Over the last few years, millennials have been a major focus for brands around the world. As millennials began transitioning into adulthood, marketers realized that this segment of always-on shoppers would be a tad more challenging to reach than those who came before them. But what about marketing to Gen Z?

Millennials are often credited with shifting the way brands engage with shoppers. Because of them, marketers have been thrown into creating content in real-time, producing stand-out visuals, and curating personalized experiences, among other things.

How will marketing to Gen Z be different? Born from 1998 to present day, these consumers are true digital natives. They never have and never will experience adolescence without constant access to the internet. Although they haven’t yet reached adulthood, their behaviors already show us that marketers are going to have kick it up a notch. Gen Zers embrace the ability to hold entire conversations without saying a single word. They’ve also demonstrated the power to turn things viral by catapulting a completely random, unknowing kid into an international celebrity within the span of four hours.

Before Gen Z transitions into adulthood, marketers need to be prepared to engage them in impactful ways. I’ve compiled four takeaways for brands to consider when marketing to this segment. (For the purposes of this piece, I am going to focus on the older segment of Gen Z: the 14-to 18-year-old consumers, who have more control over how they spend money.)

1. Show off what sets you apart

Just 10 years ago, teens were enamored with logo-laden looks. Remember? It seemed like just about everyone was walking around with an eagle or a moose on their clothes – almost as if they were status symbols. Those days are long gone.

The teens of today don’t want to be pigeon-holed as the person who shops at a particular store. They want to take ownership over their styles and choices. Brands like American Eagle and Aeropostale have responded in kind. They’ve shifted from stamping their logos on every article of clothing they sell, in favor of more streamlined looks.

What does this mean for you as a marketer? Teens want to look original, so targeting them is an opportunity to show off the versatility of your items. It’s a chance to show them how your products can help them achieve the unique look they’re going for.

herecomesgenz_image01American Eagle constantly displays its hot items in different, unrelated Instagram posts. It displayed these gray boots, for example, several weeks apart in two very separate contexts. This approach is a simple way to show off how one item can lead to different looks.

It’s even more effective when you featuring different looks directly on product pages in a gallery of photos — allowing teen shoppers to envision the item in their unique world.

2. Offer deals

Let’s keep it real: Teens are frugal. Studies show that teen employment has plummeted dramatically over the last 15 years, meaning that the vast majority of teens are dependent on their parents for disposable funds.

Because they want to get the best bang for their buck, they’ll respond well to deals and special offers you may advertise. Victoria’s Secret PINK is a fantastic example of a brand that effectively reaches teens looking to stretch their dollars.

PINK Friday = Black Friday for back-to-campus. Today’s gonna be CRAY!

A post shared by Victoria's Secret PINK (@vspink) on

The trick here is not to constantly bombard them with deals. Because Victoria’s Secret PINK only does it every few months, shoppers get really excited and see it as a special event when sales are offered. If the brand constantly pushed out deal after deal, teens wouldn’t see them as special and valuable.

3. Tap into athleisure

We’ve covered the athleisure trend before, and guess what? It applies to this generation, too.

From Forever 21 to Urban Outfitters to Abercrombie & Fitch, nearly every teen-focused brand has launched an activewear line. That doesn’t even mention Nike, which tops the list of favorite brands among teens year-after-year.

Offering activewear products is only half the battle, however. The key is to illustrate how these items go far beyond looking “sporty.” Consumers want to feel comfortable and look great too. People want the option to wear these pieces outside of the gym – whether it’s to school or out to the movies with friends. Your job as a marketer is to show them how they can achieve this with your line of activewear.


4. Make the e-commerce experience seamless

This may come as a surprise, but the majority of teens actually prefer to make fashion purchases in-store. While they spend a lot of time shopping online, this segment of shoppers feels more secure committing to a product in person. Maybe it’s because they have such limited funds. Maybe it’s because they like going to the mall. Maybe they just like to see, feel and try on items firsthand.

For retailers, it can definitely be a missed opportunity not to capture these shoppers while they’re highly engaged with products on-site or on social channels. The best way to do this is by showing off how items look and feel to the average person.

herecomesgenz_image03Follow the lead from cosmetics retailer Sigma Beauty, and integrate galleries of user-generated content directly on product pages. Aggregate photos and videos from fans who already know and love the product, and let them do the marketing for you. Sigma Beauty sees a 16X ROI and 4X increase in time-on-site as a result of including UGC on-site.

Add a layer of authenticity to it all

Much like their millennial counterparts, Gen Zers crave authenticity. They want to buy products that speak to their unique personalities, and they desire experiences that are authentic. For marketers, it’s a challenge to convey authenticity via digital means, but it’s not impossible. Urban Outfitters consistently hits the bullseye from a marketing perspective, and you can too. Download our Urban Outfitters Success Story to learn how the popular brand boosted social media ROI and increased click-though rates by 15%.