The eldest Gen Z, the generational cohort following millennials, will turn 22 this year. Like all generational cohorts, they have attributes unique from those before them, but Gen Z does have a first: They’re true digital-natives. They have never known a world without the internet, smartphones, social media and Amazon.
This means they instinctively know how to use their phones to find information, search for products, interact with others, and check their email. In fact, 83% expect to increase or maintain their email usage over the next five years.
If Gen Z makes up part of your target audience, you need to know how to effectively market to them on all channels, including email.
Sixty-one percent of Gen Z use smartphones five or more hours each day, and 35% use them between 1-4 hours a day. So being mobile-first is a must! This could mean a lot of different things, but to keep it simple, avoid creating a need to side-scroll and pinch-and-zoom messages, and create clear calls-to-action (CTA).
Your messages should not only be mobile-friendly, but also visually appealing. With the top social channels for Gen Z being image-first, your emails should follow suit. Expecting subscribers to read paragraphs of text is a surefire way to get your emails deleted, or maybe worse, ignored.
Social Media and Social Proof
Social Media: Gen Z trusts social media, so if they can’t find you on social media, they are going to be less trusting of you.
When it comes to media influence, 53% of Gen Z say comments on social media, compared to internet or TV ads, have the most influence on a purchase.
Finding ways to incorporate social media into your emails can help build trust and engagement. Here are a few ways to incorporate social into your email marketing:
Ask them to share. Instead of sending an email asking subscribers to follow your brand, ask them to share their photos of your product using a designated hashtag.
This will allow you to showcase your customers, build user generated content (UGC), increase engagement, and expand your reach. You can include a secondary or tertiary section in each email that constantly promotes content sharing.
Showcase most “liked” products in posts. Look no further than your social sites for the most liked images or videos. If your pale-green sweater has more likes than other social posts, highlight the sweater post, along with the like-count, inside your emails.
Your consumers are telling you what they like. Listen to them.
Use influencers in your emails. Gen Z likes influencers. In fact, 46% of them follow 10+ influencers on social media. Create an influencer-themed email that showcases specific influencer picks, or complete sets like an outfit.
Then look for other areas where you can repurpose some of this content. This can include a “complete the look” post-purchase message for those who purchased a featured item, or secondary content highlighting an influencer’s “pick of the week.”
Social Proof: Obtaining UGC is one thing — using it is another. Using UGC in your marketing can provide social proof for consumers and can have a powerful influence on sales.
Consider this: 30% of Gen Z say a real customer, as opposed to an influencer, athlete, or celebrity, is more likely to persuade them to try a new brand.
Consider these tactics to enhance social proof:
Use UGC. If you are collecting selfies or product images, be sure to use that content in your emails. If you are asking for, and collecting, consumer photos, you can utilize that content within other emails on the same topic. For example, a clothing retailer asking for selfies can use the images with sweaters for sweater-related emails.
Use customer reviews. Sixty-seven-percent of Gen Z read three or more reviews before making a first purchase. Use this to your advantage by including reviews in your emails.
You can create stand-alone emails featuring top-rated products and even include a review quote along with each product. For secondary content, consider including a UGC photo alongside the review, and feature the photo and quote below the main content of the email. Again, the possibilities are virtually limit-less.
Employee recommendations. Finally, use your own employees. Similar to a top-rated email, but instead showcasing your employees’ top picks. This will give you an opportunity to put a personal face to your brand and give your emails a more personal feel. After all, who knows your products better than your own staff?
Gen Z expects brands to be more involved in social causes, with 69% being more likely to buy from a company that contributes to such causes. As a retail strategy, you commonly see this displayed with a one-for-one model, where a company donates to a social cause with every purchase. Take Oracle Bronto customer TOMS, which built a business on this model of giving.
TOMS’ End Gun Violence Together Campaign included a stand-alone email asking subscribers to complete a simple form, which generated postcards sent to their local representatives asking for universal background checks.
Once completing the form, the confirmation email asked people to share their cause with others on social media. The campaign went viral and resulted in owner Blake Mycoskie appearing on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, creating even more brand exposure.
Look for other ways your company can show that it does good – and means it. By navigating to the TOMS website, and others with similar models, you can see dedicated sections showcasing the good that comes from each purchase. This content can be an email goldmine when it comes to Gen Z.
Using this content inside an email can be done a variety of ways. If you have figures or stories showcasing the tangible good being done, include this as stand-alone or secondary content in messages.
For stand-alone content, a welcome and post-purchase series makes the most sense. For secondary content, a section can be added to other lifecycle messaging, such as birthday messages, or in day-to-day promotional messages.
These sections provide constant reinforcement of the value of making a purchase and can be a great tool for building an emotional connection with Gen Z customers.
Tying It All Together
Finding ways to use and combine these elements can make your email marketing more effective for this unique, and still maturing, generation.
Make no mistake, even though they are young, they possess a lot of spending power, both direct and indirect.
But there is a lot more to Gen Z, from brand loyalty factors to shipping policies, than what’s mentioned here. If you want to find out more, I invite you to join me for this Multichannel Merchant webinar.
At the end of the day, whether it is Gen Z, millennials, or Gen X, basic marketing principles still apply – make it easy for the consumer to engage and purchase, and they’ll love you for it.
Greg Zakowicz is a Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst at Oracle Netsuite