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A young target group is entering the market

What is Gen Z really all about?

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Also known as post-millennials, digital natives and Gen Z, Generation Z’s adolescents and young adults are making their presence increasingly felt on the market. But what makes this generation tick, what motivates them and what expectations do they have of companies? Together with our interview partner and Gen Z expert Tino Reinecke from the Mediaplus digital agency in Cologne, we seek the answers to these questions.

Typical images symbolising Gen Z

From friends to social media to politics, Generation Z is all about strong values and opinions. (Photo, left: Shingi Rice, Unsplash; centre: Nathan Dumalo, Unsplash; right: Callum Shaw, Unsplash)

Gen Z: introducing the young target group

Generation Z, as it is known, is made up of adolescents and young adults born between 1996 and 2010. They were born into a digital and globally connected world. While their predecessors in Generation Y only came into contact with digital innovations such as the internet, mobile phones and social networks in their teenage years, the digital world has been a key part of life for members of Gen Z from the very beginning. They are able to pick up and use new technologies more easily and intuitively and integrate social networks into their day-to-day lives.

“Gen Z has a high affinity for mobile devices because it is the first generation to have grown up with digital technologies from childhood. Its members are cosmopolitan and realistic. Security and financial stability are key areas of focus, although they separate these concerns from leisure time, which is equally important to this generation. A large proportion of the generation is carefree and wants to achieve more,” explains Tino Reinecke.

The fact that Gen Zers want to achieve more is also reflected in what they regularly advocate in public: their political engagement in the fight against climate change. The Fridays for Future movement in particular has spread through social media to become a well-known worldwide protest campaign. Gen Z has even managed to mobilise spontaneous demonstrations in no time at all via Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and so on. Anyone who has taken part in one of these events will have recognised the significance of the interaction between Gen Z and social media, if they weren’t already aware of it.

Portrait photograph of interview partner Tino Reinecke

What’s the right way to approach the young Gen Z target group? Tino Reinecke provides fascinating insights in our interview. (Photo, left: Karsten Winegeart, Unsplash; right: Tino Reinecke)

Gen Z and its values

Gen Z’s political activism also reveals something else: its members are driven by strong values and stand up for them wholeheartedly. Many of them strive for freedom, individuality, diversity and multiculturalism, but justice and health are also deep-rooted issues in Gen Z minds. Family is an important point of reference, and friendships are highly valued.

However, this young target group not only holds strong principles itself, it also expects companies to do likewise. When asked what companies should focus on in order to gain the trust of Gen Z, Reinecke answers: “Reliability and honesty. First and foremost, brands should respond to negative feedback, reply promptly and take ideas from the community into account.”

According to Reinecke, it’s already possible to draw important conclusions about Gen Z’s consumer behaviour: “The way digital natives consume is more technology-based and sustainable, but bricks-and-mortar retail is still the number-one choice when it comes to the interior design and home decor segment. It’s important here that online and offline retail should work hand in hand, because a large percentage of the young generation looks at products in-store first before ordering them in the online shop. In addition to online reviews and peer group recommendations, fast delivery is another key factor affecting purchasing decisions. One-click payment and delivery is a basic requirement for members of this generation, and there’s little room for compromise. Since prestige is greatly valued, high-quality furniture is also preferred. Gen Z is earning more money at a younger age – and wants to spend it. Even just on Instagram, beautiful things take centre stage.”

The rising importance of online retail has been evident in the interior design industry for a few years now. Nevertheless, Reinecke’s insights highlight once again that, as generations grow up with digital technologies from an early age, it will be difficult to avoid doing business online in the future.

How can companies appeal to Gen Z?

With statistics indicating that Gen Z is less and less reachable through traditional media, such as television, radio or printed publications, online marketing is becoming an increasingly vital component of brand profiles. But what is the best way for companies to connect with the young target group? Reinecke explains: “Native ads, short and interactive content featuring music, design and testimonials foster acceptance. In addition, adverts that ‘hit the right note’ go down well with Gen Z. Examples that address problems and taboo topics stand out. Price sensitivity is not as pronounced as it is for older generations. Members of Gen Z have never had to save a lot of money, and they’ve always been well provided for by their parents and grandparents. Nevertheless, many focus on their own ideas and businesses at an early age in order to assert themselves and stand out from the crowd. Using social media to compare themselves with others is important to Gen Z.”

However, since not every company intuitively succeeds at managing social media and online advertising, Reinecke sees typical mistakes made in brand communication time and again: “Of course, a digital presence is essential if you want to reach digital natives, but dead accounts are a no-no. It’s important to communicate regularly and transparently on various online social platforms that are appropriate for the company. Another common mistake is trying to communicate with all generations in the same way. Each generation has different characteristics and values that need to be addressed. To connect with Generation Z, for example, this means releasing creative moving images rather than advertising based on static images, and taking a stand on issues of critical social importance.”

In summary, Reinecke has five points that a company should consider if it wants to approach the young Gen Z target group effectively:

  1. Social and political engagement
  2. Stand up for your principles
  3. Authentic and transparent communication
  4. Bring your brand to life across all channels and customer touchpoints
  5. Stand out from the crowd and attract attention in the jungle of brands and advertising

Do Something Great

: Brands are no exception when it comes to expectations of strong values. Transparent brands that seek to make a difference will have the upper hand in the future. (Photo: Clark Tibbs, Unsplash)

Gen Z and the future

“You should never overlook Gen Z as a customer group, even if only to avoid falling behind the times. Noticing future developments and market trends and turning them to your own company’s advantage is essential. Moreover, Generation Z already has considerable purchasing power, even though some ‘Zers’ are still receiving pocket money. From 2025 onwards, this group is set to become the largest generation of buyers and will generate about 30% of Germany’s gross income. Studies suggest that, by 2031, they will be earning more than the preceding Generation Y,” concludes Reinecke.

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