While it's easy to think of Gen Z as teenagers, the oldest members of this generation are now entering their mid-20s. This means that more and more Gen Zers are becoming independent, earning an income, and moving to positions where they influence their company's purchasing decisions. Gen Z is a generation made up of around 25 million people in the U.S. that were born between about 1997 and the early 2010s. They're known for being tech-savvy, socially conscious, and difficult to sell to. As they become adults, companies need to think about how to cater to them as both customers and employees.
At the same time, older Millennials are entering their 40s and are attaining higher-level management positions. In 2019, this group represented 59% of B2B buyers and 30% of final decision-makers. B2B sellers need to be prepared to appeal to both Millennial managers and their younger Gen Z employees. It’s also becoming increasingly important that Millennial managers understand their new Gen Z employees to build effective working relationships.
No generation is a monolith, but Gen Z has some distinct preferences when it comes to the companies they support. Gen Z is idealistic and values-driven, so they want to work with companies that are ethical and aligned with their values. At the same time, this group grew up during the financial stress of the Great Recession and entered adulthood as the pandemic created even more uncertainty. As a response to this, Gen Z also craves stability. This gives them a pragmatic set of values as well as an interest in stable jobs with benefits. Understanding all the different aspects of Gen Z can help business update their B2B marketing strategies to attract this new generation of buyers.
As Gen Z becomes a larger portion of the workforce, their buying preferences and behaviors will become an essential factor in B2B marketing. Gen Zers are the first true digital natives, which means that they're highly dependent on the internet for most of their activities, including shopping and connecting with people. Selling to this generation is very different than selling to older ones, so understanding how Gen Z thinks will help you successfully connect with your new B2B buyers.
Marketing to Gen Z can be difficult since the group is highly aware and skeptical of attempts to sell them something. They're also conscious of social, political, and economic issues and care about how their purchases reflect their values in these areas. Their constant access to smartphones means that a standard advertising model doesn't work with them, and 51% of the group use ad-blocking software, so they may not even see your traditional paid ads. They have easy access to information online, so they don't value objective information from a salesperson.
Gen Z already influences about 93% of household purchases, and as the generation matures, this influence is transferring over to B2B purchases. They currently represent about a quarter of workers, and that percentage will only grow in the coming years. Many businesses are shifting their purchasing responsibilities to committees rather than individual buyers. This increases the chance that junior employees, like those from Gen Z, will be involved in B2B purchase decisions. While there is still time before members of Gen Z are managers at large companies, they do have an influence on business purchasing decisions today.
Because they don't like being sold to, Gen Z tends to respond better to peer referrals and strategies like influencer marketing. Influencer marketing has been popular in the B2C market, but B2B sellers will need to embrace it as well as Gen Z moves into decision-making roles. Authentic user reviews and content like case studies can also appeal to Gen Z. They like to see how the product or service could work for them and make their own decision, rather than hearing a sales pitch.
As the first truly digitally native generation, Gen Z expects their online experiences to be smooth and convenient. They spend around three hours per day on social media and five hours on their smartphones. Technology is a natural part of life for Gen Z, so your sales platform needs to work with that. Connecting with Gen Z means making sure that your website and other points of digital contact are seamlessly integrated. This might mean shifting to a more B2C-like experience, where your customers come to you on their terms. Gen Z also tends to like using technology to facilitate personal connections. For example, many Gen Zers prefer video calls over traditional phone calls.
Both generational preferences and shifts in the broader economy influence how Gen Z will behave when making B2B purchases.
Half of Gen Z workers have done freelance work, which is the highest percentage of any generation. This means that while some Gen Z buyers are traditionally employed at larger companies, many are freelancers, small business owners, or gig workers. Smart B2B sellers will consider how to appeal to these independent and flexible workers. At a smaller business, the budget will usually be tighter, but you'll also only need to connect with one decision-maker.
Gen Z cares deeply about the values and corporate culture of the businesses they work with. In one survey, 93% of Gen Z respondents said a company's impact on society is a factor in deciding whether to work there. Diversity and environmental responsibility are especially important. At the same time, Gen Z can easily see through attempts to highlight these areas solely for marketing purposes. To connect with Gen Z business partners, you'll need to sincerely stand for certain values.
Personalized services and products are also important to Gen Z. This group is used to customer service experiences that are tailored to their individual needs and values, and they'll expect the same from their business purchases. Notably, cost-conscious Gen Z is willing to pay more for personalization. Gen Z is also interested in a platform or subscription-based products that don't require owning the product to use it. This encompasses no-commitment streaming service subscriptions, like Hulu or Spotify, and bike-share services, like Lime, that let users access the bike to get from one place to another without owning or even really renting it. If your product or service can shift to this model, the convenience might appeal to Gen Z customers.
Gen Z grew up with the rise of the gig economy, in which workers find short-term, flexible, or freelance work through an app or online platform. Many members of Gen Z are gig workers. This means that staying relevant might mean adjusting your B2B product or service to suit this growing cohort. Gig workers might not be as easy to connect with as employees of established companies, but B2B sellers need to consider them as they become a larger portion of the workplace. Some businesses, like tax preparation services, have clear value to gig workers. However, it's also possible to spin certain features to appeal to this group. For example, offering 24/7 live customer service might be essential to potential customers who prioritize flexibility in their schedules or have other commitments during regular work hours.
While Gen Z has an interest in flexibility and innovation, the group grew up during the Great Recession and is now looking for financial stability. This means that though many young adults are starting businesses or becoming freelancers, others are looking for an established company to work for long-term.
For a generation raised with ubiquitous smartphones and social media, an interest in tech careers isn't surprising. When asked, Gen Zers consistently mention Apple, Microsoft, and Google as companies they hope to work for. Tech companies prioritize innovation while also being stable, well-established businesses.
Gen Z tends to be concerned about climate change and corporate ethics, so they're skeptical of traditional energy industries like oil and gas and unlikely to work in those jobs. They are interested in renewable energy careers, with 66% saying they would be interested in this work.
Gen Z is interested in healthcare, with around 37% of the group likely to work in the field after graduating from school. An Indeed study of job listing clicks shows that Gen Z is especially interested in dentistry and anesthesiology. These positions require many years of higher education, so this shows that Gen Z is looking ahead to plan for their future. These specific jobs, and healthcare in general, are unlikely to be replaced by automation, making them a smart long-term choice.
This generation has a practical and pragmatic interest in jobs that urgently need employees, like childcare assistants, whether or not these are their preferred long-term careers. Since they are wary of taking on student debt, they are interested in the type of work they can get without a college degree.
To stay modern, companies need to appeal to new Gen Z adults as both a place to work and a place to purchase from. Members of Gen Z tend to have similar requirements for an employer and a place to shop, so these factors will apply to both.
Gen Z cares about the corporate ethics of the companies they buy from and work for. This applies to every component of your business, from sustainably sourcing materials to ensuring diversity in your hiring and management. Members of Gen Z usually refuse to purchase from a company that's been involved in a scandal. They also prioritize honesty and transparency. Make sure that the content you produce demonstrates how your company prioritizes ethics. Review your hiring practices to ensure that you're recruiting a diverse pool of candidates, and look into retention and promotion as well.
Gen Z cares about social issues and wants to see that reflected in the companies they work with. They also care about personal connections. When selling to Gen Z, focus on word-of-mouth advertising and consider working with small influencers. Micro and nano influencers, with between 1000 and 50,000 followers, can be an extremely effective way to connect with Gen Z customers if they're in the relevant niche. These influencers build a relationship with their followers, who then are more likely to trust their recommendations. In general, adopting more B2C style marketing tactics is effective with Gen Z buyers.
For Gen Z, a good work environment includes both practical benefits like healthcare coverage and mentorship opportunities and idealistic alignment with their values. This group has a mix of idealism and pragmatism, so you'll want to create a work environment that appeals to both. Gen Z cares about both career ambitions and work-life balance, so your company should take steps to support learning and career growth while allowing your employees to take regular time off.
To appeal to Gen Z, your company needs to stand for someone more than the product or service you sell. This doesn't mean you need to take a partisan stance on any issues, but you need to clearly define and communicate your brand's values and how your work helps support those values. Sincerity is also essential here, so make sure that the values you promote are truly important to your company. If your Gen Z employees or customers feel like your brand's mission aligns with their values, they'll become loyal advocates for your brand.
Connecting with Gen Z can feel overwhelming since the group is resistant to so many traditional marketing strategies. However, as older generations retire and Gen Z becomes a larger percentage of the workforce, understanding their needs and preferences becomes essential for successful businesses. Gen Z strongly values ethics, authenticity, and corporate culture. They're idealists who want to make the world a better place. They also value stability and practical solutions.
Working with a digital marketing expert can help you adapt your marketing and sales strategies to connect with Gen Z in both the B2B and B2C spaces. Steel Croissant can help you design a big-picture strategy and plan the smaller steps you need to take to appeal to younger buyers. Contact Steel Croissant to discuss your marketing plan today.
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