How to Sell to Gen Z: Ultimate Digital Marketing Guide for Shopify

October 1, 2021 | by Kelly Breland

Marketing to Gen Z isn’t like marketing to other generations. These individuals— who fall between nine and 24 years of age (born 1997-2012)—have different expectations. 

Gen Z consumers aren’t just shopping, they’re shopping with purpose. They care about where they’re spending their money, and they use platforms and technology in unique ways. Meeting their demands will be vital to the health of your business.

Gen Z makes up 26% of the U.S. population, and their current buying power is $44 billion. That number grows to $600 billion if you factor in the influence that they have on their parents’ spending. Overall, we’re looking at a generation that represents roughly 40% of American consumers.

In other words, Gen Zers should not be ignored.

Understanding your audience will help you make more informed decisions when it comes to your digital marketing strategy. Let’s talk about what exactly marketing to Gen Z should look like, focusing on a few key points you don’t want to miss.

Your Ultimate Gen Z Marketing Guide

What Does Gen Z Really Care About?

Marketing to Gen Z requires connecting with them on an emotional level.

Gen Z is noticeably more careful about the brands they spend money on compared to other generations. In fact, they’re actually skeptical of brands’ intentions. Gen Z demands more than being offered a stellar product or service.  

They care about what a brand stands for, who they support, and what they care about. According to a survey of 2,058 consumers by BBMG and GlobeScan, shared via Marketing Dive, Gen Z is twice as likely (compared to any other generation) to care about matters of equality and three times as likely to say that the purpose of a brand is to “serve communities and society.” Furthermore, Gen Z is more likely to trust big companies that show that their intentions are altruistic through their actions and their employees’ actions.

What Brands Can Do

Sharing your story is crucial. You need to connect with Gen Zers as well as sell to them. Let’s say you’ve got a Shopify website up to sell your yoga apparel online. Use your About page to share your brand’s origin story, mission statement, and maybe a bit more about the people on your team. In this example, the About page is being used as an opportunity to share its purpose. It isn’t just to sell products but to help people break through barriers along their fitness journey.

TWL "About Us" page and purpose

How Do Gen Zers Shop?

Your younger customers aren’t swarming brick-and-mortar stores. They’re on their phones instead. In fact, roughly 90.6% of Generation Z have a smartphone. It’s the device that they use the most, and they’ve really never known a world without the internet. But are they using their smartphones to shop and spend money? Indeed. According to research published by Ypulse, more than one-third of 13-17-year-olds and two out of five 18-24-year-olds open a shopping app every single week.

In 2019, 41% said they’d paid for a purchase using their phone, and 80% said they’d browsed an online store in the last month using their phone. Research from Google says that of the two-thirds of teens making purchases online, more than 50% are doing so on their smartphones.

What Brands Can Do

The numbers tell us that having a mobile-friendly website isn’t just encouraged; it’s practically mandatory. Depending on the CMS you’re using, this might be simpler than you think. Let’s return to the example of our yoga apparel brand. Their first step here will be to choose the Shopify theme they want to use, paying special attention to ensure that the one they pick is mobile-responsive. 

Once they’ve chosen the appropriate theme, they can be sure that when someone looks at their website on their smartphone, the text and images will automatically adjust to fit the size of their screen. Buttons will be big enough to tap on with their fingers. Most importantly, the website will be smooth and simple to navigate.

In this case, no matter what device people are shopping from, they’ll have a positive experience.

What Type of Content Does Gen Z Prefer to Consume?

Gen Z has an average attention span of eight seconds — even shorter than millennials’ 12 seconds. The best way to grab their attention in a hurry? Video.

Video content tells a story in a way that images and text simply cannot. Google says that Gen Zers spend more time watching videos on their phones than doing any other activities. More specifically, 70% of teens reported spending more than three hours each day watching videos on mobile.

If your Gen Z marketing doesn’t include video content, there’s a huge opportunity being missed.

TiKTok Social Media for Gen Z

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What Brands Can Do

Where exactly should you be sharing videos for your brand? Statistics say that as of 2020, Snapchat was the most popular social media channel for Gen Z (with 100% of respondents on the platform), followed by TikTok (91%), and then YouTube (87%).

Aside from social media, brands would be wise to also incorporate video content into their websites. Once again, let’s return to our yoga apparel store on Shopify. One powerful way to use video to keep people on your website is to include an engaging clip above the fold on your homepage. It encourages your site visitors to stick around and watch, thereby increasing the time they spend on the page. This is great for Google rankings.

But What About How Generation Z Uses Search Engines?

Great question! Even the way that they search for content online is different. Of note is the average length of Gen Zers’ online searches: They seem to prefer long-tail keywords (which are generally three to five words). Overwhelmingly, while the average person searches a four-word query, Gen Z tends to search five words (and even more). Plus, Gen Z loves using voice assistants for their searches. Typically, when it comes to voice search, they use a full question or command. This further reinforces how heavily Gen Z leans on long-tail searches.

What Brands Can Do

Now more than ever, brands need to understand how to find long-tail keywords. Finding long-tail keywords should be a part of your Gen Z marketing strategy, and it’ll help brands become more visible to their younger audience in search engines.

One simple way to do this is with a keyword suggestion tool. You can enter keywords you’re considering using and get valuable metrics, like that term’s monthly search traffic and difficulty, as well as additional ideas. Another method is to search a broader short-tail keyword and then refer to the “People also ask” and “Related searches” sections of Google’s search results. Here’s what it looked like when we searched for “yoga apparel.”

Keywords based on suggestions or things "People also ask"

Keywords about related searches

This is a quick way of getting ideas for how people are searching for that information, using more words. You would then want to optimize your Shopify product pages (and blogs!) around these long-tail keywords to drive organic, targeted traffic to them.

How Does Gen Z Use Social Media?

We touched on this a little bit already, but let’s keep going.

Gen Z uses different social networking platforms for specific reasons. According to Forbes, 97% use it for shopping inspiration, 65% for entertainment (via YPulse), and 61% for watching video content specifically.

When it comes to shopping, Compose[d] says that 60% go to Instagram to find new brands and products. A 2019 report from Piper Jaffray says that 73% of Gen Zers have expressed wanting brands to connect with them through IG. These statistics show that the photo-sharing app is ahead of other platforms like Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook,  when it comes to Generation Z’s shopping habits on social media.

What Brands Can Do

Our fictitious yoga apparel brand can and should disseminate its marketing material to its Gen Z followers via social media. With a platform like Shopify, brands can efficiently add share buttons to product pages, blog posts, and other material for easy cross-posting across social media.

Or, you might consider a tool like Plytix Product Information Management (PIM), which helps distribute product content across all of your sales channels. Essentially, you can sell your products everywhere but manage all of them from one place. Automated feeds keep your product information current and visible.

What Other Mediums Can Brands Communicate With Gen Z Through?

While email marketing is still incredibly profitable, Gen Z is more inclined to open a message or push notification. The reason for this is simple: They want brands to communicate with them in a personalized way, and instantly. In fact, one report found that 76% of Gen Zers consider responsiveness a measurement of a brand’s authenticity.

Outside of social media, text messages are an excellent way to connect with Gen Z. In fact, 75% of Gen Z (along with millennials) would rather text than talk to someone in person. Thankfully, our yoga store on Shopify is capable of sending both push notifications and SMS texts through the platform.

What Brands Can Do

While other age groups might find chatbots, push notifications, and other instant messages annoying, Gen Z's characteristics clearly say otherwise. Still, strategy is key. Personalizing this communication is a must, or these individuals might find you disingenuous. Be sure you’re speaking to their wants, needs, goals, and pain points.

Does Gen Z Listen to Influencers?

They sure do! In a consumer study shared with Mobile Marketer, researcher Kantar found that 44% of Gen Zers bought something based on a recommendation that came from a social media influencer, compared to 26% of the general population. More specifically, Instagram leads with the most genuine influencers were most effective, according to a survey by SlickText.

Jules Hough Instagram post example

Source: 

What Brands Can Do

Working with influencers and micro-influencers could be pivotal for your Gen Z marketing strategy. Find influencers that have an audience that overlaps with your own, and focus on collaborating with them to create genuine, authentic content that speaks to this generation’s needs and wants.

Our yoga store will find this to be an important part of their online presence, using Shopify tools and apps that make it quick and painless to set up ambassador and affiliate programs.

TL;DR

So, how can you successfully tackle marketing to Gen Z? Here’s a quick recap:

  • Don’t just sell. Tell them a story of how you’re making the world a better place, and make it one of the focal points of your Shopify site.
  • Make sure that your website is beautifully optimized for mobile use.
  • Lean into video content on your social media channels, as well as put a video above the fold on the homepage of your Shopify website.
  • Create content around long-tail keyword searches in Google.
  • Share your product pages across all your sales channels using a platform like Plytix PIM.
  • Offer instant, personalized communication with Gen Z through SMS, chatbots, and push notifications.
  • Reach your audience through thoughtful partnerships with influencers.

Although there’s a learning curve when it comes to marketing to Gen Z, they carry immense purchasing power. Learn how to reach and communicate with them, and your brand will flourish.

Kelly Breland

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