Much like millennials before them, the Gen-Z demographic – born between 1995 and 2010 – has been a particularly tough one to crack for fashion marketers.
According to the 2019 Retailer Playbook, which surveyed 200 senior marketers at major retailers, only 5% of respondents said they would focus on Gen-Z shoppers in 2019, while 60% said their marketing would be targeted towards millennials. Disruptive, fast-growing fashion brands, such as ASOS, Boohoo and Missguided, have meanwhile led the way to successfully engaging Gen-Z shoppers.
As they will come to constitute the consumers of tomorrow, building trust with Gen-Z’s is crucial and that means understanding them, their environment and how their experiences will help to shape their lives.
As a generation that has spent their formative years in the economic downturn, their shopping habits are sharply different to those of millennials. They are accustomed to online shopping and their ability to navigate the digital landscape, coupled with their thrifty mindset, has created an army of deal hunters for whom online word-of-mouth matters greatly.
They are the first true digital natives, having been exposed to the internet, social networks and mobile systems from their earliest youths and for whom the virtual and offline are one and the same. This context has produced a hypercognitive generation, one that is comfortable with collecting and cross-referencing several sources of information, propelled by the unlimited research available at their fingertips.
Gen-Z’s are concerned with making a positive difference and humanity’s impact on the planet. They mobilise themselves for a variety of causes and believe profoundly in the efficacy of dialogue to solve conflicts and improve the world. They make decisions and relate to institutions in a highly analytical and pragmatic way.
Online fashion aimed at young women is currently the sweet spot in a tough market, thanks to low prices that keep wardrobe updates within reach of even the tightest budgets. According to a Business Insider survey of more than 1,800 Gen-Z respondents, the primary motivator when deciding where to shop is price.
Since this generation documents most of their lives on social media, they feel the pressure to keep up with the latest trends, some even posting on a daily basis. They want to be able to flick through a digital wardrobe packed with thousands of items while they’re out and about. This is precisely why they are an important demographic, as they shop more.
That being said, one of their distinguishing features is their desire for authenticity. Gen Z’s dislike being sold to. Fast growing fashion brands have combatted this by creating a constant stream of content that isn’t about the product itself, but rather how it is embedded into everyday life, ranging from dressing Love Island contestants in their brand, memes, quizzes, or even creating fashion lines with the latest influencer.
This drive for authenticity has seen emerging brands, such as Missguided speak to Gen Z in a much more frank and direct way. They speak to the demographic as if it is all about them. Gen-Z’s, after all, know all too well that it is they that influence brands, not the other way around.
Maintaining a balance between being unique and saving money is a defining trait of this generation.
Hence, the importance of live experiences. Gen-Z’s don’t distinguish between online and offline but crave experiences, precisely because they favour memories as opposed to owning material goods.
Experiential marketing is therefore the perfect component to generate brand awareness, and get the audience sharing their experience. Moreover, it enables the brand to become a part of the conversation in a relevant manner, immersing the audience and making them a part of the process, rather than the value produced by the product or service alone.
Fashion then needs a two-track model: the first for scale and mass consumption, the second for customisation, catering to specific groups of consumers or to the most loyal customers. Experiences can facilitate the latter.
One needn’t look further than Missguided’s Hangover Club to see this in action. Pop ups like these create novelty and as they are temporary feel more exclusive, drawing crowds in. By giving free burgers to hangover students alongside a sample sale, the brand added value to the consumers’ day, recognising a time they could help them and in turn positioning themselves as adding value to their lives.
Boohoo’s donut dispenser, saw the brand create the opportunity for people to win up to 10k, a small possibility, but with a free donut as a minimum prize. Experiences like these signal to Gen-Z’s that brands value them, as well as acting as a social currency that buys them influence online, transforming each consumer into an active micro-influencer. This is perfectly aligned with their desire to walk away from an experience with something – whether that’s a free burger or content for their Instagram.
Every experience created for this demographic should be enveloped with music.
Music plays a pivotal role in Gen-Z’s lives, given that they average four hours a day listening. 94% cite music as “important” to their lives according to a report from media company Sweety High. Surveying over 500 females between the ages 13-22, the report also found that 92% of respondents believe music impacts their mood, while 45% said their favourite artists influencer their personal style.
Vogue Business similarly unveiled that musicians are Gen Z’s primary influence, while a recent HYPEBEAST streetwear report found that musicians are considered the most credible people in the industry. Whether it is musicians fronting ad campaigns, or actually designing their own clothes in collaboration with brands, there has long been a natural link between the two industries.
Brands need to build an authentic connection between the two, especially as this generation are conscious of their own online reputations and will not wear anything that may reflect negatively on them. Controversy turns them off brands and as their opinions are everywhere online, the impact of negative brand association stretches beyond them as individuals.
As Gen-Z’s have also grown tired of the typical promotion push propelled by either celebrities or Instagram influencers, employees are increasingly becoming great brand ambassadors in and of themselves. The Head of Marketing at Missguided is a rock star to shoppers that consume the brand’s social content every day – brands wishing to engage this demographic should not fear away from putting their employees right, front and centre.
Don’t fall into the loyalty trap. An obsession with price instantly makes this generation less loyal to brands, a nearly impossible feat in itself. Brands need to work extra hard to earn their trust, and their focus needs to be on authenticity.
Largely made sceptical by their ability to verify almost anything online, Gen-Z’s value transparency and authenticity in the brands they shop from above all else. Brands that embrace these values will thrive with this demographic.