The Gist

  • Diverse demographics. Gen Z is the most ethnically diverse and digitally native generation.
  • Visual engagement. Gen Zers strongly respond to visual content, particularly videos.
  • Authentic experiences. Gen Z values truth, transparency and social consciousness.

Generation Z, the group of people born between 1997 and 2012, is the largest and most diverse generation in history. They are also the most digitally savvy and socially conscious consumers, with high expectations and a low tolerance for poor customer experiences. To succeed in a competitive and fast-changing market, brands need to understand how to tailor their customer experience strategies for this influential and demanding group. This article will explore the ways that businesses are crafting the customer experience to appeal to Gen Z.

How Are Gen Zers Different From Other Generations?

Among all of the generations that exist today, Generation Z is unique in many ways. According to a 2023 Statista report, Gen Z is more racially and ethnically diverse than other generations, with over 50% identifying as being of two or more races. They are also considered to be more accepting of different types of people and their beliefs and are more likely to identify as either transgender or nonbinary. Gen Zers are considered to be highly innovative and adaptable and are unafraid to challenge the status quo.

Gen Zers have a collaborative nature and tend to have a pragmatic attitude when it comes to issues such as global warming. They are also more open to new ideas and approaches than other generations. Gen Z is considered to be the first digitally native generation, as its members have had access to the internet, cell phones, game consoles and other technology for their entire lives. As such, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Twilio’s recent State of Personalization report revealed that 34% of Gen Zers already expect AI to be used in their experiences with brands.

More importantly to marketers and advertisers, Gen Z has been constantly exposed to brands due to technology and the internet, as opposed to previous generations who typically encountered brands through TV, newspapers or magazines.

Liron Reznik, executive strategy director at frog, part of Capgemini Invent, a digital innovation, consulting and transformation brand, told CMSWire that the first thing to understand when it comes to relationship-building with Gen Z is that they already wield $360 billion in disposable income in the US and $4.4 trillion worldwide. "The oldest Gen Zers are turning 24 this year. As this generation ages and moves into careers, their spending power will only grow — and their brand loyalties are being formed now," said Reznik.

Reznik said that because Gen Z is so different from preceding generations — in terms of diversity, insistence on authenticity and fluency in digital experiences — connecting with them offers businesses the opportunity to modernize their brand stories and experiences, or build them from the ground up to speak to Gen Z.

Related Article: Do Your Brand's Values Align With Those of Gen Z?

1. Make It Visually Appealing

Gen Z is especially responsive to visual content, particularly video. According to a Global 2020 Cloudinary UGC Study, 70% of Gen Z find images and videos to be very useful when making purchasing decisions. A December 2022 report by InsiderIntelligence indicated that Gen Zers in the United States spend over 13 hours a week watching TikTok videos and other user-generated content and 16.5 hours a week watching TV. 

A 2022 Los Angeles Times article revealed that Gen Z's viewing habits change according to the time of day. An average Gen Zer begins their day by scrolling through TikTok and Instagram Reels. Around noon, they transition to YouTube, and once the night rolls in, they switch to Netflix, Prime or Hulu.

Given Gen Z’s media preferences, video is an effective way to quickly and creatively communicate, as well as to showcase a brand’s personality and values. Video can be effectively used to tell stories, demonstrate products, share testimonials and engage with a brand’s audience on their preferred social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.

Related Article: Why Ecommerce Needs to Evolve for Gen Z

2. Make It Omnichannel

Gen Z expects a consistent and seamless experience across all of a brand’s channels, both online and offline. They want to be able to access information, browse products, make purchases and get support whenever and wherever they wish. Brands should provide multiple options for interaction, such as websites, apps, chatbots, voice assistants, social media, email, SMS, phone calls and physical stores. All of these channels should be consistent, integrated and synchronized so that customers are able to switch between them without any hassle or friction.

Additionally, by providing Gen Zers with multiple channels with which to communicate and interact with a brand, they will have more opportunities to be their unique selves. Reznik suggested that brands give Gen Z the tools for multifaceted self-presentation — Gen Z consumers want to project different facets of themselves, and the traditional boundaries defining identities in past generations are blurrier now. 

Learning Opportunities

“Consider that 41% of Gen Z say they identify as neutral on the spectrum of masculinity and femininity, and one in three say their most authentic self is their online identity,” said Reznik. “Those numbers help illustrate why this generation doesn’t consistently follow a single traditional young-adult aesthetic. Brands that help them express different facets of their identities are likely to earn their loyalty.” Reznik said that this is an area where legacy brands can experiment.

3. Make It Authentic

Gen-Z seeks truth and transparency from brands. They care about social and environmental issues and want to support brands that share their values and make a positive impact. Gen Zers are unlikely to do business with a brand that does not live the values and ethics that it espouses. They are also very likely to research a company to see if it has been walking the walk, and not just talking the talk. Brands should be prepared to regularly show them how they are contributing to the causes they care about, such as sustainability, diversity, inclusion, human rights and animal welfare. 

When brands use social media to reach Gen Z, they should engage them in meaningful conversations and solicit their feedback and opinions, be honest and humble about their strengths and weaknesses, and admit their mistakes and failures. Additionally, brands should avoid using exaggerated or misleading claims or promises that they cannot deliver. It’s always better to underpromise and overdeliver than to overpromise and fail to live up to expectations.

Will Yang, head of growth and customer success at Instrumentl, an all-in-one grants platform, told CMSWire that Gen Z is a generation that values authenticity and transparency, so it’s important to emphasize these qualities as part of your customer experience. "Be honest about what you are offering and don’t make false promises — this will help build trust with them."

4. Make It Frictionless, Convenient and Smooth

Although it has been said that Gen Z has a short attention span of around 8 seconds, according to a 2022 McKinsey report, this is a myth that is regularly being disproven. Gen Zers do prefer shorter content, which is less about short attention spans and more about being particular about where they spend their time. 

Gen Zers want quick-and-easy solutions to their problems and needs. Brands should provide them with fast and reliable customer service, preferably through texting or chatbots, which are their preferred communication methods. Brands should leverage generative AI and automation to streamline their processes and optimize their response time. Self-service options and FAQs should be available to enable them to locate answers and solve problems themselves, allowing them to control their own narrative. Additionally, brands should anticipate their needs and preferences, and provide personalized recommendations and offers.

Kashif Naqshbandi, CMO at Tenth Revolution Group, a cloud talent solutions provider, told CMSWire that as the first generation to have grown up entirely in the digital age, Gen Z would be more likely to have higher expectations when it comes to a frictionless customer experience. "Where older age groups might be more patient when it comes to any CX difficulties, Gen Z could be less tolerant of clunky transitions or irrelevant pathways, for example,” said Naqshbandi. 

Gen Z is the most likely generation to be able to handle any technical difficulties that might occur on a website or mobile app. “Gen Z might actually be the best positioned to be able to navigate those difficulties as they arise,” said Naqshbandi. That said, they are also apt to be the first to leave when such pain points present themselves

Final Thoughts on Gen Z and Customer Experience

Brands that wish to tailor the customer experience for Gen Z customers must prioritize authenticity, seamless omnichannel experiences, visually engaging content and frictionless interactions. By understanding and catering to the unique characteristics of this diverse and digitally native generation, brands can build meaningful relationships and brand loyalty with what is arguably the largest and most influential consumer group today.