5 Things Brands Can Do to Remain Relevant to Gen Z

5 Things Brands Can Do to Remain Relevant to Gen Z

The prospect of appealing to today’s demanding young customers can feel daunting. In reality, however, Gen Z’s retail demands are simple: they want transparency and convenience above all else.

While these qualities are often best delivered through tech solutions such as mobile apps and influencer campaigns, a variety of simple efforts can drive sales among young consumers. When in doubt, prioritize the following goals:

1. Be Authentic

No single catchphrase, hashtag, or influencer is guaranteed to captivate Gen Zers. In fact, used in the wrong context, phrasing that seems trendy can actually turn these customers away. Retail initiatives can only succeed when they ring true to the ideals that set each brand apart.

In survey after survey, young people highlight authenticity as a top consideration when making purchasing decisions. Even when they don’t necessarily agree with a brand’s message or appreciate its aesthetic, they’ll often get on board when they view marketing initiatives as genuine.

The retailer Hot Topic demonstrates how a brand that remains true to its ideals can ultimately attract young shoppers outside its purported customer base. Over the years, the retailer has developed an image as an alternative store for the punk and emo crowds. A survey from YPulse suggests that Gen Z shoppers regard Hot Topic as the top retail location for landing unique styles. From its wide range of tough-to-find products to the quirky looks and personalities of its associates, every detail is designed to ensure that the brand lives out its promise of promoting individuality.

2. Build Relationships with Influencers

The rise of the Instagram influencer reflects Gen Z’s quest for authentic role models. They appreciate both people and brands who know what they stand for and aren’t afraid to share their passion.

Data from Kantar reveals that 70 percent of Gen Z social media users follow at least one influencer on platforms such as Instagram or YouTube. They’re not only more likely to follow influencers —they’re also far more inclined to act on recommendations from their favorite online personalities.

While just 26 percent of the general population admits to making purchases based on influencer suggestions, 44 percent of Gen Zers have done so.

3. Take a Stand

There’s more to authenticity than product development and influencer selection. To come across as truly genuine, brands may need to make their stance known, even when doing so may risk alienating certain consumers.

This reality is best exemplified by Gen Z retail darling Nike, which has made its mark by using former NFL athlete and current activist Colin Kaepernick as one of its most prominent spokespeople. Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee during the national anthem may have been controversial, but it also inspired the youth to whom Nike caters. It should come as no surprise, then, that the True to 7 sneaker—featuring Kaepernick’s signature logo—sold out almost as soon as it was released.

Campaigns like this, while risky, exemplify Nike’s core values. This may drive some consumers away, but it has prompted a loyal following among others, propelling Nike to the top of Piper Jaffray’s teen shopping survey year after year.

4. Support Charitable Causes

Gen Z takes philanthropy seriously. Young customers are more likely to provide financial support to the causes they hold dear than their counterparts from other generations. Insights from QGiv’s Generational Giving report show that one-third of Gen Zers regard charitable giving as a crucial component of their legacy.

Not only do Gen Zers hold high expectations for their own philanthropic activity, they demand a lot from their favorite brands.

They want businesses to back up their purported values by investing in the causes they hold dear. In many cases, this means dedicating a portion of proceeds to charities young people regard as deserving and compelling. Brands such as TOMS and Warby Parker exemplify the power of giving back.

5. Encourage Feedback

While customers of all ages look to online reviews for reassurance, young shoppers are especially unwilling to take a risk on new products or services without first confirming that these are trusted by others. Given this emphasis on social proof, a lack of online reviews can be a real liability in retail.

Interestingly, while most members of Gen Z read reviews, many fewer bother to leave them. While research from Social Media Link shows that over one-quarter leave reviews every time, many others simply forget to share feedback. Most, however, will happily provide insight upon request. Don’t hesitate to connect with those who leave ratings, as the right response can strengthen an already positive reception from glowing reviews or mitigate the effects of negative feedback.

To read more about Gen Z, get the eBook “Gen Z and the Future of Retail.”