It’s always seemed a little bit presumptuous to try to encapsulate an entire generation under a label like Baby Boomers, Generation X, and, now, Generation Z.  We want to avoid the trap of gross stereotyping, especially as marketers.

But there are, of course, real differences between these groups. And how you construct an email marketing strategy to engage any of them relies on knowing those distinctions. Gen Z, naturally, is a group that’s remarkably different from everyone who’s come before.

They’re more realistic than optimistic, more independent-minded than Millennials, and also more cautious about sharing personal data.

Without further ado, let’s get to a stat blast:

  • Born between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s, Generation Z will include nearly 85 million Americans by 2020, about 24.7% of the population. Worldwide, they’ll total nearly 2.6 billion by then.
  • They already have $143 billion in buying power.
  • When they come of age, they’ll make up 40% of U.S. consumers.
  • 96% of U.S. Gen Zers own a smartphone.
  • In fact, most have never not known life without the web; 40% say working wifi is more valuable at work than working bathrooms.
  • They’ve got an average attention span of 8 seconds.

They aren’t abandoning email

One insight that should bring a smile to email marketers of every generation? Gen Zers really like email, in spite of the fact they also obsess over texting, social media, and other messaging platforms.

Still, they consider email important, too, especially as consumers; 46% of them say it’s a big factor in making their buying decisions, and they’re especially open to using email in the future. 48% see their use of email growing over time, while only 36% of Millennials and 23% of Generation Xers say the same.

58% of them check their email multiple times every day, and the same survey found that an impressive 28.5% of them had purchased something as a direct result of receiving an email.

In fact, the same survey found that while social media is their favorite way of engaging with brands, email ran a very close second, even ahead of face-to-face engagement.

Great news! Problem solved, right? Well, yes and no. They’re willing to embrace email, so long as email marketers are willing to work on their terms.

Be really, really straight with them

What matters to Gen Z consumers? Authenticity and transparency; they don’t want to be “sold” – that’s plain from their huge preference for ad blockers.

In terms of email, that means your copy has to be sincere, avoiding hyperbole and the kind of obvious shilling they’ll turn a blind eye to (or just send to spam). Be upfront and honest, and never, ever be tempted to use misleading subject lines; when you make a promise, it’s got to be kept, or they’ll hold your feet to the fire.

“Honesty is the best policy” may be an old platitude, but it holds for Generation Z like it never has before. Remember: if you violate their trust, they’ll be happy to let everybody they know hear about it.

Loyalty matters (a lot)

Many marketers are fearful that these upcoming consumers aren’t going to prove as loyal as previous generations. But it’s less about them having an innate lack of the “customer loyalty gene” as it is they’ve got a higher bar when it comes to their shopping experience. In fact, loyalty – your loyalty to them, and vice-versa – is a huge deal to Gen Z.

A bit further on, we’ll point to the fact Gen Zers expect a seamless shopping experience; they want to feel appreciated, with a customer experience, personalized messages, and offers that prove they’re valued by a marketer.

According to Accenture, 95% or so of Gen Z members want brands to “actively” court their attention (and dollars), and are most influenced by coupons sent via email or even snail mail. Channels like text messaging have their place in the mix, too, of course.

Personalize, but don’t overstep

Part and parcel of that active approached to engagement is the use personalized email campaigns that emphasize individual engagement, and your appreciation for their loyalty. Give respect, in other words, and they’ll give it right back.

But an important layer of this, says a study by IBM and the National Retail Federation? They also want individualization, where they can initiate and customize their own shopping and buying experiences.  Giving them more power to customize the content, offers, and frequency of emails they get from you can be one component of this, but it’s also about ratcheting up the relevance of every message you put in front of them.

At the same time, though, Gen Z consumers are reluctant about sharing personal data. Therefore, you’ve got to tread the line between delivering targeted messages and offers, and coming off as asking for too much personal information.  The best approach? Tell them exactly the data you’d like them to lend you, and explain precisely how you’re going to use it.

Show commitment to good causes

Email is a terrific channel for communicating commitment: Not just yours to your audience, but also to show off your commitment to good causes. That’s key with Generation Z, so much so it’s practically becoming table stakes for marketers.

Half of worldwide consumers see themselves as being belief-driven buyers, and Gen Z is likely to be even more disposed to look favorably on brands that show a commitment to making life better for others. They’ll also be willing to punish brands that don’t meet their expectations for social responsibility.

Email can be an excellent opportunity to show you’re willing to give back to the community, and it’s also a fine way to get recipients engaged in supporting those efforts.

Here’s an excellent example of that from one of the pioneers in this brand of conscientious capitalism, TOMS. Nobody else does a better job of tying their product marketing and sales pitch into the idea that a consumer can lend a direct hand in global betterment:

Go mobile or go home

If you haven’t figured this one out yet? There’s nothing else we can tell you.

Use video and other interactive tools

According to the research, they’re huge consumers of digital media, and 35% of them prefer viewing video on YouTube versus only 19% who prefer traditional TV.  In their world, video lives everywhere, and you’re a dinosaur if you’re not able to deliver it.

Embedding video in email is, therefore, practically mandatory in making your campaigns more engaging and interesting for this audience. Especially when you also realize how important seamless shopping experiences are to them.

So blurring the lines between online and inbox experiences can work in your favor, so long as it’s a smooth and consistent user experience, even for the more ardent channel-hoppers.

~ Jen

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