It’s safe to say that marketing teams today are almost unrecognisable to teams a mere decade ago. Today’s marketers have a multitude of channels through which to market and a sea of data to help personalise and micro-target their efforts to individual customers.
At the same time, increased regulation like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and high-profile hacks last year involving companies ranging from British Airways to T-Mobile and the Cambridge Analytica scandal highlight the need for data protection and privacy. These issues put into sharp relief the dilemma confronting all consumers today – do I provide my information to a brand for a better experience knowing it may be shared, sold or worse, compromised?
But despite this, an international study conducted by The Center for Generational Kinetics and WP Engine has found that 49% of Generation Z – digital natives born between 1996 and 2015 – said they would still be willing to provide their personal data if it means they’ll receive a more personalised digital experience over an anonymous one. That’s 33% higher than for members of the Boomer generation. And, more than half (51%) of Gen Z respondents said they would actively stop visiting a website if it didn’t anticipate what they needed, liked or wanted. Even if privacy is a concern for Gen Z, it is eclipsed by the need for convenience and a strong desire for more personalised experiences online.
Unlike the Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X or Millennials, who have all played their part as digital pioneers in one way or another, Generation Z were born into digital and have the unique experience of never knowing a world without the internet. While the earlier generations have had to adapt and learn to include the internet in their daily lives, Generation Z doesn’t just accept technology, they embrace it. Gen Z sees technology as a means for connection, entertainment and a place to build their digital brand. With Gen Z well on their way to becoming the largest generation of consumers by the year 2020. How can brands move forward?
Leveraging data and authenticity will set brands apart
With over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being created each day, businesses have access to more data than ever before and it’s time they start leveraging all that data. This is one area where all generations can agree – (Gen Z 42%, Millennials 45%, Gen X 41%, and Boomers 41%) – in the future, the internet will predict what they want based on their digital footprint. Businesses must deliver their products and services in smarter, more tailored ways or risk losing customers to their competitors.
A whopping 75% of Gen Z indicated that they are more likely to purchase from a company that provides consistent and relevant content in the form of videos, blogs, social media posts, articles and newsletters. And the only way to provide that relevant content is to turn the data you’re collecting into insights. Going forward, this ability to act on customer information will become even more critical as almost 51% of Gen Z said they would stop visiting a website if it didn’t anticipate what they needed, liked or wanted. Even when we’re not talking about branded content it’s important to note that even with ads, brands should leverage data. In fact, this generation is more than happy to be served digital ads, as long as they are authentic and personalised to them.
This desire for authenticity manifests itself in numerous ways with Gen Z. 83% indicated they trust a company more if the images they use in their ads are not photoshopped and 78% stated that they trust a company more if the images they use in their ads are actual customers.
Providing a personalised experience is set to become the norm
When it comes to personalisation, it helps to remember that Gen Z was raised on social media. Consequently, they’ve come to expect high levels of personalisation and targeting. Meanwhile, 46% of Gen Z predicts future web experiences will adapt to their personal preferences to create a unique, optimal experience.
When it comes to content, Gen Z is looking for online services that don’t just reactively show them content based on what they have already bought or looked at. Gen Z is looking for services that use data insights to proactively create an online experience that predicts what they want to see, even before they go to the search field.
When we go to a brand website, we all largely see the same thing, aside from the occasional recommendation based on previous purchases. But over a third (34%) of those surveyed for the study, across all age groups, believe that in the future websites will “talk” to each other so that every site, app, or appliance will present a personalised experience. In this way, there will no longer be just one brand website, but billions. And each one will be as different as the user navigating it.
When Gen Z is more likely than Boomers and Gen X to choose a digital world where websites or apps can predict and provide what users need at all times, the key is to know your audience. So brands must do both. They must keep standards high when it comes to data security and privacy, ensuring that trust and brand loyalty across the generations remains strong. And they must elevate this loyalty by providing personalised, convenient digital experiences to Gen Z. In doing so, they can ensure they remain both attractive and relevant to each and every generation.
Gen Z marketing: Purpose and co-creation matter
What’s more, purpose matters. There’s a clear demand from Gen Z that brands be socially accountable. That’s why 51% of this group are more likely to buy from a company that contributes to social causes, while 24% have stopped buying from a company that contributes to a cause with which they disagree. This may help explain why they might be more inclined to trust a brand with their personal information – because they’ve already selected the brands they engage with based on values and thus they trust the brand to be ethical with their data.
This shared value coupled with Gen Z’s technical prowess and intuitive branding abilities can be a powerful force multiplier for companies. They’re YouTube stars, they’re their own filmmakers, and in many ways, they’re their own personal creative team. Making room for Gen Z and offering them ways to be part of your brand is a great way to tap into their creative spirit—an inroad some major brands are already pursuing.
Social media and the data explosion over the last decade has given brands unprecedented access to understanding the mind of their customers. This influx of data has created new privacy challenges for brands as each generation approaches the topic differently based on their own values and fears. The good news is that Gen Z wants to be part of the brand experience. If you can provide them with an authentic experience, they’ll participate. If you’re successful, Gen Z won’t just join your journey, they’ll bring you along on theirs, becoming brand ambassadors through their own social channels, while helping you grow your brand as influencers themselves.
Read more: Is the workplace ready for Gen Z?