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How Small and Mid-Market brands can connect with Gen Z 

Move over Millennials, there’s a rising generation that will soon dominate the zeitgeist, dictating what’s cool, what’s popular, and the best way to shop.

Gen Z mobile users

Published on

Jan 21, 2022

Written by

Direct Digital Holdings



How Small and Mid-Market brands can connect with Gen Z 

Move over Millennials, there’s a rising generation that will soon dominate the zeitgeist, dictating what’s cool, what’s popular, and the best way to shop. 

Gen Z, aka “zoomers,” are the 68 million Americans and 2 billion people worldwide who were born sometime between 1997 and 2012. Like Millennials, they’re fully digitally native, but they’re re-writing what that means, as every generation is wont to do. 

The oldest Gen Zers are 24 years old, which means they’ve graduated from college and are in the process of establishing households and careers. The youngest are still pre-teen, but they exert a lot of influence on purchasing decisions. 

The sheer number of Gen Zers means they will be a powerful economic force, whose tastes and preferences brands and retailers will need to reckon with. At present, Gen Zers account for about 40% of global consumers and they have a direct and indirect spending power that tops  $143 billion a year.  

No brand can build a sustainable business without catering to the preferences of Gen Zers. Here are three tips for maximizing your reach and ability to attract and influence this emerging cohort.  

Think Digital and Social First 

The Gen Z consumer is first and foremost and a digital -- and more to the point -- a social shopper. Led by this generation, social commerce is soaring; in 2021 revenue for sales that originate from a social platform will top $36 billion and will continue growing. And that’s just within the United States. 

According to the National Retail Federation, Gen Z is “constantly looking for brands that provide entertainment and personal connection and align with their social responsibilities.” The sites that they prefer most are Instagram, followed by YouTube and TikTok. If you want to reach and engage these consumers, you simply must build a presence in these channels, and lead with your values. 

There are plenty of solutions to help you build a social media presence, reach users in those channels, and grow a network of micro-influencers. For instance, most ecommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce offer integrations with Instagram, with APIs that allow you to update fresh content daily (an absolute must to stay relevant!). 

Tools like Gatsby.Ai can help you identify Instagram micro influencers who can represent your brand with an authentic voice (also a must for Gen Zers). 

While Instagram is a place where the Gen Z shopper explores brands and products, TikTok is the place where the generation explores their passions. “TikTok creators and its users are motivated by many passion points, which attracts a plethora of niche groups with avid and highly engaged audiences. It’s not necessary to be a star to attract an audience, one only needs to be passionate about a topic,” writes Kristlyn Lyons, Vice President, Business Development & Partnerships, Sightly in MarTech. Brands can win new customers by partnering with a content creator whose followers see a video in their feed and purchase the product that is promoted by a trusted content creator. 

Consumer “challenges” are one of the biggest trends on TikTok right now, and they’re a great way to build a pipeline of user generated content. Challenges prompt users with a specific challenge (e.g., Make Mom Smile) and prove they’ve succeeded by posting a photo or video. Brands use challenges to raise awareness of their products and gain new followers. 

Although not as popular as Instagram, TikTok and YouTube, Discord is gaining in popularity due to its “dark social” (i.e., no tracking) ambiance. Over the past year Discord has grown by leaps and bounds, and now hosts 19 million servers (aka groups) and 150 million monthly active users. Launching a server, or even a poll, is a great way to start building a brand presence. 

Embrace e-commerce 

Gen Zers have always had an affinity for online shopping, but the pandemic made them even more inclined to rely on digital channels. Research shows that 30% of Gen Zers plan to shop less frequently in-store than they did in the pre-pandemic days.   

An online presence is an absolute must for a few reasons. First, most Gen Zers begin their purchase cycle online, either scanning Instagram for ideas or searching for products on Amazon. You may offer a similar, or even better, product than an online competitor, but without an online presence, you just won’t be on the shopper’s radar. 

If you don’t have an online presence to date, there are quick and easy ways to go about building one. Shopify offers a templated approach to building a website, meaning you select from a collection of pre-built stores rather than design one from scratch. A marketplace of third-party vendors offers a range of plug-ins, enabling you to add functionality, like social selling, quickly and easily. 

Or you can stand up a store on Amazon to introduce your brand to new customers. Amazon offers a host of services to sellers to streamline the end-to-end process, from promotions and advertising to order fulfillment. A word of caution, however. Amazon is keen to offer its customers the lowest available price, which means you may face pressure to discount. For this reason, consider offering just a small segment of your product catalog on Amazon to introduce consumers to your brand, and save your most unique products for your wholly owned ecommerce site. 

Ecommerce and social commerce are table stakes for this generation, which means it might be in your best interest to hire a trusted partner to help you navigate the channels that are right for your brand, your customers, and your budget. 

Enter the gaming world 

Finally, embrace games. Retailers have been experimenting with gamified sales tactics and enjoying tremendous success. You don’t have to build a virtual storefront on Roblox to enter the space; techniques such as offering a reward to a shopper to download an app or completing a challenge in order to gain access to an exclusive sale site.  

Or, you can simply get your brand in front of the 203 million people who play mobile games in the US (according the VentureBeat, 86% of Gen Zer’s play mobile games). Mobile games offer a variety of unique formats, including rewarded videos, which provides players with in-game rewards in exchange for watching video ads. 

You can reach Gen Xers at scale using programmatic advertising, and set rules to target gamers in specific scenarios, and optimize targeting criteria based on real-time results. Another word of caution, however: there are over one million mobile games in the App Store, and nearly 478,000 in Google Play. If you do not have a clear idea of the mobile game landscape, it’s a good idea to work with a partner who can help navigate and select the ones that are most suitable to your brand. 

Start Connecting Today 

The Gen Z cohort will dominate the consumer market in the coming decades, which means it is critical to learn how to build a connection with them now. Performance marketing companies like Orange 142 and Huddled Masseshave the expertise needed to help you design, execute and optimize a range of advertising techniques, including social media and gamified advertising. Get in touch today. 


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