Welcome to The Make-it-Big-Podcast, a bi-weekly audio series on e-commerce by BigCommerce.
The influence of Generation Z on retail and culture challenges old brands to think more creatively and to be innovative than ever before. In this episode, Gen Z Planet founder Hana Ben-Shabat speaks with BigCommerce’s Melissa Dixon to discuss the defining characteristics of Gen Z and how brands can connect with younger shoppers.
Tune in for more insight into Gen Z industry upheavals, including what they love about a modern shopping experience and how and where to attract and convert them.
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The podcast “Make It Big”: Episode 4
Melissa Dixon: Can you give us some background information on who is part of Gen Z? What are some of the defining characteristics of this generation?
Hana Ben-Shabat: “Gen Z is basically anyone born between 1998 and 2016. Overall, we’re talking about a huge group of people in the United States – 78 million. They cannot be ignored by their sheer size alone; However, they have several properties that are very different from previous generations. First, Gen Z is the most diverse generation living in this country. 48% are minorities. The second is that they are the most connected generation. 87% had access to a mobile phone before the age of 15. This is a generation that has never known a world without a search engine, mobile phone, or social media. It’s a completely different experience. It’s changing the way they connect with the world, how they learn, and how they process information. The third characteristic is their commitment. This is a very committed generation. Through technology, through their contact with the world, they have undergone constant economic, social and political changes. “
Managing Director: Can you tell us a little more about how Generation Z is affecting retail?
HB-S: “I always say that the arrival of Generation Z as consumers will change the consumer market in ways we’ve never seen before. It is not that they are driving the disruption because the disruption is already there. The retail market has been disrupted for the past few years, but the arrival of Generation Z will accelerate the disruption.
“To talk about disruption, we need to understand what has happened in the consumer market over the past decade. If you reduce it somehow, it reduces to two powers. One of them is technology and how technology has influenced the way people search for products, discover products, etc. The other is values. People are consuming more and more because of their beliefs and value systems that affect them. Considering that Generation Z have very different values and know the power of technology and use it for their own benefit, their arrival with these two elements will only accelerate our knowledge of trade.
“The reason I think it’s still disruptive is because it’s a very complex consumer group. You are very accomplished. You have high expectations of brands and retailers. They value authenticity and expect brands to be authentic and transparent about who they are. They consume consciously and reward purpose-driven brands like Unilever and their sustainability efforts, or brands that take a stand on issues that matter to them, like Nike, which has never shied away from actually taking a position, no matter how that affects its performance. “
Managing Director: In which key categories do you think Generation Z really made an impact? What resonates with you? Where do you spend your money?
HB-S: “Generation Zers are very self-confident consumers from a young age. Even as children, they are used to either having access to their parents’ credit card or some other form of payment that allows them to download games, download films or download music. Even at a very young age, you make purchasing decisions on a daily basis. It’s very important when you think of this generation.
“In terms of where they spend their money, my research shows that the three most important categories are eating out. That probably went down a bit because of the pandemic and quarantines, but I’m pretty sure it will go back again. They really like to go out and eat or dine in restaurants rather than preparing their own food. That would be number one.
“Number two is clothing and shoes, which is extremely important. This is what is expected at this young age, when young people use fashion and beauty as a means of self-expression. Fashion is a big issue.
“The third is entertainment. If you split the dates between men and women, you get beauty as a fourth category of meaning. I think these are really the most important areas that young people spend their money on, considering that they are not ready to make big purchases. “
Managing Director: In your book, you talk about these six building blocks that lay the foundation for next-generation marketing. Tell us a little bit about these building blocks for marketing and selling to them.
HB-S: “It’s not that you have to use all of these, but you can choose what is right for your brand and what your brand wants to focus on. For some brands, it will be a purpose as Gen Z are really purpose-driven brands that reflect their values. Clarifying your brand purpose is the starting point to win the heart of this generation. But it is important to do this in a very authentic way because Gen Z has a very sensitive BS meter. It’s easy to tell when a brand is saying something they don’t really stand behind.
“The second thing is to accept diversity. As the most diverse generation, Gen Z wants to celebrate diversity in all its forms. When it comes to marketing on Gen Z, diversity and inclusion are no longer nice-to-have, but a must.
“The third building block is the connection through communities. Contrary to what many people think they are so busy with their phones and isolate themselves because they do everything from their phone, that’s only partially true because they care about themselves both at work and in daily life longing for human connection.
“The fourth building block is to personalize everything. As I said earlier, Gen Z are very individualistic and they expect a brand to recognize this when communicating with them. That means personalized products, personalized services and personalized communication. 70% of the Gen Zers I’ve researched for my book told me they felt brand communication isn’t personalized enough, which is a great opportunity.
“The fifth building block is what I call Feed the Content Beast. Generation Z grew up with instant access to information. Explorations are part of their everyday life. They expect brands to satisfy their curiosity and need for discovery through relevant and inspiring content. They don’t make any compromises. Basically, in my research, more than 50% of Generation Z said that if they don’t get the content they want, they just stop following a brand or ignore the brand completely when they scroll through social media. “
Managing Director: Well I know you have this final building block to deliver unique experiences. What does this mean for Gen Z?
HB-S: “I think unique experiences mean a lot to different people, but they expect brands to deliver authentic, memorable and shareable experiences. I think whatever you do, you have to think, “Is this experience shared? Can the person actually feel that it is interesting enough to share with others? ”I think one way to do this is to have something that keeps the audience very active. Generation Z wants that. They want to be active participants, not observers. I think this is one of the reasons TikTok became such a popular channel with this generation. Because if you think about it, you’re an observer on Instagram. You scroll through a lot of other people’s things. You can watch other people’s videos on TikTok, but the real fun is making your own and being an active participant.
“I think that’s something that is important when designing experiences, actually putting the participants at the center. Gen Z wants to be the protagonist of an experience. If you are the protagonist, if you actively participate, then they will talk about it. You will feel more emotionally connected and stand up for your brand. I have a lot of people talking to me about experiences and the role technology plays in the experiences.
“Sometimes people forget that it’s not always about technology. You can have a very low tech experience that is very engaging and with people first. To give you an example, a few years ago JetBlue had a promotion for their flights from New York to California in the middle of winter. They literally put this giant block of ice in the middle of Madison Square here in New York. There were potential prizes inside the ice cube. There were plane tickets, there were golf clubs, clothing, equipment, and so on. They asked people to come and basically break the ice and take whatever was available to them. It’s something that attracts so many people. These are the things Generation Z want to participate in. Aside from the social media buzz that came with it, there was no technology in it. But if you think about it, putting it together was so easy and puts participants at the center of the experience. You feel like you are the winner of this experience. “
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