Cracking the Gen Z Code for Small Business Success

Gen Z Characteristics - What Small Businesses Need to Know

Gen Z is on track to be the most financially powerful generation of all time. So it makes sense that a lot of small businesses would want them as both customers and employees.

So how much do you really know about Gen Z characteristics? You probably already know that Gen Z spends a lot of time online — and on social media specifically. But the way these young consumers and potential employees interact with content differs from the way that millennials and other previous generations do so.

Gen Z Characteristics

If you’re thinking about marketing to Gen Z or hiring them to work in your startup, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what they look for. Here’s a guide to Gen Z characteristics, both when working with them and attracting them as customers.

How to Hire Gen Z Employees

The good news for small businesses is that Gen Z employees tend to look for opportunities where they can collaborate in small groups and make a big impact within an organization — exactly the type of working environment that many small businesses offer. Many are also willing to take slightly lower paying jobs in order to work in industries they are passionate about and for companies that they believe in.

In fact, workers in this generation tend to do a lot of research about potential employers and want to know that the companies they work with are ethical and treat employees fairly. There’s no shortcut to this. You simply need to work hard to create a strong company culture and put a strong emphasis on respectful management techniques. They also value strong work-life balance, since many have seen those in previous generations struggle to achieve it. So the ability to telecommute or take paid vacation may also help you attract Gen Z workers.

Money Remains Important

But that doesn’t mean that money doesn’t matter to this generation. Gen Z employees place a high value on stability. They’re willing to work hard and often even relocate for the right opportunity. But in order to attract them, you may need to make some assurances about job security. And yes, you still need to make a strong offer where pay and benefits are concerned, even if it isn’t THE strongest offer.

Once you’ve hired Gen Z employees for your small business, it’s also important to know how to retain them. Strong management is key here, especially in companies like restaurants. But this can apply to really any type of small business. Gen Z-ers want clear communication as well as routes to management and even potential ownership opportunities — especially when working entry level jobs like those at many restaurants.

Gen Z Characteristics Include Love of Connected Devices

In offices, Gen Z-ers tend to spend even more time using connected devices than millennials. And they often multitask across multiple devices at once. This means that your business needs to be outfitted with all the latest devices if you really want to get the most out of them. Or you might even consider a bring-your-own-device model if updating isn’t in the cards for you.

They also value creative freedom and the ability to grow into different roles. This gives small businesses the opportunity to really engage with team members and learn from their ideas. If you’re planning on marketing to Gen Z consumers anyway, it may very well be in your best interest to hand over some of the control to your young team members and see what types of solutions they come up with. You could discover some unique skills and new ways to keep everyone productive and engaged.

How to Market to Gen Z Consumers

Gen Z-ers do spend a lot of time on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. But research actually suggests that their preferred method for receiving communication from brands is via email. This suggests that these individuals prefer to keep their social channels mainly to authentic interactions with friends and family.

However, these consumers do look to do business with brands that have a strong online presence. They want to be entertained by a consistent stream of blog posts, YouTube videos or social media posts. But they don’t want brands to just promote their own products and services. They want to do business with companies that show personality — along with a socially conscious element.

YouTube May be Most Effective

In fact, YouTube is one of the most effective ways that brands can reach Gen Z-ers. You’re not going to trick them into thinking they’re not being marketed to. But if you can connect with relevant influencers or create content that’s genuinely engaging and entertaining, they’ll be happy to connect with you.

Speaking of Influencers, Gen Z specifically prefers seeing ads or online content that feature real people, rather than celebrities. So you don’t need to spend a ton to work with huge influencers if you’re targeting this group. Your money would be better spent seeking out slightly lesser known influencers who tend to have a lot of pull with your specific audience.

Social Media Helps Collect Customer Data

In addition to creating content, brands looking to connect with members of Gen Z should also look to social media as a way to learn about their specific customers. Create a sense of community. Practice social listening. And encourage them to share their experiences and opinions about your brand. This can help you further shape your strategy in the future and reach more potential customers in an authentic and engaging way.

And it’s not just online businesses that can easily attract Gen Z consumers. These young shoppers also love brick-and-mortar retail stores. But they’re likely to do some research before heading in. So it’s still important to have some online content and marketing efforts. They also place a high value on expert reviews. So it’s a good idea to really focus on building up those positive notes online if possible.

Once they make it into your store, Gen Z puts a major emphasis on really interacting with products before they buy. So it’s important that you have your products easily accessible so they can feel them and try them on if necessary. It’s also a good idea to make it easy for customers to share their experience with your business on social media. Offer WiFi in your location. Have visually appealing decor that’s perfectly suited for Instagram shots. And make your products stand out so they just can’t wait to share their purchases with people across all of their different platforms.

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Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

3 Reactions
  1. I’d be interested to know how the Gen Z desire for stability stacks up against their average tenure at a job. Is “stability” a job that will be there for 3 years? 10 years? Because the idea of a career with one company seems to be gone.

  2. It is important to get to know your market to understand their needs and work with that. If you provide the right benefits, you will be able to attract them.

  3. Annie: When are the members of generation Z born? What comes after the letter, Z?