How to adapt your marketing strategy for millennials and Generation Z

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For too long millennials and Gen Z have been grouped together by marketeers. But look closer at these two demographics and you’ll see that their unique generational experiences have a direct impact on how each views the world, engages with brands, and uses their consumer power. Effectively reaching each group requires an understanding of their nuances and adapted marketing strategies, in order to keep their distinctive qualities front of mind.

Millennials are defined as those born between 1980 and 1995. “They represent the first generation to come of age in the new millennium,” says Julia Crumière from youth-focused think tank ThinkYoung. “They have lived through the economic crisis of 2008, social and technological changes, and the birth and rise of social media.” While they may now be tech savvy, millennials began their lives watching VHS tapes, using giant personal computers and without the internet, before DVDs and dial-up internet came along.

On the flip side, Gen Z (those born between 1996 and 2010) are tech native, having coexisted alongside technological advances their whole lives. They are the first group in history to have never known a world without the internet. “As a result, they are more likely than millennials to expect innovation, as they are used to a rapidly-evolving and fast-paced environment,” says Crumière.

That said, both demographics are now fully integrated in the digital world – juggling multiple devices, relying on high-speed Wi-Fi and even moving towards fully connected smart homes. Gen Z’s immersion in digital landscapes from day one, however, has meant that they are dealing with body image, mental health and cyberbullying issues more than any other age group has in the past.

Consider purchasing power and social presence
When shaping your social media marketing strategy, it’s important to consider each demographic’s life stages. The oldest millennials are now 41, meaning they might already be settled down and buying houses or cars. Even the youngest millennials are 26 and likely in established careers with ample salaries – signaling the influential purchasing power this demographic holds.

Whereas the youngest members of Gen Z are only 11 years old. So, while they might be already engaged in social platforms, they won't be directly making purchasing decisions any time soon. The oldest Gen Z’ers, at 25, will be spending more in comparison but these are less likely to be big ticket items.

These digital and economical differences have a profound effect on how each group uses social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are the social platforms of choice for millennials, with this group spending around 2.5 hours a day on social media, according to the Global Web Index. You can find Gen Z, on the other hand, on TikTok, Twitch and Snapchat, as well as YouTube and Instagram. But many in this generation have dismissed Facebook altogether. Unsurprisingly perhaps, Gen Z spends more time on social media than millennials – totalling just under three hours a day on average.

Prioritize transparency and authenticity on social media
With both groups using social platforms frequently, they each have a wealth of information at their fingertips. “They are able to research how a product is made, what its carbon footprint is, whether it is tested on animals, and the working conditions of those who manufacture it,” explains Crumière. This heightened demand for transparency can be felt most keenly from Gen Z. “This ‘activist generation’ seeks brands that resonate with their sustainable desires. Consequently, it is becoming more critical than ever for brands to create positive social and environmental impact, and to make sure that their social media strategy resonates with that.”

Gen Z’s desire for transparency goes hand in hand with authenticity – when it comes to sustainability they can spot ‘greenwashing’ a mile off. “They expect brands to open up a dialogue through a genuine social and digital presence, and they value interactions,” adds Crumière. While millennials are marginally more comfortable with traditional branded content and social advertising, Gen Z are extremely skeptical. They want to see social proof: real people sharing real reviews and product demos through authentic user generated content (UGC).

56% of Gen Zs report that they are more likely to try a product or service if their favorite influencer recommends it – but be mindful of using influencers who feel authentic to your brand, product and audience. Working with micro-influencers in the Gen Z demographic, who have a natural connection to your brand, is the best way to go.

“Millennials and Gen Z both want a more diverse and inclusive society,” says Crumière, so keep those principles front of mind when choosing which influencers you collaborate with. No matter who you work with to create UGC, be brave enough to give them freedom over their content creation to ensure it retains the authenticity that Gen Z values.

Get creative and play by the rules of each platform
As already mentioned, Gen Z (and to a lesser extent millennials) are turned off by traditional advertising and will often skip straight past ads on social media. To reach and engage these audiences effectively, you must create content that feels native and relevant to each platform and doesn’t appear overtly branded or corporate.

Tap into organic trends, such as challenges on TikTok, the latest Instagram Reel songs or popular meme formats. Replicating the slang and expressions Gen Z uses and ensuring your content isn’t too polished will help it feel more native and personal too. Engaging in TikTok is also a good tool for understanding the nuances between millennials and Gen Z – from hair parting preferences to jean styles and emoji choices – and keeping up with the current discourse.

Harnessing social media in the purchase journey
ThinkYoung’s Cashless Society research found one out of every four millennials uses electronic payment options more than once a day and over 30% use them several times a week. Similarly, 8 out of 10 Gen Z respondents said they make an online purchase once a month. We’ve already touched on the fact that both of these demographics use social media to research brands and products – and their practices and origins. It therefore makes strategic sense to seamlessly use social media in the conversion stage of the purchase journey, as well as an awareness and consideration tool.

Instagram Shopping enables brands to make posts instantly shoppable – you can tag products, add prices, and directly link to your ecommerce store. With both millennials and Gen Z heavily present and engaged on Instagram, not harnessing this feature is a missed opportunity to turn scrolling into sales.

Brands getting it right with millennials and Gen Z
Now we’ve delved into the foundations of how to adapt your marketing strategy for millennials and Gen Z, let’s take a look at some brands that are putting those principles into action to successfully reach these two demographics.
Belgian multi-brand fashion ecommerce site’s core audience is female millennials. They have successfully combined influencer marketing alongside user generated content, to promote and actively engage with their fanbase.

Online Content Manager Nico Vastenavondt worked with Flowbox to create and display the #ZEBSquad, a band of engaging, authentic influencers showing off the latest fashions.

“Working with Flowbox has helped us to collect and share the best content from our ambassadors in the #ZEBSquad. It is highly engaging content that performs well amongst our target audience, young women and men who look up to and want to be like our influencers,” says Vastenavondt.

In addition to the influencer content, by launching branded hashtag competitions’s organic reach has soared and the company now regularly receives high quality, engaging authentic photos to use on their Inspiration page.

Lemonade Inc
This online insurance company, hailing from the US but now also available in Germany, the Netherlands and France, specifically targets millennial renters – many of whom are buying insurance for the first time. To stand out to this audience and attract their attention to a traditionally dry product category, they have to be bold and work to the strengths of the platforms millennials frequent.

Lemonade Inc achieves this on Instagram by shunning the conventional insurance look and feel, instead commissioning Instagram artists to create bright, boundary-pushing visuals that market their insurance products in unexpected ways. On Facebook, they take a different approach, leveraging its linking ability to share valuable long-form content that ranges from educational to entertaining.

Fashion marketplace app Depop (widely described as being part Instagram, part eBay) boasts more than 21 million users – a huge majority of whom are Gen Z. Depop is where they find inspiration and items to create new looks, interact with fellow users and sell second-hand fashion.

The app’s success has been boosted by its Instagram strategy, which is fueled by UGC. Depop frequently reshares images from its most coveted sellers, encouraging followers to dive into the app to find (and buy) items for themselves. Simple but evidently effective.

Whether you’re targeting millennials or Gen Z (or both!) a visual marketing platform, like Flowbox, will help you get the most from your user-generated content to boost engagement, improve time-on-site and increase conversions. Want to learn more about what Flowbox can do for your business? Get in touch today!

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Cecilia Rehn, Digital Marketing Manager