Beware brand owners: a new and powerful consumer cohort is on its way.  More sceptical and less loyal than previous generations, these young people are also using social media in an entirely new way.

A great deal has been written about Millennials (those born between the 1980s and early 2000s), as they are now entering their prime spending years. However, Generation Z (those currently aged between 12 and 19) make up 10% of the UK population, and behave very differently from Millennials.

We believe there are three key areas retailers and brand owners need to be addressing now to engage with Gen Z:

1. Think digital, act social
Gen Z are the first true digital natives, with research revealing that two-thirds of UK teenagers have a smartphone by the time they are 13.  With m-commerce and tablets now accounting for 45% of all e-commerce traffic, it is increasingly important that retailers continue to implement a ‘mobile first’ approach, as well as ensuring a seamless, multi-channel experience across every consumer touchpoint.  But this doesn’t mean forgetting about the store; JWT research suggests that 69% of Gen Z still want to use this channel. Retailers must integrate technology into the store in a usable and relevant way, encouraging dwell and creating social, sharable content.

2. Be authentic
Gen Z are savvy, opinionated and armed with information, and it is important for brands to appear ‘authentic’ and inclusive, utilising well-known yet approachable figures such as the growing number of ‘real life’ bloggers this generation look up to.  In their communications, brands cannot rely on tried and tested forms of social media such as Facebook (where their parents can be found); Gen Z are on Snapchat (as used by brands such as Burberry), Instagram and Yik Yak.  Retailers should be utilising these platforms to create short, ‘snackable’ messaging with ‘authentic’ storytelling to match this generation’s reported eight second attention span.

3. Emphasise individuality
Amongst Millennials, brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch dominated the retail scene through their specific, aspirational aesthetic, which became a preppy uniform of acceptance for teens.  Gen Z want to operate within the boundaries of ‘fitting in’ whilst creating their own unique look, with low-cost, fast fashion retailers such as Boohoo, Missguided and Forever 21 fulfilling this need.  Amongst this generation, it has become less about brands and more about products which allow individuals to showcase their personality, with customisable products being particularly popular.

Rosie Hartman