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How to target Gen Z, the new consumer on the block, via mobile

Their attention spans are getting shorter, they think in 4D, they communicate with symbols and images and their reliance on mobile devices has left them with a lack of situational awareness; this is Generation Z, a group of digital natives who should not be ignored despite their youth.

This next generation of consumers has somewhat been neglected as brands and marketers have been focused on Gen Y, or Millennials, for more than a decade now, making them the most researched generation in history according to ad agency Sparks & Honey. But it may be time for marketers to shift their focus ? because the Gen Z group, born from 1995 on, comprises 29.5 percent of the population and will continue to out-populate each generation that has come before it.

?Don?t treat Gen Z like Millennials ? they?re different,? said Sarah DaVanzo, chief cultural strategy officer at Sparks & Honey. ?Feed their desire to ?make,? collaborate and co-create as they want controls and preference settings, turning their data on and off as they toggle between being ?INsumers? and ?OUTsumers.??

?Brand marketing and storytelling needs to be 5-screen: phone, computer, TV, tablet, wearable, and brand engagement needs to be live-streaming video, not just IM or chat.?

?The pendulum is also swinging back to value messaging because Gen Z are frugal and discerning and less brand loyal so brands need to re-win over Gen Z at each purchase,? she said.

Generational gap
This is the first generation of true natives to technology, who have been ?tuned in? almost since birth, and causally put their trust in the Internet of Things and expect Web searches to be instant.

Coming of age during a recession, this demographic is also growing into value saving. As they mature and their spending power increases, it is essential for brand to know how to reach this diverse, tech-savvy group.

A recent report by Sparks & Honey shows a sampling of interesting mobile facts which asserts Gen Z multi-tasks across five screens, using the following devices numerous times per day.

Because their attention spans are getting shorter, Gen Z are the ultimate consumers of ?snack media.? They communicate in bite sizes, and research studies suggest that their brains have evolved to process more information at faster speeds, and are cognitively more nimble to handle bigger mental challenges.

But, getting and keeping their attention is challenging.

They think spatially and in 4D, and have always known how to zoom, pinch and swipe. They have grown up with high definition, surround-sound, 3D and now 4D which also accounts for a lack of situational awareness, as the report cites the group is oblivious to their surroundings and unable to give directions. This has caused some speculation that Gen Z have become overly reliant on their mobile devices.

They prefer to communicate with symbols and images, speaking in emoticons and emojis as symbols and glyphs provide context and create subtexts so they can have private conversations. Emoji alphabets and icon ?stickers? replace text with pictures.

Gen Z also loves ephemeral and rarity, being drawn to social media which disintegrates and self-destructs such as with SnapChat. They suffer from FOMO - fear of missing out - more than Millenials, so being culturally connected is critical.

?I think people assume that, like their own Facebook friends list, a lot of these connections on social media are numerous but shallow, but I don?t think that?s the case,? said Nikki Baird, analyst at Retail Systems Research.

?I think they are more numerous, but also deeper.

?Retailers need to think hard about how to either facilitate those interactions in a shopping context, or at least get out of the way so that those interactions can happen in their stores ? or Gen Z?s might not feel comfortable making a decision until they do get a chance to get someone to weigh in on their choices,? she said.

Getting marketing right
Gen Z is living with their mobile phones and these devices have inadvertently become an extension of themselves. Certain brands have already demonstrated their ability downsize content to be more digestible, and play up visuals, videos and interactive media.

For example popular audio products company Beats by Dre translated Gen Z?s love for generating their own content by prompting them to boost their own visibility on social networks within the brand.

When fans shared content of themselves showing off their favorite Beats headphones colors Facebook likes increased by 1.7 million, Instagram followers by 76 percent, and YouTube subscribers by 57 percent through its interactive #ShowYourColor campaign, that integrated traditional advertisements, celebrity endorsements and Gen Z participation on social networks.

Having a stellar brand reputation is essential for marketers wanting to nurture Gen Z into customers. In addition to being easily found, marketers need to encourage conversations around their brand. This can easily be done by creating an ambassador program. When third party advocates praise a brand, it increases a business? credibility in the eyes of Gen Z.

Nike brand also agrees that social-proof campaigns will not resonate with younger consumers. As a ction sports represents about $390 million a year in sales for Nike, the company sought in 2012 to double that amount, and be one of the top three brands by 2015 by connecting with Gen Z.

?The Chosen,? was a global ?Just Do It? campaign featuring a pantheon of action sports stars with a centerpiece film that was reminiscent of a live rock concert. Throughout the course of the campaign, Nike conducted worldwide grassroots events providing athletes an opportunity to participate in the sports featured in the film.

The initiative also included a video contest inviting skaters, surfers, BMX riders, snowboarders and skiers to submit a video of their crew in order to be chosen for an opportunity of a lifetime ? a chance to travel with the Nike team while getting access to exclusive Nike products and experiences. The contest ran within Facebook where winners were determined by fan support, Nike and Nike athletes.

Similarly to their older millennial counterparts, members of Gen Z are not brand loyal, and 57 percent of Gen Z reports they would rather save money  than spend it, according to Forbes. Marketers should use multimedia like video to demonstrate how their product works and can provide value to Gen Z.

While Millennials are the demographic that have the money and marketers are positioning food products in front of them as fast as they can, Generation Z is fresh-food focused, according to market research company NPD.

Not only do they want fresh prepared food they want it their way. Subway and Chipotle Mexican Grill both have helped usher in a new generation of grocerant niche consumers, whose sandwiches, burrito?s and pizza are customized, personalized and fresh prepared.

Gen Z favors experiences and ?doing things? more than simply just things. Brands which enable and inspire experiences are the ones who will win.

?With this generation it?s not even lack of patience, it?s more like total awareness that if you can?t deliver what they want in the way that they want it, there are probably a million other ways out there to get what they want,? Ms. Baird said.

?It means retailers get one shot only, and if they blow it, they will be dismissed as irrelevant.?

 Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York