Gen Z customers: SMEs to adopt new approach to marketing

Currently, all eyes are on Generation Z, individuals born between 1997 and 2012, the next generation of consumers. Image, Supplied.

Currently, all eyes are on Generation Z, individuals born between 1997 and 2012, the next generation of consumers. Image, Supplied.

Published Jul 3, 2022


Segmenting target markets by generational cohorts can enable marketers to leverage each generation’s inherent traits and buying behaviour.

Currently, all eyes are on Generation Z – individuals born between 1997 and 2012 – the next generation of consumers, who like their predecessors have unique shopping habits and purchasing power.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) who want to reach this emerging group of consumers need to “think digital” and tap into the value-driven approach to marketing that speaks to how Gen Zers think and make decisions.

This is the opinion of Gugu Mjadu, Executive General Manager: Marketing at Business Partners Limited, who references the fact that Gen Zers are the world’s first group of ‘digital natives,’ and do not know a world without the internet and digital technology.

“Gen Z is one of the major driving forces behind the e-commerce boom both locally and abroad. To reach them, SMEs need to hone their focus on digital marketing strategies.”

Keep it online

According to a recent report by online payment gateway, PayFast, Gen Zs are the fastest-growing group of online shoppers in South Africa.

As the research shows, the online spending of consumers between the ages of 18 and 24 has increased by 218% year-on-year. With the accelerated move of retailers into the online space during the pandemic years, South Africa’s ‘e-commerce boom’ was an inevitability.

However, SMEs need to take a slightly more nuanced approach to e-commerce than they may have in previous years.

Commenting on this trend, Mjadu asserts that, “With the integration of shopping functionality into social media platforms, e-commerce for Gen Zs has become ‘social commerce.’ What we once thought of as ‘word-of-mouth marketing’ is now playing out increasingly online. Essentially this means that user-generated content is the next frontier for marketing.”

This trend is evidenced by the omnipresence of #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, a hashtag with a growing following of over 4.1 billion views.

TikTok users (60% of whom are Gen Zers), use the hashtag as a way of showcasing items they have bought after seeing those items endorsed by celebrities, influencers and their peers.

A prime example of this are Amazon’s R350 leggings worn by American artist, Lizzo in a TikTok dance challenge, which went viral shortly after the video was aired.

Focus on ‘community’ rather than just content

Traditional advertising and marketing tactics miss the mark when it comes to talking the language of Gen Z.

Where before, marketers focused on communicating a message as a means of customer conversion, Gen Zs demand more.

“In line with the way that the new wave of consumers thinks about themselves, their peers and the world, SMEs need to make the transition from ‘content’ to community. They need to focus less on simply communicating a message and more on engagement. This will have a considerable effect on the metrics that small businesses and marketers use to measure return on investment and the data they consult when assessing the efficacy of their marketing strategies.”

Make your message bite-sized

It has been estimated that the average attention span of Gen Z consumers is eight seconds – a fact that has far-reaching implications for how marketers craft their messages.

As the proliferation of platforms such as TikTok has proven, video content is one of the most effective ways to reach a generation that lives, plays and shops online.

According to the most recent statistics, 61% of Gen Z online users prefer to watch videos of one minute or less on their mobile devices, several times a day.

For Mjadu, this provides a key insight into the fact that when marketing to Gen Zers, businesses need to keep their content ‘snackable’.

“What you say as a marketer in just a few seconds needs to add real value by providing information, inspiration and entertainment.”

Go for green

Gen Zers have also been born into a world in which issues like climate change and environmental degradation are of global concern.

A study by Deloitte indicates that this generation believes the world to be at a tipping point in terms of several environmental and social justice issues, and are calling the business world to account.

When making buying decisions, Gen Zers therefore consider the values and principles upheld by the brands they support.

Concluding her advice for SMEs, Mjadu urges SMEs to not only review their practices and methods according to national and global sustainability goals, but to be transparent about their efforts.

“Gen Zers are a generation of earth and social activists, with a keen eye for greenwashing and inauthenticity. Businesses therefore need to demonstrate how strong moral values translate into how goods and services are produced and distributed is a key selling point.”