In 2020, which generation do you think will be the largest consumer group worldwide, according to While millennials have had their moment in the spotlight for sure – being studied at every step of their maturity by marketers and business owners alike – Gen Zers are the latest generation of shoppers and buyers to arrive on the scene. So who is “Gen Z?”

Most sources online agree Gen Z is comprised of those born around or after 1995 (though Goldman Sachs would rather look at those born strictly after 1998). *Here’s a moment of silence while you ponder how old that statistic makes you feel. It’s OK…we feel ya.* Don’t let their new slang (e.g. “lit” and “finstagram”) fool you. At around 19-22 years of age this year, the oldest in their generation are now graduating college, starting careers and making high-dollar purchase decisions.

So why do we care? Not only will this generation make up a much larger percentage of your potential customers in the coming years, their preferences differ pretty greatly from your typical customer today.

Here’s how they’re unique:
  1. They’re really diverse. And not just in the way you or I would think of diversity (age, gender, religion, race). They demonstrate diversity in their preferences as well – with things like music and fashion.
  2. They value social conscientiousness. This is a very collaborative generation. They see great power in their collective ability to contribute to a greater cause (think about crowdsourcing campaigns that have spread like wildfire in recent years). Not only do they want to help each other out, they want companies to be socially responsible and thoughtful as well.
  3. They have a chaotic attention span, but they don’t make buying decisions quickly. Because they don’t rely on traditional methods of marketing and e-commerce, Gen Z spends a lot of time doing what Fitch and Small Business Trends call “aspirational browsing.” They gather input from social media and their peers to help focus their in-depth searches before making a buying decision.
  4. They don’t trust traditional marketing. Instead, they trust peers, websites, online and celebrity recommendations, magazines and unplanned browsing (e.g. Pinterest) to develop preferences and generate opinions.
  5. They care about security. Marked by a fear of taking on debt, Gen Z also prefers to make more secure purchases, often leaning toward in-store transactions instead of trusting the web with their credit card info.

What does it mean for a small business owner? How can you adapt and cater to this new generation, without leaving your other customers behind?

5 Ways to Set Your Business Up for Success with Gen Z
  1. Treat them with respect, and be available for more questions than usual. The worst thing you can do to upset a Gen Z individual would be to give them the impression they don’t matter because of their age or purchasing power. Give them the hands-on attention they desire, and they’ll come to trust your business over time.
  2. Make it clear where your business stands if you support any local (or broader) causes. If you don’t currently give back, consider doing so to let these consumers know it’s not all about the Benjamins to you.
  3. Make it clear how you’re innovating. More than perfection, showing you have a product or service that’s frequently evolving and keeping up with the times will carry much more weight with this generation. Hands-on demonstrations or examples of your work is even more valuable. Gen Z loves to learn by touching and feeling products they’re considering buying.
  4. Be active on social media, and engage with this generation in more creative ways than you have previously. Rather than focusing on one social channel, try to hit a few. That’s how Gen Z browses – they don’t stick to one channel. How can you get more creative? Use more vibrant colors and trendy language in your social ads. Consider getting on Snapchat. And if something doesn’t work, adjust quickly.
  5. Keep their information safe by getting serious about data security. Then, communicate how you’re doing so. If they come across as financially conservative (or even cheap) compared to current customers, don’t try to force them into an upsell. Offer them more economically reasonable options as much as possible.
CAUTION: Don’t go for a complete overhaul just yet.

When we talk about catering to a new type of customer, it’s critical to emphasize not to leave your other happy customers in the dust. If you change your brand image overnight in an attempt to cater to a new target audience, you’ll risk losing those who already know and love you.

When implementing any of the recommendations above, do so with your entire customer base in mind. Grow your social presence alongside your other marketing activities, not in place of it. Give Gen Z hands-on attention they’re asking for without ignoring other customers. Make sure any social causes you hop onboard with will resonate with all of your current and potential customers, not just the Gen Zers you’re going after.

Struggling to balance multiple types of customers?

We can help. Thryv automates how you manage customer lists and interact with each customer in a personalized way. Want to learn more? Let’s chat.