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Is Gen Z killing segmentation as we know it?

by Jacqi Levy
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    Mind your Ps when marketing to Gen Zs

    Many marketers still live by the four Ps of marketing: price, product place and promotion. But those who market to Gen Zs need to add another fundamental P...

    Gen Zs pride themselves on their individuality, and they have a very fluid definition of self. They don't define themselves by tidy demographic segments, and as a marketer, you shouldn't either.


    The phrase “identity crisis” is practically synonymous with young adulthood. Over the course of decades, iconic teen movies from The Breakfast Club to Dazed and Confused to Superbad have all paid homage to this idea of struggling with and finding one’s own identity.

    In stark contrast, however, it seems that Generation Z is having a “non-identity crisis”.

    As we’ve blogged about before (well...we pretty much blog about this all the time), Gen Z is a generation with nuances and quirks unto itself. For brands marketing to Gen Z, understanding the preferences of this group of young consumers is a step in the right direction. But if you think of Gen Z as a generational cohort without digging deeper, you’re doing yourself a great disservice.

    For Gen Zs, there is more than one way to “be yourself”

    Gen Z is the most diverse generation in history. Individuality is very important to this group of young people, and they don’t want to be stereotyped. This means that inside this very large cohort of consumers, there are many smaller groups with equally diverse opinions, preferences and behaviors.

    Complicating things further for marketers is Gen Zs very fluid definition of self. Zs don’t see themselves as binaries. They are not defined by typical demographic characteristics, such as gender and race. And they don’t want you to define them by these characteristics, either.

    What’s more, Zs expect their definitions of self to evolve over time. These “identity nomads” are constantly experimenting with different ways to be themselves, and they expect that their views on everything from politics to their own gender identification will change as they grow.

    This fluid context makes it increasingly unsustainable to segment Gen Zs by demographic characteristics. And besides, that’s not how they want to be marketed to, anyway. Here are some alternative ways to think about segmenting your Zs.

    Behavioral or needs-based segmentation

    Zs want you to see them in all their nuances. Understanding Gen Z is a start, but it’s even more important to understand what your Gen Z customer wants, thinks and needs. When you commit to understanding Gen Z with deep research and insights, you may be surprised what you find out.

    As a case in point, Deloitte’s cross-generational analysis of segments based on media consumption habits found commonalities across generations that crushed many stereotypes. For example, although Gen Z tends to favor streaming services over traditional TV, “Power Streamers” were actually more likely to be Gen Xers. And Zs were just as likely to be “Hybrid Adopters”, consuming a mix of streaming and traditional TV.

    This analysis shows that behavioral preferences don’t always have demographic boundaries. By looking deeper at your Gen Z customers’ needs and behaviors, you can develop a more finely tuned marketing plan that gets at the heart of what they want and how they want to connect with you. In short, it pays to know your audience.

    Segment of one

    Having grown up with the internet at their fingertips, Gen Zs are hyper-aware of the data trail their online behavior leaves behind. So if they give you access to their data, they expect you to use it. In fact, Gen Zs expect highly personalized, engaging experiences as the norm—not a nice-to-have. Almost half of Gen Zs say they’ll stop using websites that don’t predict what they like, need or want.

    Still, personalization is easy to talk about, but very difficult to get right. Zs are not asking to be retargeted with ads at every turn. (In fact, this is transparently self-serving for the retailer, and can become creepy when overdone.)

    Gen Z’s idea of personalization is about the subtle aspects of the shopping experience that add value; for example, let Zs pick up their shopping session where they left off or personalize site navigation so it’s easier for Zs to access what they browse most. In short, treat your personalized marketing like a helping hand, not a stranger that follows you home.

    The future of Gen Z segmentation

    Demographic segmentation had its heyday in a time when it was much more difficult to collect data on the more nuanced aspects of customer needs. Today, you’ve got a trove of data at your fingertips. If you want to crush your Gen Z marketing, you’ve gotta truly get to know your Zs.

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