Whereas Millennials are criticised for their lack of focus, self-centredness and skewed sense of authenticity, Generation Z is ready and willing to change the world. Is the jewellery industry ready for this change of pace? The answer is probably not.
Generation Z goes by a whole host of catchy names and slogans, ‘iGen’, ‘post-Millennials’ and ‘Centennials’ to name a few, but what does this cross-section of the population really look like? Experts classify the members of Generation Z as anyone born from around 1996 to approximately 2010, while others simply describe them as ‘too young to remember 9/11’ — a key cultural turning point that has affected Generation Z’s attitude to the world.
Those born in the earlier years of the Gen Z scale are now entering the workforce and earning their own disposable income for the first time. Capturing this spend will be crucial for brands and businesses, especially considering the hard lessons they learned in the rush to reach Millennials. So, what are the essential markers of Gen Z?
Firstly, they’re screen addicts, with an attention span of around eight seconds. This shouldn’t imply that Gen Z don’t care, instead they’ve developed a finely tuned filter to help them discover what they want fast. Their brains are as quick and transient as the social media they’ve grown up with. According to the Pew Research Centre, 24 percent of Gen Z are “online almost constantly” — but despite the instant access to purchasing this provides, Gen Z are actually less likely to buy than their older brothers and sisters.
Research by Forbes shows that 57 percent of Gen Z would rather save money than spend it immediately, which also means they’re more likely to research their purchases. Experts also highlight how risk averse and pragmatic Gen Z are, with an emphasis on planning ahead of preparing for their futures. What does this mean? Well, the old ‘can I tell you about the four Cs’ retail conversation starter isn’t going to cut it. A typical Gen Z customer would have researched the essentials potentially years before.
Despite this, Gen Z can become intensely committed and cause-focussed, which means, if you’re lucky enough to secure them as fans, they’ll be loyal advocates and repeat purchasers. How to do this? Research suggests they’ve got a hatred of being sold to, which means putting pushy sales pitches aside in favour of quality experiential sales techniques, like content marketing, events, apps and personalisation services.
A detailed report by Ernst & Young found that Gen Z customers are less likely to be loyal to a particular retailer, and that they’re less responsive to traditional loyalty card schemes and points-based rewards initiatives. To contend with this, retailers should focus on their online ordering, delivery and returns policies to encourage customers to become ‘service loyal’ — choosing you over another simply because they know your delivery policy is more convenient.
Another marker of Generation Z is their willingness to save the world. US advertising agency Spark & Honey found that 60 percent of Gen Z want to have an impact on the world, whether that’s inventing a life-saving drug or simply attending a march for signing a petition. Whereas Millennials may choose to buy ethical products and even look out for them when shopping, Generation Z feel obligated to buy ethical — an interesting consideration as Fairtrade metals continue to gain ground.
All of this research is interesting to say the least, but how can it be translated into an action plan for jewellery retail businesses and brands? My advice would be to focus on authenticity. So much of the jewellery industry is shrouded in an air of exclusivity — a ‘this is what the cool kids’ have approach to marketing — and yet research shows Gen Z are repelled by even a whiff of pretension. Change tack for messaging that favours the people behind your brand; whether this be investing in high-res images of your head office staff, taking pictures of your suppliers, or even the mine workers at the very source of your supply chain. Tell these stories in as many iterations as you can, especially through an expertly curated digital magazine or blog.
Next, consider how shareable your buying experience is — do you offer your customers the chance to show off, present their style or get their friends involved? Do you present heavily photo-shopped models or the kind of ‘realness’ and ‘no-filter’ approach that Gen Z love? And what about your website, is it easy to navigate and can the Gen Z customers give their feedback? These factors will only become more pertinent as time goes on.
Finally, the jewellery and watch brands that will ultimately excel will discover a way to include the Gen Z customer in the process of brand-building itself. By including them in inventing and building the product you offer, you’ll be giving them the autonomy, power to change and shareable experience they crave. How can this be done? Someone needs to take up the challenge and find out.