often viewed as idealistic (valuing comfort and convenience), Gen Z is more pragmatic, motivated by security and realistic expectations.

Whereas millennials have often been labelled as entitled, Gen Z is more entrepreneurial.  And this self-determinism is being reflected in what they buy, and how they buy it.

Gen Z is just entering the workforce and so represents an emerging yet critical shopper audience.  Tapping into their needs and marketing products to them in ways that meet their preference for ‘Buying into Better’ is a long-term strategy that brands need to incorporate into their thinking if they are to win in this brave new world of conscientious consumption.

To see these key trends (and others) in more detail, please request a full presentation of ZEAL Creative’s ‘Gen Z: Buying Into Better’ research by contacting callum@zealcreative.com