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How can brands best connect with Gen Zers? By connecting them with their futures.

For millions of Gen Zers studying at college, a well-priced offer means the difference between affording - or not affording - a new computer, nice clothing, memorable nights out on the town, or a plane ticket home. Students love to save on what they buy - and marketers know it. A quick journey to any corner of the internet will reveal a near-endless supply of coupons, discounts and one-time sales events geared specifically towards students.

And as any marketer who’s been in the business for 30 minutes can readily tell you, lower prices mean a greater chance of attracting a larger number of shoppers -- and a higher potential for driving sales volumes.

No one understands this tactic better than the mobile- and app-savvy shoppers of Generation Z.

Marketers of the world, meet Generation Z, sometimes referred to as Generation Thrift. Generation Z is out there shopping for savings - not necessarily just for brands. In short, they’re doing pretty much everything your grandparents told you to do (advice that you, as a Millennial or Gen Xer, probably ignored). But while scrimping and saving are commendable virtues in and of themselves, they’re not quite the engines that drive global economies -- or keep brands alive.

It may seem hard to imagine, but it’s fast becoming the new reality of the digital economy. Generation Z already has $143B in purchasing power in the United States alone. Those aren’t table-scraps, and that figure is only going to climb with each passing year. Retailers, restaurants and experience providers who aren’t cultivating brand loyalty with today’s high schoolers and college kids are flirting with the stuff of retail apocalypse.

So, how to get Gen Zers out of the ruthless habit of couponing everything in plain sight - and get them back on track to brand loyalty?

One way is to look at brand loyalty programs that are working already with college students -- and start playing by their rules.

For a company engaging Gen Zers the right way, look no further than Amazon - and its Amazon Student Prime program. Not only does Student Prime let students save on items ranging from clothing to electronics to school supplies, it also gives them access to hundreds of thousands of Kindle eBooks as well as low-priced groceries - the basic necessities and amenities for finishing college.

But that isn’t everything Amazon Student Prime is getting right. Study after study after study shows how Generation Zers value prompt delivery above almost any other nicety. Student Prime’s got them covered on that front. By offering free two-hour delivery (and discounted one-hour delivery) from thousands of stores in a select number of cities, Amazon appeals directly to Generation Z’s need for quick service - and shows them the long-term value of doing business with its brand.

Furthermore, with its University Recruiting program, Amazon offers students the chance of an internship or full-time employment. What college student isn’t studying up on how best to get a job -- and at a global tech company, no less? A study by Talent Economy shows that 75 percent of Gen Zers “are interested in a situation in which they have multiple roles within one place of employment.” The same study finds that 91 percent of Gen Zers believe “technological sophistication would impact their interest in working at a company.” By having students buy from Amazon, Amazon is raising the real possibility of having them work at Amazon.

Here’s a lesson marketers shouldn’t ever take for granted: When it comes to Gen Z, your brand strategy and your hiring strategy can complement each other. Gen Zers aren’t looking for specific brands. They’re looking for brands that let them accomplish specific goals - whether for the short term or lifelong. Don’t be the brand that saves them pocket change on their next purchase. Everyone’s been there and done that. No, be the brand that sets Gen Zers up to achieve lifelong success.

In other words, Amazon isn’t just doling out coupons to college kids. They know Gen Z seeks brands who give back. They’re actively seeking to invest in an entire generation’s future by providing them with Amazon-furnished services, products and perks that can set them up for success.

Whether they’re studying in Shanghai, Sheffield or Sheboygan, it’s hard for Generation Z to ignore in-store signs and online banners that proclaim “50% Off” the price of life’s essentials. That’s simply the nature of being a consumer in today’s ad-drenched world.

But for brands to stand above and beyond that - for those looking to gain the lasting loyalty of Gen Zers - there’s no better way than by investing in their personal well-being. A viable future and the kickstart to a career makes for the ultimate consumer rewards program. There’s no coupon in the world that beats that offer. 

John Wheeler
John Wheeler
Managing Editor, Gen Z Insights

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