Gen Z

A Gen Z'er explains how to effectively engage her generation during the pandemic and beyond

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    Britney Yip
  • Sep 03, 2020

Lean into the unique traits found among members of Generation Z to better engage this group during the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future.

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Spring Break 2020 was supposed to be the time of my life, but like many others, it quickly spiraled into something unimaginable.

My painfully long vacation to Corona Land, like so many others', has been unforgiving, full of midnight existential crises, static Zoom lectures, and the inevitable Quarantine 15 that has resulted from my endless snacking.

To keep me sane, though, much like any other Gen-Zers, I have taken up bread-making, filming TikTok dance challenge videos, and playing Animal Crossing to pass the dreary days in quarantine.

Such activities, while drastically different in nature, are similar in that they cater to our individual interests and connect us with our friends.

In these times, where nearly every interaction is through a screen, it’s difficult to connect with your consumers, making it all the more important that your business is optimized for the new normal.

By definition, Gen-Z consists of individuals who were born from the years 1995-2010. (Note: The timeline is variable from source to source, but it typically includes people born in the mid 90’s to the early 2010’s.) Currently, many of the Gen-Zers are in their late teens or early twenties, like myself. By 2026, however, “Generation Z could represent the largest U.S. consumer population at 82 million people.” With Gen-Z’s current annual spend of $143B that is bound to increase in the future, it’s important to facilitate meaningful connections with Gen-Z now, rather than later.

Here’s how you can strengthen your customer relationships in this pandemic by appealing to three characteristics unique to Gen-Z:

We are individualistic.

We are the first generation to grow up with technology, so all we know of the world has been through a computer or television screen. Unsurprisingly, you can expect Gen-Zers to operate at the same speed and convenience as smartphones.

For that reason, we are rarely brand loyal; it’s easy for us to move from one company to another when we can have the world at our fingertips. In fact, unlike our parents and our grandparents, we do not prefer conventional brands to “lesser-known” companies. Instead, we choose the company that best encapsulates our specific needs.

In McKinsey’s report of Gen-Z consumers, we are labeled as “identity nomads,” people who stick to their own truths. We have a strong tendency to develop our individual identities overtime, which means that we hope that any customer engagement is curated to our unique needs.

How companies can appeal to our individualism:

Make the customer journey more meaningful for us.

Something you must know is that most Gen-Zers prefer real people to photoshopped pictures. We trust our friends’ testimonies over A-list celebrities’. Find ways to visualize how products will fit into our varying lives, whether it’s through video demonstrations or testimonies from live-time people commenting on their product experiences.

For Gen-Zers, we are looking for ways to improve the quality of our everyday lives, especially nowadays, when the majority of us are at home. We do not necessarily yearn for luxury goods, so rather than just selling the product to us, sell us a unique experience, from the beginning to end of the customer journey.

We are idealistic.

Since childhood, Gen-Zers are constantly surrounded by people who encourage us to shoot for the stars. Society imparts to us the confidence that we are capable of changing the world for the greater good. Naturally, we are purpose-driven, and this characteristic of ours bleeds into our consumer spending tendencies.

We place a strong emphasis on shopping with businesses that share the same sentiments as us. At the end of the day, we want the companies we choose to be “real” and “genuine."

How companies can appeal to our need for authenticity:

Be transparent about your business, ranging from your product supply chain to social movements that you stand behind. In fact, 45 percent of surveyed Gen-Zers agree that they choose brands that are eco-friendly and socially responsible. Show that you’re committed to tackling issues that lie beyond your business’ immediate reach—it further demonstrates that you are a company we can depend on.

However, there is a fine line between half-heartedness and legitimacy. Nowadays, in an effort to be socially aware, every company passively retweets the same tweets and reposts the same Instagram pictures. That being said, Gen-Zers are capable of distinguishing company efforts.

What really sets you apart from your competitors is your proactivity.

Don’t just repost content on your social media platforms. Instead, outline the tangible steps that your company is taking in order to support social movements, whether it’s crafting a five-year action plan to expand your company’s diversity and inclusion efforts or matching a percentage of your August profits to donate to relevant social groups. By doing so, your company proves to be an active seeker of ways to empower others with your business.

We are diverse and educated.

Deloitte recently conducted a study and found that Gen-Z is the most ethnically and racially diverse generation in the US. In addition, Gen-Zers are quickly becoming the most educated generation.

With anything, diversity in thought and opinion creates the most well-rounded solutions, so it’s important to bring all voices into the discussion.

How companies can appeal to our wide array of backgrounds:

Hold candid conversations with us and listen to our ever-changing needs.

In fact, when asked, if given the opportunity to, 44 percent of Gen-Zers said they would submit their ideas for product design. By initiating the conversation, you demonstrate that your company is willing to listen to us and adapt according to the consumer’s needs. Your effort in prioritizing the customer will effectively gain our trust, further developing brand loyalty and even, brand advocacy.

Moreover, understand our communication preferences. Social media plays a huge role in our lives, so if we post on your social media account with any questions or concerns, answer them! Better yet, when our questions are answered, we hope to be able to put a face behind the rep helping us (include a name at the end of the response). This small action helps personalize the interaction but goes a long way.

There’s a lot to take into account, but do realize that Gen-Zers aren’t perfect human beings either. As long as your company has real and genuine intentions, we’ll meet you in the middle, and your efforts will be paid back in full.

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Britney Yip

Britney Yip is a marketing intern on the Foundry team at Twilio. She is currently a senior at UC Berkeley, studying Economics and Data Science (Class of 2021). Outside of work, you can find her working on CovidSMS (a Twilio SMS-powered texting service that disseminates COVID-19 local information to users), reading books, and listening to music.