Upon first review of our latest Email Benchmark and Engagement Study, I searched for trends in the data where Gen Z skewed drastically from the other age cohorts that were interviewed. Surely the way that Gen Z (referred to as the group of individuals born after 1996) uses email is markedly different than Baby Boomers, right? Wrong. 

Time and time again, we found more similarities than differences in general preferences and behavior with email across the four age cohorts we interviewed and surveyed (Baby Boomers, Gen Y, Millennials, and Gen Z). 

That’s not to say that there aren’t differences in the data, but they’re overwhelmingly subtle. Keep in mind that what’s going to perform best for a Gen Z audience will most likely help your program across the board for all age groups. Good Gen Z communication practices should help engagement across the board—similar to the idiom “a rising tide lifts all the boats.”

Disclaimer: It’s not wise to paint with a broad brush across groups of people—use the engagement data from your program’s unique subscribers as a basis for building a recipient archetype. Then use the findings from this report as inspiration for future A/B testing!

For more detail on the structure of the research studies, check out chapter 2 of the full report.

95% of Gen Z respondents said that personal email is essential to their life. Text messages ranked as the next most important with 85% of respondents saying it was also critical. 

  • Email isn’t going anywhere, but it has some close friends that are worth your consideration, such as SMS. Brainstorm how you can integrate these two channels. For inspiration, check out our webinar A Perfect Match to learn more about how to craft campaigns effectively using a decision matrix to match the right messages with the right channels. 

76% of respondents from the Gen Z cohort said that the subject line of an email will influence if they open the message or not.

  • Be creative! Make sure that your subject lines don’t toe the line of clickbait (we’ve all been burned by that and decided to unsubscribe, right?), but make those subject lines informative and fun. Click here for some subject line inspiration.

Make it personal: 66% of Gen Z respondents reported that personalization will make an email more memorable.

  • We live in a day and age of data surplus. How can you move beyond obvious personalization (like name, location)? If you know that a consumer bought a new blouse, suggest pants or shoes that would complete an outfit in the next email they receive. If you know that a customer frequently visits your restaurant on Fridays, send them a special coupon on Friday morning thanking them for their business. Or if you notice you have a subset of customers who always click on links to your blog, offer them links to additional resources (guides and videos) on the same topic.

To GIF or not to GIF? As anticipated, this is where we saw the biggest difference across age cohorts with Millennials and Gen Z as the most tolerant of GIFs and Videos in their emails with a 56% approval rating.

  • But keep in mind that’s barely half of those age cohorts. Is the use of a GIF going to help or hurt your cause? Often gifs strobe, move too quickly, or are overall distracting, leaving the recipient with more of a visual hangover than any value from your message. Use with caution! This is also where we found one of the largest discrepancies between UK and US respondents, with a majority from all UK age cohorts agreeing they did not want to see GIFs or videos in their inbox. 

Our Instagram-obsessed youth want nothing but pictures in their messages, right?

  • Wrong. Only 3% of Gen Z respondents in the US preferred an all pictures, no text option for their email. Note that this approach is terrible for your deliverability anyway (read: image to text ratio). But that doesn’t mean they want a short essay without images instead—59% of respondents are great with just a few sentences. 

The main culprits of inbox frustrations for Gen Z are unknown senders, poorly configured spam filters, and the sheer number of messages they receive. 

  • Two of the three frustrations are entirely avoidable on your part as a sender if you’re following best practices. First, make sure your brand is front and center in your from address and your actual message. You can also include a quick note of, “You’re receiving this message because you opted in…” if you’re worried recipients may not remember. And keep an eye out for email fatigue! By looking at your open rate and trends over time, you may find that it will be best to ease up on your sending frequency.

82% of Gen Z respondents open an email on their phone and then switch to a computer (or vice versa) and 47% do so frequently. 

  • Make sure you’re testing how your emails render across all devices and consider the ask you’re making of your recipients. If you’re sending a coupon for in-store use only, you’re going to need to make sure that the barcode is easily available and usable for your customers on a mobile device. If you’re sending a survey to gather feedback, chances are your recipients won’t want to click in and out of tiny text boxes to type out complete sentences on their phone. Consider suggesting in the email copy that they star your message for later when they’re at a laptop or desktop. 

The determining factor of whether or not to open an email was the sender, with 53% of respondents agreeing that it would strongly influence their decisions—followed by content (47%) and subject line (37%).

  • Though it’s increasingly popular to use the name of an employee as the friendly from, make sure your brand is still part of the deal! E.g., Kate from Twilio SendGrid instead of Kate Schmeisser. Few things are more off-putting than an inbox-invasion of seemingly random senders. 

Gen Z is known for being full of digital natives. Since they’ve grown up with computers, the internet, and social media, they’re used to many forms of digital communication and therefore have high expectations for proper sending etiquette. As I mentioned before, good sending practices will win over the hearts of Gen Z, but also the rest of your recipient base. 

For additional insight into the other generations’ email preferences and behavior, download the full report! And for weekly inspiration on how to integrate more best practices in your email program, subscribe to our blog. Happy Sending!



Kate Schmeisser
When Kate isn't trying to teach herself the ukelele, make it through the mountain of books on her nightstand, or figure out if they are actually being serious about suggested serving sizes on ice cream, she is the Creative Content Manager.