The Real Secret to Winning Over Gen Z: Customer Experience


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Marketers have spent years trying to decode the millennial generation. The mystifying group of digital natives impervious to all previous forms of marketing and sales strategies. Although countless books have been written, and studies conducted, the secret sauce behind winning loyalty from this generation is still largely up for debate.

More recently, much has been discussed about millennial’s younger counterparts: Generation Z. And for good reason; born after 1995, Gen Z will account for an astounding 40% of all consumers by 2020. To capitalize on the tremendous opportunity this generation represents, savvy marketers are rolling up their sleeves once again to map their consumer behavior, figure out their predilections and discover the best ways to market to them.

However, this may be an exercise in futility. As the Amelia Earhart mystery has recently risen to the surface once again, it raises an important question that brands should be asking themselves.

“Have we been looking in the wrong place the whole time for Generation Z?!”

We believe the answer may be a resounding yes.

You see, the key to Gen Z’s loyalty lies not in how they are marketed to, but rather, in customer experience. Recently, Condé Nast and Goldman Sachs’ 2017 Love List Brand Affinity Index found that was voted the favorite retailer across all categories amongst millennials and Generation Z.

One might understandably have assumed that a company like Apple or Nike who spends an enormous amount of money marketing to these younger generations might win the top spot. But sometimes even billions of marketing dollars doesn’t guarantee success.

On the flip side, Jeff Bezos has built his entire brand on customer experience. So much so, that it influenced Amazon’s business model from the very beginning. When the company allowed third parties to sell their goods on its marketplace it gave customers access to a wider variety of products and more competitive prices.

Since then, everything thing Amazon does, from purchasing Whole Foods in order to create a better grocery experience, to establishing its own version of Geek Squad for tech customer service, to creating Amazon Prime Day for bargain hunters, is cementing the company’s CX legacy.

With that in mind, here are three keys to building a CX that will win over Gen Z, and maybe even save you some marketing dollars along the way

Don’t Mistake Them for Millennials!

While many have pegged the millennial generation as entitled and lazy, there seems to be a general consensus that Gen Z is quite the opposite. A recent study found that 69% of Gen Zers said that their achievements will come from hard work, not luck, compared with 63% of millennials and 58% of Gen Xers.

72% of Gen Zers also report wanting to start a business someday, and nearly 40% say they will invent something that changes the world.

With this desire to roll up their sleeves and create positive change, Gen Z’s expectation of an exceptional customer experience is even more magnified than previous generations. But not to worry; they’re quick to reward brands that deliver.

In fact, our own research found that 89% of Gen Z consumers are likely to promote a brand as a result of a positive customer experience.

Build Loyalty Through Service

Gen Z isn’t very interested in traditional loyalty programs and promotions. They are much more concerned about service. In fact, an Ernst & Young study found that when it comes to retailers, the top 3 factors for Gen Zers are:

  1. Free shipping or delivery: 80%
  2. Special sales or discounts: 77%
  3. Flexible return policy: 50%

This further supports why a company like Amazon who checks all of these boxes would be a favorite of this generation.

And because Gen Z lives their lives on multiple channels, across multiple screens (up to 5!) you need to provide an experience that fits into this multi-tasking lifestyle across channels. 60% of Gen Zers describe their ideal brand as a company that is easy to contact when they have a problem.

And once you’ve established an omni-channel presence, don’t let your guard down. While Gen Z wants multiple touch points they are also more likely to drop a brand over poorly designed mobile features and slow response times.

Ditch the Fluff

As true digital natives, with access to more information than any previous generation, it’s not surprising that Gen Z is more adept at spotting marketing gimmicks. While some companies have taken a half-hearted approach to creating CSR programs as marketing tools, Gen Z is firm in their belief that brands must take a real stand on human rights issues.

On the flip side, our research found that nearly two-thirds of Gen Zers will leave a brand they are passionate about if the brand publicly stands up for something they do not believe in.

Focus on creating a customer experience that aligns with Gen Z’s desire to make the world a better place. Provide ways for them to support causes through purchases, make it easy for them to use their personal networks to help spread awareness on issues they care about, and most importantly, have senior leadership practice what they’re preaching.

When the new administration filed the executive order and travel ban earlier this year, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and many more filed an amicus brief to oppose it. Google’s Sergi Brin, an immigrant himself, took it a step further in joining protesters in a personal capacity at San Francisco International Airport to stand against the action. It’s this type of real stand for personal and corporate beliefs that can strike a chord with Gen Z.

So before you put all of your resources towards marketing and advertising, take a step back and focus on building an end-to-end customer experience that aligns with this hard working, ultra-connected generation.

As Jeff Bezos said, “If there’s one reason we have done better than our peers, it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience.”

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Marcel Korst
Marcel Korst is VP of Product Marketing & CX Strategy at Mattersight where he leads product evangelization, analyst relations, competitive positioning and customer marketing. Prior to Mattersight, Korst spent 13 years at Microsoft, most recently as Director of Marketing & PR for Worldwide Customer Service & Support, where he led brand, product marketing, demand generation, marketing automation, PR and analyst relations.


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