Connecting with Generation Z Consumers

May 19, 2022

Generation Z has been called the “digital natives,” the influencer generation, and more to reflect their birth into a world where the Internet is an expectation — not a luxury.  

Understanding the behavior and characteristics of Gen Z is vital for marketers and entrepreneurs to know how best to tap into the growing purchasing power of these newer and younger adults. But for the generation known for rejecting labels, how do you even begin to categorize and target Gen Z?

Who Is Gen Z?

Young man laying down looking at this phone

Made up of individuals born between 1996 and 2004, Generation Z is the latest entry into the consumer world, and a significant influencer and driver of marketing and sales strategy. The group generally includes high-school teens and those of college and post-collegiate age, roughly between 15 and 26 years old. 

Defining Characteristics of Gen Z

Generation Z is bold, tech-savvy, incredibly social online, and opinionated. They’ve grated against some more traditional brands, expectations and institutions. However, brands are learning to connect and convert them to customers instead of alienating them — some more quickly than others.

Members of Gen Z push for inclusiveness and fuel debates on equality. They live for authenticity, and patronize brands that reflect their own values. They care about a company’s ethics and core values, and tend to exhibit a strong loyalty to brands with an identity that vouches for making the world a better place.

These young consumers might be big on a few currently trendy TV shows (and, for them, ‘90s programs like Friends and Seinfeld are the alien, novel video equivalent of classic rock), but are much more at home consuming video content online. They make their own content, too, and feel driven to create substantial libraries of online content.

Finally, the youngest generation’s consumer behavior is fueled by experience and expression of individual identity more than acquisition of physical goods. For Gen Z, ideas make for more valuable currency than stuff.

Gen Z vs. Millennials

The Generation Z age cutoff is a debatable topic among researchers and generations alike. Researchers occasionally loop them in with Millennials, but unique characteristics set these two generations apart. Whereas Millennials tend to be highly collaborative, Generation Z leans more into authenticity and individualism. 

Both groups lean progressive and value inclusion, but Gen Z tends to move the needle further left than their older sibling generation. One of the uniting traits for both generations is their love for, and intrinsic use of, the internet; they both discover things, express themselves and shop online, navigating the worlds of the web naturally and confidently.

The Post-9/11 Generation

While older generations often ask one another if they remember where they were when the Twin Towers fell, many Gen Z-ers weren’t even born when it happened. They’ve grown up against a backdrop of near-constant conflict in other parts of the world, cultural milestones such as the legalization of same-sex marriage and the increasing global connectivity of the internet.

Gen Z and Online Video

Generation Z lives for the mobile video experience, especially short content via platforms, like TikTok and Snapchat. According to a 2021 report, 65% visit Instagram each day, while 62% watch YouTube on a daily basis — via smartphone or tablet.  In other words, if you want to connect with Gen Z, one of the best methods is through online video where you can authentically show your brand and attempt to connect to younger viewers through the values they hold. 

What Motivates Gen Z?

three friends walking after a shopping trip

This generation is aware of what’s going on in the world, often in near real-time. They love exploring and living in the moment — though they usually do both with a phone in their hand.  According to our research, this sense of eclecticism, experiential opportunity and multiple interests has a massive influence on Generation Z’s spending habits. Here are some of the things these young adults find most attractive and motivational.

Exploration & Experience When Traveling

Generation Z loves traveling for fun and exploration, often to less popular or off-the-beaten-path locations. Unlike baby boomers, who prefer their excursions pre-planned and packaged, Gen Z tends to seek out new environments and experiences for their own sake.

Foodie Experiences

According to our research, the internet influences Generation Z’s inclination toward foodie culture. They love a good food truck and are more likely to try new restaurants and recipes than any other generation. Entrepreneurs dealing with adventurous new food products, daring international flavors and modern recipes can find a willing and potentially loyal consumer base among this generation. And thanks to Gen Z-ers’ penchant for sharing everything online, good word of mouth can expand a brand’s consumer base exponentially.

Keeping It Real

Gen Z is adept at separating fact from fiction, whether through social sharing, research or that innate desire for true connections. This generation values transparency and authenticity above all else, and is not afraid to call out brands, products or advertisements that don’t deliver on their word or claims of social consciousness.

What Should Brands Prioritize to Connect with Gen Z?

Young woman eating snack and watching tv

There are a few things that brands need to prioritize if they’re looking to connect with potential Gen Z consumers. Here’s where you can start: 


If you want to establish a long-term relationship with Gen Z, authenticity is key. They easily spot a false marketing campaign or unrealistic promises, and they won’t shy away from pointing that out to you. 360 Market Reach’s recent research study on shopper insights found that 72% of Generation Z respondents reported their belief that brands should be authentic in their values and beliefs.

Have you noticed news about how Gen Z boycotted brands that failed to take a stand on issues they champion, like the Black Lives Matter movement? This generation wants to see companies move beyond expression and into demonstration of a commitment to their values. If your company stands for causes and leans into your ethics, make sure to include that in your marketing strategy to win their trust and loyalty. 

Video Marketing

Generation Z’s primary source of information is social media, and preferably in the form of video. No omnichannel marketing strategy that includes targeting the youngest generation should overlook the power of short, creative and, above all, funny video content. “Entertainment as advertising” is the key phrase here — these brief but valuable bits of content absolutely need to offer something more engaging than a sales pitch.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is a significant driver of the spending habits of many Gen Z-ers. If you want to impress this generation, partnering with the social media influencers they follow can leverage relationships that already exist. It can be tricky to work with influencers in an organic way that won’t set off Gen Z’s built-in lie detector, and simply throwing money at an internet star to flog a product should never be the primary thrust of any strategy targeting Generation Z. But companies such as Meta have tapped into new audiences by partnering with influencers with many followers, such as Khaby Lame, the Senegalese-Italian TikToker.

Learn More about Connecting with Generation Z

Our team has already done the research that leads to strategic marketing solutions. Contact us today and download our latest study, “Generational Shopper Insights for Your Omnichannel Marketing Strategy,” to learn more about how to connect with Generation Z consumers.

Related Posts

Why Wearable Tech is Taking the World by Storm

In a world where technology evolves exponentially, the wearable tech industry is growing rapidly each year. As a matter of fact, at this year’s 2024 CES show, new AI-powered headphones designed for people who work out or practice a sport are hitting the market, giving...

Trends in Health and Wellness for 2024 

Each year, we survey members of our proprietary 360 Health and Wellness online community to understand their focus areas and the strategies they employ to achieve their health and wellness goals for the year. This enables us to identify emerging trends in the health...

How Travel Brands Can Enhance Sober Travel Options

Travel is often synonymous with indulgence—as highlighted by the ample opportunities to consume alcohol at airports, on planes, in hotels or resorts, and, obviously, at your final destination. Increasingly, sober travel is becoming both a wellness trend AND a travel...

Get the latest in your inbox

Stay up to date on cutting-edge research, news and more.