Complex and savvy: This is the potential of Gen Z consumers

Inclusivity, engagement and cultural creativity - A new generation demands radical change

By Gen Z expert Hana Ben-Shabat

Source copyright by Freepik

Author: House of Eden

In her book "Gen Z 360", Hana Ben-Shabat describes the unique characteristics of Generation Z as culture creators, employees, and consumers. The author digs deeper into the “why” and describes motivations and implications. From recruiting to training and integration to marketing products and services for this hardworking and hungry generation. With us, Hana explains what the needs of this striving, climate-conscious generation are, what makes them special and how companies can adapt to navigate through this change.

Hana Ben Shabat

GenZ 360

This is the Generation Z

Gen Z is anyone born between 1998 and 2016. YThey were born into a digital world. They have never known a world without a search engine, cell phone, or social media, and they grew up amidst constant economic, social, and political changes that have shaped their views and values. The combined effect of the two - technology and values - is creating a new set of norms and behaviors that make Generation Z unique and unlike any generation before them. In the United States, Gen Z has another dimension that add to this uniqueness. They are the most diverse generation with 48% being minorities.

Gen Z influence culture and society through three key elements:

  • Radical inclusivity: Gen Z expects the world around them to respect diversity and accept people for who they are. Gen Zers bring these expectations to the workplace and to their relationships with brands. Inclusivity is non-negotiable.
  • Engagement: Willingness to challenge authority and question the status quo is how Gen Z rolls. From racial justice to climate change to gender equality, Gen Z is driving the conversation, launching movements and raising awareness for issues they care about.
  • Cultural creativity: Growing up with technology, this generation is launching a new wave of cultural creation. Gen Z doesn’t want to simply be “an audience,” or just “a consumer” of culture; they want to be the “producers-users.” This is one aspect that makes them vastly different from previous generations.

Just as important is the so called “trickle-up” of the culture they create. As they adopt new tools and ideas, their thinking and behaviors are spreading and being adopted by older generations. This is another reason why it is so important to understand who they are and how they think and behave.

For the retail sector, Gen Z consumers are complex and savvy

Gen Z consumers are complex, savvy, and have high expectations from brands and retailers: they value authenticity and expect brands to be authentic and transparent about who they are. They consume consciously and reward purpose-driven brands (think Unilever and their sustainability efforts), or brands that take a stance on issues they care about (think Nike). They are individualistic and are looking for brands to help them enhance their “personal brand”.

Yet, their focus on “Me” is not at the expense of “We”. Gen Zers care about the collective and the community. They want to see diversity in products and advertising, and they are interested in joining brand communities where they can be heard and contribute. When it comes to shopping, Gen Z doesn’t think “online” vs. “stores”; for them there is only one retail — which they access through various touchpoints, requiring retailers and brands to deliver a consistent experience across those touchpoints.

For Gen Z Social Media is the number one place for Gen Z to discover new products and brands. 90% of Generation Z discover on social media, compared to 80% of Millennials and 54% of Generation X.


6 Implications for Next Generation Marketing

The most important aspect of marketing to Gen Z is to maintain a human-centric approach. “Think human” is the common thread across the six building blocks, as each one of them caters to a core human need. Together they reflect Gen Z’s desire for community and connection, self-expression, independent discovery, and higher purpose. The six are:

1. Have a purpose

Gen Zers gravitate toward purpose-driven brands that reflect their values. Clarifying brand purpose is the starting point in winning the hearts and minds of Gen Z.

2. Embrace diversity

Being the most diverse generation, Gen Z wants to celebrate diversity in all its forms. When marketing to Gen Z, diversity and inclusion are no longer “nice to have” but are “must-haves.” Around 60% of Gen Z say they “never” or “rarely” see themselves in advertising. This is a big opportunity for brands.

3. Connect through communities

Gen Z craves human connection at work and at play – a need that plays an important role in their adoption of online communities and in their willingness to engage with brands. Forming a Gen Z community either to garner feedback or to co-create with Gen Z is one of the most powerful tools available to brands who want to win the next generation.

4. Personalize (everything)

Targeting very individualistic consumers means providing personalized products, services and communication. 70% of Gen Z are of the opinion that brand communication is not sufficiently personalized and increasingly expect brands to “show me that they know me”. A personalized experience gives them the feeling of being valued and at the same time supports their striving for individuality.

5. Feed the (content) beast

Gen Z grew up with instant access to information. Exploration is part of their everyday lives, and they expect brands to satisfy their curiosity and need for discovery through relevant and inspiring content. From brand stories to educational and destination content, there are plenty of ways to cater to this need.

6. Offer unique experiences

Gen Zers expect brands to deliver experiences that are authentic, cool, memorable, and shareable. They want to be active participants rather than passive observers. Active participation is the basis for a stronger emotional connection with the brand, positive impression, and amplification.

Why sustainability plays an important role for Gen Z

Gen Z is inheriting a world that was environmentally damaged by previous generations. They are acutely aware of the “ticking clock” of climate change and they are committed to actively call out leaders and institutions to speed up the efforts to improve climate conditions as well as to personally contribute to the effort through consumption of green products and other sustainability actions. The activist mentality is a direct result of their high exposure to world issues and their willingness to challenge and question “why we have not made much progress?“.

For many of them in particular, what companies do for the environment or other social causes is an important factor when choosing an employer. Sarah, a Gen Zer I interviewed for my book, told me, “I want to work for a company that tries to do something good in the world or in society and also makes a profit. A company that employs people from different backgrounds and with different views. I will not accept job offers from companies that do not meet these criteria, even if they are well paid. I will feel a better person if I do what I believe in. ”Companies that want to hire and retain the best talent must take their purpose seriously.

Democratization, luxury and status symbol

I don’t think that they move away from consumption or status symbols, but they do consume more consciously. They love to buy luxury item from re-sell brands like the Real Real or Depop. They care about how products are made and about the materials they made of and most importantly they want to be associated with luxury brands that care about, social currency is as important as it always been but the currency is different.

Bottom line - stop myths and listen more

As with previous generations, we risk creating myths to simplify a complex subject. This has happened before. Remember how millennials were labeled “right and lazy” when they just had different values ​​and behaviors that were difficult for previous generations to grasp? No generation is completely homogeneous, and we must weigh between identifying general issues that represent a generation without losing sight of the fact that we can only make rough statements if we really take the time to understand them to understand. Brands that do this are sure to benefit and find that they cannot generalize. You can find more information at Gen Z planet.


Always informed about the latest lifestyle trends, architecture, design & interior, as well as current technologies around sustainability.

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Hana Ben Shabat

Hana Ben Shabat

As the founder of Gen Z Planet, Hana Ben-Shabat is an expert on this socially conscious and rebellious generation. She offers companies the know-how to effectively interact with this new generation, that actively defies convention and challenges authorities. Previously, she was a partner and board member of global management consultancy Kearney, where she led the company's Global Consumer Institute and advised C-level executives in the retail and consumer goods industries on everything from corporate strategy to organizational effectiveness. 

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