Generation Z Goes Back to School: Three Ways to Appeal to These Digital Natives

Back-to-school season is the second largest shopping time of the year, bested only by the winter holidays. Last year, we conducted a survey about back-to-school loyalty and the shopper sentiments that surround a season that generates $74.9 billion in sales.

That time of year is upon us again, and retailers need to start preparing for the most important back-to-school audience: Generation Z. This post-Millennial group includes roughly everyone from ages 10-20, covering students from middle school through college and accounting for over a quarter of the population.

These consumers are highly educated digital natives who influence 93 percent of household purchases, according to Deep Focus. Having access to more options than ever while at the same time being highly informed, members of Gen Z will often forsake generic loyalty points for better offers, products or experiences.

In positioning back-to-school offerings, retailers need to consider that their target audience may not be parents, but a new class of consumer that has its own purchasing behavior and priorities.

So how do you keep Gen Z-ers coming to your store? Here are three tips to keep in mind.


1. Be on all Screens

Generation Z is the most digitally connected age group, using an average of five screens daily (TV, phone, desktop, laptop, and tablet or gaming device), according to Sparks & Honey. As a result, an omni-channel strategy becomes even more essential for connecting with this demographic. Because teens constantly shift their attention from one screen to another, retailers should aim to be present on all screens, creating a seamless experience when Gen Z-ers flit from their smartphones to their laptops and eventually wander into brick-and-mortar stores.

If retailers aren’t present in all spaces where Generation Z lives, the casual surfers will migrate to a brand that does. Retailers should use back-to-school shopping as an opportunity to appeal to this age group and become a brand they recognize and have an online—and ultimately offline—relationship with.


2. Capture Their Attention With Personalization

There are endless forces vying for Generation Z’s attention. This means that tailoring and personalizing marketing strategies to this demographic should be top priorities as back-to-school season approaches.

To achieve this, use data to key into where this age group shops. Today’s advanced payment and customer relationship management systems make it possible to learn more than ever about your customers. With this data, you can offer loyalty programs that are tailored to their specific interests, adding a personalized aspect to every screen.

Shoppers should feel like your brand understands them, and can deliver products and experiences that meet their needs. And don’t forget: While it may be tempting to target your strategy to their parents, members of Generation Z have a lot of influence over purchasing decisions.


3. Foster Loyalty via Social Media

While on these screens, don’t forget to pay attention to social media. According to a 2015 report from the Pew Research Center, 76 percent of teens use social media. These sites allow teens to interact with their peers publicly, privately and, most notably, constantly. Always funneling traffic from Generation Z, social networks are ideal channels for retailers to establish loyal relationships with this demographic.

For example, if a teenage girl “likes” a brand on Facebook, she then receives information about promotions that are integrated into her daily social media activity, and starts to have a more regular and established relationship with that brand. Not only is there an opportunity for retailers to connect with Gen Z-ers via social media, but many customers prefer it: We found that 49 percent of shoppers would like to receive rewards and offers via social media during the back-to school season. Still, last year’s back-to-school statistics show that while 21 percent of retailers used social media to facilitate loyalty programs in 2014, 14 percent still used paper coupons and 13 percent still used physical punch cards.

With Generation Z and its digital savvy, it’s imperative that retailers prioritize social media and mobile approaches to loyalty, especially during the back-to-school season. The incentive to create a tailored strategy is certainly there: Loyalty programs have the potential to increase a brand’s market share by 20 percent and improve customer acquisition by 10 percent. Paying careful attention to the behavior of these shoppers will not only reach your target demographic, but also create a seamless shopping experience that’s integrated with their networked lives, rather than just flashing on the TV while they’re looking at their smartphones. Always remember: If you don’t market to these consumers, someone else will. And Generation Z will find them—on one of their five screens.

How is your business preparing for the back-to-school season? Tweet @cayan and let us know!