Cracking The Gen Z Code: Preparing For The Future Consumer
Last week, I spoke at a few email conferences sharing our Gen Z research and some tips needed to crack this code. It is really important that we are constantly looking ahead - and this generation is only getting harder to reach. And one side note - while this research pertains to Gen Z, hopefully you will take some good nuggets away for your overall email best practices.
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Cracking The Gen Z Code: Preparing For The Future Consumer
A few housekeeping tips before we get this research-filled episode started. If you’re enjoying the show and know someone else that would benefit, please pass it on. My goal is to get as many startups and small businesses reading regularly, so they can have guidance for their email programs. If you have already, please leave a review on the platform of choice, both of those things. Thank you if you can get those done. I’m pumped about this episode. I have spent the last episodes speaking at a few email conferences, sharing our Gen Z research and some tips needed to crack this code. Now that’s done, I am here to show, getting ready to share as well.
Gen Z: Who Are They?
It’s important that we are constantly looking ahead. This generation is only getting harder to reach. One side note while this research pertains to Gen Z. Hopefully, you will take some good overall nuggets away with you. First, who are they? Generation Z, which includes anyone born after 1995 or easily said, 26 years old and younger.
In 2020, Gen Z accounted for 40% of all customers officially. Even more astounding, one expert says Generation Z is one of the most powerful consumer forces in the market. Their buying power is $44 billion and expands to $600 billion when considering the influence they have on their parents’ spending, but it doesn’t go without saying that this group has a reputation.
They don’t check email, have the attention span of a gnat, are glued to their mobile device and killing any business that is online. At Email Growth Society, we wanted to challenge some of these generalizations. We reached out to 2,687 respondents and married this data up with campaign monitors, 300 respondents ranging from 14 to 26 years of age to hear their thoughts on email marketing. The greater majority of the respondents range from 18 to 24 years of age.
First, let’s understand Gen Z at their core. Who are they, what do they believe in, what are their values aligned to? This matters when we think of how brands interact with this group. We looked at some pew research to help identify some of the key attributes to consider when trying to understand this group. Let’s take a look at some of the topics that Gen Zs are passionate about and how you can bleed those into your overall marketing strategy. First up, Gen Z is on track to be the best-educated yet.
Did you know that the marketing research revealed that the most popular newsletter subscribed to by Gen Z was the New York Times, closely followed by ABC, NBC, Fox and any other daily news updates? Gen Z is keeping up with what is going on in the world very closely. Their loyalty to a brand could depend on values aligning with theirs.
Don’t let your brand’s mission statement get buried in an obscure webpage that no one ever visits.
Next, they care a lot about major world issues, even more the Millennials, things like climate change, activism and things like that. You’ve probably noticed an uptick in teens speaking up on important issues, especially those that affect them. They’ve been involved in social activism since a much younger age. People take a brand’s values into consideration more than ever before and socially conscious brands find huge success in this market.
In order to cultivate a personal connection with Gen Z, share your brands, story and values. The company story is what makes the company unique and connects with your audience on a personal level. Don’t let your brand’s mission statement get buried on an obscure webpage that no one ever visits. Keep it top of mind by featuring your story frequently on your social media, as well as in your email marketing but be warned. Gen Z has little patience for companies that pander. If your company claims to support a cause, be prepared to defend those claims with proof.
Lastly and this is not going to shock you. We need to understand their habits and where they spend their time. According to the Pew Research Institute, the platform Gen Z-ers use the most is YouTube. Eighty-five percent of Gen Z-ers say they use this platform, followed by Instagram at 72% and Snapchat at 69%. It is important to keep in mind when looking at our approach to email marketing, as well as what types of content we may want to invest in.
Now that we know who this generation is down to their core let’s see how they respond to email, as well as some ways we might want to rethink our approach. When we asked our respondents how often they check their email, a majority of them say they check their email regularly, with 81% saying they check their email at least once a day.
Clearly, Gen Z continues to value email as a valid and important method of communication but brands need to think about cadence. What about cadence? When we asked specifically how often Gen Z-ers is like to receive emails from brands, the largest group, which was 31.8% says, they like to hear from brands a couple of times a week. The next largest group, 27.5%, says they want to hear from brands once a day.
We can chat a little bit about how we can begin to tailor here, but it’s important to understand cadence as its own personalization feature, to say the least. A whopping 64.9% of respondents say they use email for their personal communication, while 14.4% say, they use email for work and 19.3% use email for school. While many use email for official communications, clearly, a majority of Gen Z-ers prefer to use email when they have tons of available channels. This bit of research may be a great indicator of the importance of understanding send-time.
Gen Z has little patience for companies that pander. If your company claims to support a cause, be prepared to defend them with proof.
Engaging With Gen Z
In our research, we saw that when we sent emails to Gen Z after 7:00 PM, preferably between 7:00 PM and 1:00 AM, emails had three times better open rates and resulted in more sales. The good news here is the survey proves that Gen Z isn’t killing email. In fact, the majority of respondents choose to use email of their own accord and for their own personal use. Email remains an effective way to engage with Gen Z and the number of email users will continue to increase as they get older and enter the workforce. Let’s work to get them engaged now so we can continue to keep email as a key channel for engagement.
How do we do that? First, frequently use a preference center in your emails and automated flows. A preference center enables you to ask your email subscribers how frequently they want to hear from you, allowing them to sell segments into an appropriate list. Beyond that, we can ask things like their hobbies, interests, who they are, what they’re passionate about. You name it. There are no limits to what we can ask. A great example is sending a welcome email from the minute somebody starts with you. That immediately sets the tone for the considerate relationship you want to build with them over time.
This can be that area where you can tell them what to expect and offer a chance for them to take control of their email preferences. A pro-tip include the ability to opt in to SMS and choose it as their preference. This comes in helpful. If you want to understand those Gen Z-ers or even any email subscriber, that is going to choose SMS over email but even more importantly, you can use this technique for other things. For instance, imagine you have a user that their email bounces. You could send them an automated flow with SMS or you could even try SMS as a re-engagement strategy. Make sure that we’re collecting both of these mediums, so we have some flexibility to be agile. Having it as a preference is great.
The true power of your preference center is that they expect it. Gen Z has grown up in the age of data collection. They expect brands to use this data to deliver what they want into their inboxes. Using data to tailor content to fit their preferences will show your Gen Z consumers your brand views them as an individual and cares about what each person wants. The preference center is going to be a huge win for you.
Be Where They Are
Next, you need to be where they are. A full 33% of respondents report buying something after seeing it on social media once in the past month. 29.8% say never, followed by closely 29.5% who say they’ve bought something 2 to 5times. 5.2% say they bought something 6 to 10 times and 1.6% say that they’ve made more than 11 purchases by looking at a social media post. Email marketers have plenty of room to improve when it comes to getting Gen Z customers to convert as a result of email and email marketing. Even though over a fourth of respondents have never purchased because of an email. Plenty of their peers have made numerous purchases.
A big takeaway here is that while they may not directly purchase from an email. We can assume that email does influence purchases specifically with an integrated approach. A good example is if you are relying on a good old email opt-in form on your website. That might not be working for this group because a lot of times, Gen Z isn’t even on your website. They are looking at your social media feed, trying to find them where they are and acquiring their information there, for instance, on Instagram.
Every new generation of consumers means shifting marketing tactics and best practices to drive revenue and grow as a brand.
By integrating a tool like ManyChat that allows you to make a conversation through Instagram DMs while having this then integrated into your email service provider to acquire the name, we can work more organically where these Gen Z consumers are and capture their information instead of relying on this popup form that they may never see. Another great example is, while we have abandoned cart campaigns still running via email. It doesn’t hurt to have alternate ways of reaching your users.
For instance, if you have users that are frequently interacting with your brand on Facebook messenger, you can leverage a tool like ManyChat to have integrations in which the automated abandoned campaign is coming via push notifications through Facebook messenger. You’re getting more instant gratification of where you are, and we can move people into lists based on their behavior and interact with them the way that they need to be interacted with.
Some of my clients have seen an additional 40% lift in conversion by meeting some of their users organically, where they are spending more of their time. One other note here, it is never a bad idea to understand send-times across all of your segments like I mentioned but to get your Gen Z-ers’ attention, you need to understand and check back often. It is always a good idea to test send-times about once a quarter. This data took a drastic shift about May of 2020 when COVID was in full force. A good majority of workers were operating from home. We used to see the data sticking in the early mornings but now, we’re starting to see that these later evenings are the key times to connect.
We want to make sure, like ahead of holiday time, for instance. We retest this to see if our send-times are still where we think they are. This is so important with your Gen Zs, especially with the research I showed, where if they’re in school or they’re at work, they’re probably not checking your email. Next up, try giving them what they want in your email programs. This seems simple but we still don’t always do it, so with Gen Z, you have to.
Gen Z consumes so much more content than any other generation before them. How do you stay on top of trends and deliver the content they want that doesn’t fall flat? We pulled a great stat from Lisa Box of WP Engine. She recommends to win with Gen Z. Marketers have to evolve from informing to delighting, from celebrity to authenticity and from generic to predictive.
We need to delight, be authentic and be predictive. Those about sum up every single point we’ve made to date, so this means you can no longer simply tell Gen Z what you believe they need to know about your products, your services or your company. Instead, focus on delighting them by delivering an experience straight to their email because your relationship with your customers, Gen Z or otherwise, isn’t about you.
You should always craft your marketing and especially email marketing to deliver value straight to your subscribers. This becomes even more true with Gen Z, whom we know, place a high value on identity. Gen Z wants to know whether or not your brand will fit with their own unique identity. This includes but is not limited to your company values.
This generation has grown up on social media and has a better understanding of branding than some marketers do. Despite the fact that many of our respondents reported having never bought anything from an email. Note that two of the most popular responses refer to sales. Gen Z wants to receive discounts and promotions in their emails, along with products that will work for them. Only 20% to 26% want to hear about the company or want links to blog posts.
This might be because Gen Z expects to hear company updates through other mediums, such as Twitter or Instagram. There are lots of opportunities for the email to influence purchases. Some things you can try. Include incentives in your email that lead to better open rates, including personalization from names and subject lines to show relevant content. Gen Z, like the rest of us, enjoys a good sale and making their money go as far as it can. Also, bridge the integrated approach that will be necessary as this generation continues to mature. That’s our goal here. We’ve talked about recipient conditioning in the past but we’re trying to create this brand loyalty ahead as this generation matures.
You probably noticed that in our survey, subscribers love to receive promotions via email but not a lot of them are purchasing or moving through your sales funnel and eventually converting. Clearly, there’s a disconnect between what Gen Z wants and what marketers are delivering. Maybe this disconnected form because many marketers target Gen Z through social media, which is effective but clearly, there’s an opportunity to capture more Gen Z conversions through email.
Maybe the way that you’re delivering that promotion or sale isn’t meeting those basic requirements to achieve that identity and what the values they care about. There are a bunch of opportunities here and you have customers slipping through the cracks of your sales funnel. Another thing you can do, you can focus your emails on the sales process keeping in mind that Gen Z shops differently than Millennials or Gen X-ers or Baby Boomers. Having grown up in the age of Amazon, Gen Z crowdsources their decisions to buy by regarding reviews of friends, strangers and influencers.
When suggesting products or offering discounts, add user-generated content, feedback and reviews to encourage Gen Z-ers to convert. Lastly, try to use video when you can. Not all email clients allow videos and email, there are ways to get around these limitations to include YouTube videos or gifts. Another option is to include a preview of the video and include a call-to-action that links to the YouTube video itself.
That was a lot but now you know the truth about Gen Z and email marketing. There’s no reason to listen the next time someone says, “Kids these days are doomed to ruin digital marketing for the rest of us.” Every new generation of consumers means shifting our marketing tactics and best practices in order to continue driving revenue and growing as a brand. When you execute your digital marketing strategy correctly, Gen Z can bring in major revenue on their own, as well as the revenue of their parents.
You have the opportunity to engage a socially active, motivated group of young people who want to connect with your company and maybe even cultivate a cult following of brand ambassadors who will be loyal to your brand for life. In the end, these young consumers aren’t that different from the rest of us. They want the same thing we all want, to build lifelong relationships with companies and people who care about us and bring value to our everyday lives. Thanks for geeking out to some research with me. Let me know if you have any questions at Conversations@EmailGrowthSociety.com. Until next time. Happy emailing and, hopefully, revamping your Gen Z strategy.