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The UPS Store Small Business blog
  • 16 August 2021
  • Leo Covey

Getting To Know Gen Z for Your Small Business

Gen Z. No doubt you have heard of them. Most likely you are curious about them. Just as many small businesses learned to tailor their products, services and marketing toward tapping into the rich millennial market, the same is proving true for understanding the power of Gen Z. 

two women looking at shoes

Let’s start with the facts: Gen Z are those born between 1997 and 2010, making them roughly 11 to 24 years old. They were probably raised by Gen X parents. They were the first natives born into an already digital world (and that is the first of many superlatives). They are also the most racially diverse generation, as well as the most socially aware, best educated and most culturally influential generation. Oh, and they’re also the biggest generation, clocking in at 25% of the U.S. population.

Hiding within these impressive stats is a great deal of nuance worth exploring and understanding if you plan to engage Gen Z as customers and/or members of your small business team.

Gen Z mixes values with vulnerability
No past generation has been as open about their feelings, anxieties, sexuality and social causes as Gen Z. They have done their best to destigmatize mental illness, celebrate diversity, champion social justice, and propagate a form of emotional intelligence that older generations may find downright disorienting. But make no mistake: They expect the rest of us to follow suit with safe, open spaces, opportunities for dialogue and, ultimately, change. Add this quest for radical openness to the fact that they have taken a real economic beating due to the pandemic, and you start to understand that their struggle is real and that their desire for support is authentic.

Your small business opportunity: Find ways to create a nurturing environment, especially if your employees fall into the Gen Z camp. Access to wellness tools, open discussions around their emotional and social hot button issues, mental health days — these are all ways you can provide the support that Gen Z is looking for. The more you can be an ally for them, the more loyal they will stay to you. To attract Gen Z as potential customers, as we have previously written about, take the necessary steps to create and promote a more inclusive small business.

Gen Z is redefining digital and social
Unlike the rest of us, there was no world for Gen Z in which digital and mobile tech was not a prevalent fact of life. That makes Gen Z both extremely comfortable with tech but also highly aware of its potential traps. Part of their mastery of the domain has manifested itself as a backlash against the highly polished and overly curated world that millennials have created on spaces like Instagram. For the generation that turned TikTok into a global phenomenon, Gen Z cares less about capturing a superficial snapshot of unrealistic perfection and more about getting access to deep doses of expertise to up their status within their social circles.

Your small business opportunity: Aside from getting comfortable with their platforms of choice like TikTok, understand that Gen Z uses social media for everything from sourcing stock tips on Reddit to learning step-by-step viral cooking recipes to diving deep into sneaker culture. If you are going after Gen Z, it is not about pretty pictures or meme platitudes; it is about providing them with fun, interesting, meaningful content and a sincere, values-first approach.

Gen Z is invested in the environment
Like millennials, members of Gen Z are highly engaged (and quite anxious) about issues related to the environment, climate and sustainability. According to a 2019 white paper from First Insight, 73% of Gen Z claims they’d be willing to pay more for sustainable products, with 54% saying they’d pay more than 10% extra.

Your small business opportunity: Be transparent about your environmental footprint. Look for more sustainable products and vendors. Make environmentally smarter choices (including donations to green causes), and then celebrate them. If Gen Z is indeed a customer base you are interested in, the data says they will pay a premium for more sustainable choices.

Gen Z shops differently
If millennials helped to power the engine of e-commerce, then Gen Z has one-upped them and sparked social commerce. Ninety seven percent of Gen Z consumers say they now use social media as their top source of shopping inspiration. Within these social shopping aisles, Gen Z has access to valuable recommendations from friends and influencers, deep dives into product content they can research, and increasingly easy in-app checkout features. But not all social commerce content is created equal — especially when you have a segment of the population that needs eight seconds or less to decide whether they want to engage.

Your small business opportunity: Transform your social media from a marketing channel into a sales engine. Get comfortable with the basics of social commerce, which can differ from app to app. Finally, understand that Gen Z has a focused eye for accuracy, does oodles of homework in terms of reading reviews and makes highly educated decisions before they click “buy now.” Invest in a content strategy that allows Gen Z to feel like they are making smart decisions, and you will see the dollar signs follow.

Unfortunately, there is no way you can take 60 million people and distill them down into a single blog post! Nor can any blog capture all there is to learn. It will be up to you as a small business owner to forge your own relationships, earn your own insights and divine your own future successes with Gen Z.

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