The digital landscape is always in flux. As luxury marketers adapt to the expectations and demands of Millennials, it is also pertinent for them to be aware of the rise of Gen Z. This group, born roughly between 1995 and 2010, are the first to have grown up with smart phones, social media and apps. And it’s a big group. They stand at about 2 billion worldwide. For luxury marketers, perhaps the biggest mistake would be to assume that Gen Zers are similar to those of their Millennial predecessors. While Gen Y has been typecast as tolerant but ultimately overconfident, narcissistic and directionless, Gen Zers are seen as much more pragmatic, socially responsible and driven. Shifts in attitude also translate to differing digital behaviours. Unlike Gen Y, they increasingly reject Facebook, expect seamless digital experiences, and effortless transitions between 5 screens (3 screens for Millennials). They will become the most influential consumers for luxury brands tomorrow, and understanding how they think and what motivates them will be crucial for success.
Gen Z Takes Digital Fluency For Granted
Gen Zers take it all for granted. Before they knew how to form complex sentences, they understood how to navigate touch screens and stream online media. They are digital natives, the most fluent of us all, and they expect brands to operate at their standard.
Having been born in the digital age means that they judge brands based on how they act in the digital sphere. No matter how much history a brand has, if it operates from outdated digital platforms, offers a bad or frustrating user experience, or engages in social media in a commercial and self-aggrandizing way, Gen Zers will turn away and opt for another experience. When digital sophistication on every screen and at every touchpoint is expected and the norm, it is even more difficult for luxury brands to stand out in the digital world.
Luxury marketers need to know that in order to appeal to Gen Z, having savvy, flawless digital functionality across all channels and screens will be seen as a given. No bonus points to be found here. Instead, luxury brands will have the burden of proof to showcase authenticity and the real value of their products and services to the discerning Gen Z customer.
Gen Z Has Limitless Options But Limited Time
Gen Zers grew up with limitless options but limited time. In fact, researchers have shown that their attention span is approximately 8 seconds. However, instead of taking this finding at face value, luxury marketers need to interpret this statistic accurately.
The 8 second statistic is not so much indicative of a short attention span as it is a testament of how quickly Gen Zers can filter information as either relevant or irrelevant to them. Growing up in a world of limitless online options has shaped them to be experts at sorting through and assessing enormous amounts of information. But, don’t be mistaken. This generation prefers depth over breadth and is not shy about diving deep into a subject, a cause or, in this case, a brand, when they find that it is aligned with their interests.
Not only are Gen Zers self-filtering information, but they are also the more likely to install ad blocking software than Millennials.
For luxury marketers, the ultimate lesson to be learned here is that there is no way to forcibly impose your brand on Gen Zers. In many ways, they are a harder-to-reach audience than Millennials, preferring privacy and rejecting platforms that promote over-sharing and commercialism. They have an 8 second filter as well as adblocking technology to help them avoid unwanted and inauthentic content in the pursuit of meaning, value and information.
With a BS filter a mile wide, authenticity, but also the ability to quickly and effectively communicate that authenticity, is more important than ever for competitive survival. Luxury brands need to look at the way they portray their authenticity across all online channels and platforms and ask:
- Is the luxury brand story appealing and honest?
- Is it being told in an intuitive way?
- Is the format of the content suitable to the narrative that is being told?
In most cases, this requires more upfront planning, alignment and strategic thinking amongst all key stakeholders, including sales and creative teams.
Gen Zers Trust Curators That Portray The World Honestly
As we have discussed, Gen Zers are savvy and skeptical of anything that seems manufactured, commercial or inauthentic. They value sources that help them filter their world. Perhaps because of this, they are drawn to curators, whether it be YouTube vloggers or digital influencers that give real and honest opinions. Not surprisingly then, their preferred social media channel is YouTube, followed by Instagram and Snapchat.
In fact, 52% of Gen Zers use Youtube not only as a source of video-led entertainment, but also as a primary source of information. For instance, Youtuber Philip De Franco, who has almost 5.5 million subscribers and gives his take on global news and pop culture, racks up over one million views per video. Gen Zers make up over 40% of his viewership. Compare this with the steadily declining popularity of Facebook, a platform that’s become defined by self-promotion and paid advertising, with only 14% of Gen Z favouring engagement with this platform.
Whether its world news or luxury brands, this generation sees immense value in curators that help them shrink their option set to a more manageable size. Luxury brands should understand that traditional, branded celebrity endorsements will fall out of favor completely with this upcoming cohort of discerning digital natives.
The real opportunity is in forming genuine partnerships with curators and influencers and create content that are of value to Gen Zers. Even more so, with the growing popularity of YouTube and video platforms, luxury marketers should invest in short-form, video-led content that can be repurposed across multiple digital channels.
Gen Z Are Rebels With A Cause
Perhaps the most discerning characteristic of Generation Z from Millennials is that many see “doing good” along with social and environmental responsibility as a defining purpose for them. According to Mashable, 26% of 16 to 19 year olds volunteer on a regular basis, 60% want their jobs to impact the world and 76% are concerned about humanity’s impact on the planet.
With a vested interest in giving back, it’s expected that this generation would put a high value on brand integrity. Consequently, this places more pressure on luxury brands to do good in the world as well. Many are already finding opportunities to contribute towards a greater goal, one that is aligned with the luxury company’s ideals and values. For instance, Stella McCartney showcases their ongoing commitment to sustainability, and the latest partnership is with Parley for the Oceans, an organisation that fights marine plastic pollution through creative collaborations. The collaboration essentially involves transforming ocean garbage to high end fashion, and the Adidas by Stella McCartney collaboration is an example of Parley fashion at work.
As luxury brands prepare for the future purchasing power and influence of Gen Z, partnerships that showcase the brand’s willingness to collaboratively address social and environmental issues should be considered an integral part of brand narrative building.
Without a question, Gen Z is changing the landscape of digital luxury marketing. Their ability to filter information, inherently decipher authenticity from commercialisation, and expectation of brands to deliver exactly what they want will force luxury marketers to rethink traditional digital strategies in favour of a more collaborative, honest and transparent way of engaging this new generation of consumers.