Marketers Beware: Gen Z and Millennials aren’t so similar after all. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but for all the brands out there who have been told that Gen Z are millennials on steroids, you’ve been fed #FakeNews. It’s time for the marketers who have simply been lumping the two “digital” generations together to learn the difference between them, which in turn will ultimately lead to a major difference in your marketing returns.
Dear Retailers, When I was in middle school, the only way I realized that something was trendy was if Teen Vogue was writing about it or if Kim Kardashian (pre-72 day marriage) was wearing it. When it came time to go shopping I had to find something that resembled what I’d seen a year ago on TV. It was a pyrrhic victory. Not all size fours are created equal and even if I did find something that fit, it was definitely out of my price range. That outfit, or a great knock-off, was finally acquired and shortly went out of fashion after. In-store retail was a boring maze of racks, and online shopping was a confusing mess. Store layouts weren’t fun enough to engage me, and the lack of online reviews made me want to give up all together. Shopping was time consuming, disconnected and an expensive hobby. Ten years later – the game has only *kind of* changed. Here’s why:
It doesn't seem to matter how blue-chip your e-commerce platform may be — or how much of a household name your brand is among previous generations. Lots of brands have an "it's complicated" status with Gen Z. If you're one such company, you're in good company. Take eBay for instance. eBay is a far cry from 1995, when — so legend has it — the e-commerce giant sold its very first item online: a broken laser pointer for $14.83. Today’s eBay ranks at 172 among the world’s Fortune 500 companies and has a net revenue of nearly $9.6 billion. Its extant first-party data is the envy of most other e-commerce platforms. Year after year, its machine-learning algorithms manage to captivate and retain the long-term loyalty of millions of buyers and sellers worldwide.
Marketers and thought leaders have this odd fixation on proclaiming things “dead.” Every few months or so, we get a summary report that a particular technology, marketing strategy or consumer mindset is now outdated (usually as of last night) and become one with the dinosaurs and Elvises. We’re bombarded with reports about the “death” of programmatic advertising (when in fact there might not be anything of substance to take its place).
Ecommerce tends to take its triumphs a little for granted these days. There’s talk of how the “Amazon Effect” has upended the traditional “offline” customer journey, rendering it obsolete. There’s the implicit notion that a customer will no longer just mosey over to their favorite store, pick out a shirt they like, try it on in the fitting room, wait in line to buy it and then purchase it from an actual, live salesperson — certainly not in a world with 100 million loyal Amazon Prime members and counting.
As Seth Godin once put it, “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” But with the rapid rise of online coupon and discount affiliate marketing programs to drive ecommerce, the conversation around “what it means” to be a brand is shifting - and not necessarily for the better.