6 Strategies for Marketing to Gen Z

August 03, 2022
Written by
Nathalia Velez Ryan
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own
Reviewed by
Ayanna Julien
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

6 Strategies for Marketing to Gen Z

If you spend time on social media platforms like TikTok, you’ve probably seen a few jokes about Gen Z, whether it’s about their work email signoffs or lack of knowledge about the ‘90s. This is just one of the ways Gen Z has started to influence communication platforms.  

All jokes aside, as members of Gen Z join the workforce and their spending power grows, this new generation of consumers is an increasingly important audience for marketers. 

And while it’s never a good idea to make assumptions about your audience or generalize across generations, it is a good idea to understand your audience’s communication preferences and how they engage with brands. 

This post will explore how to use email to market to Gen Z based on their self-reported preferences. 

What are the differences and similarities between Gen Z and millennials?

Before we explore each generation’s communication preferences, let’s define these audiences. The exact cutoff for each generation is debatable, but Pew Research Center defines these as such: 
  • Millennials: Born between 1981 and 1996
  • Gen Z: Born in or after 1997 
Studies show that each generation has distinct preferences in how they like to engage with brands, although there’s some overlap between millennials and Gen Z. Here are some differences and similarities we found in our 2022 Global Messaging Engagement Report
  • Millennial respondents in the US (43%) are open to receiving daily promotional emails. In contrast, only 35% of Gen Z respondents want to get daily promotional emails, and 62% would unsubscribe from an email list if they received daily emails. 
  • Gen Z respondents across the globe chose email as their preferred communication channel, with 15% listing email in the top 3 channels. The results were similar for millennials, with 16% ranking email in their top 3.
  • Millennial and Gen Z respondents both ranked social media in their top 3 preferred channels. 
  • Millennial and Gen Z respondents in France are willing to give brands more information about themselves for more personalized communications, with 45% and 46% agreeing to do so, respectively.  
While there are slight differences in each generation’s communication preferences, the good news is that the marketing strategies for targeting Gen Z will also help you engage millennials and other generations. 

Gen Z as consumers

We’ve already started to see Gen Z consumers’ influence on the way brands communicate with customers and advertise products. Here are some of Gen Z’s behaviors as consumers and factors that affect their purchasing decisions: 
  • 77% of Gen Zers prefer brands that promote gender equality, and 61% say they’ll pay more for ethically and sustainably sourced products 
  • 63% of Gen Zers prefer to see “real people” over celebrities in advertising, valuing a more personal connection to brands 
  • 68% of Gen Zers read at least 3 reviews before buying a product for the first time 

Why create email campaigns for Gen Z?

First and foremost, your email marketing strategy should consider who makes up your audience and what resonates with them. So if Gen Z is a big part of your existing customer base or target audience, you should craft your email campaigns with their preferences in mind. This will ensure that recipients in this demographic open and engage with your emails and boost your metrics. 

But the benefits of creating email campaigns for Gen Z don’t end there. The following strategies will help you capture Gen Z’s attention, are generally beneficial for your email program, and can improve engagement with all generations.

Gen Z email marketing strategies

Targeting Gen Z with your email campaigns? Try these 6 strategies to improve your chances of success. 

1. Set an email preference center 

As we mentioned earlier, most Gen Zers don’t want to receive daily emails from brands. But if they sign up for your email list, it's because they want to hear from you sometimes. So how do you find the sweet spot of email frequency? Ask them! 

Use a preference center to capture how often each recipient wants to hear from you. A simple survey lets subscribers tell you how frequently they want to receive emails, which means they’ll be less likely to unsubscribe from your list. However, you’ll still need to include a link to the preference center in your email footer so that recipients can easily access it if they change their minds—e.g., they want to change from weekly to monthly emails. 

preference center in email footer

2. Catch their eye with the subject line

Subject lines are your first chance to catch Gen Z’s attention—76% of Gen Zers say the subject line will influence whether they open an email. So follow best practices to help boost your open rates, and be sure the subject line alludes to the content. If it’s too vague, Gen Z recipients might just move on to the next message in their inbox. 

inbox with eye-catching subject lines

Here’s what a UK-based Gen Z respondent told us in our 2022 Global Messaging Engagement Report when asked about frustrations with email campaigns: “What frustrates me is the lack of engagement used in the subject of an email, as it then doesn’t catch my attention or help me know at a glance what the message content is about.”  

3. Strike a visual balance 

Email design is one of the major factors that’ll determine whether recipients keep reading or delete the email. And with this generation's short attention span (8 seconds, according to Forbes), you only have a short window to capture their attention. 

Visuals are especially important to Gen Z—with social media apps ranking in their top 3 preferred channels, we know they like to engage with photo and video content. But don’t just take our word for it. These are some of the opinions respondents shared in our 2022 Global Messaging Engagement Report
  • “Keep it concise! No big blocks of text, which are boring and discourage reading.” [UK Gen Z respondent]
  • “I definitely prefer my emails to have images and videos. I feel graphics and videos make emails more fun and visually pleasing.” [US Gen Z respondent]
But this doesn’t mean you should do away with text. Instead, work to find a balance between engaging visuals and relevant text. And when implementing new designs, A/B test key elements and keep an eye on engagement metrics to understand whether these resonate with recipients. 

visually striking email a balance of images and text

4. Personalize, personalize, personalize 

Gen Z recipients want relevant, personalized emails, and to that end, they’re willing to give businesses information about themselves. So how can you use this information to personalize your communications? 

Something as simple as a birthday email can show recipients that you care about building a relationship with them. And by including a discount or gift, it can be incentive enough for recipients to provide their birthday. 

birthday reward email from Starbucks

The birthday message is just the start. Learn how you can use dynamic content and segmentation to send more personalized emails.

5. Design for mobile 

According to Bluecore, 67% of Gen Zers use their smartphones to check their email. And few things will turn readers away faster than an email that’s hard to read on mobile. So make sure you use a responsive email design that resizes for different screens and test how your emails render on mobile before you send. 

Things to look for when testing your emails include ensuring the images resize to fit on a small screen, the email content loads quickly, and the call to action is easy to find and tap from a mobile device. Learn more about optimizing emails for mobile

Brooklinen email displayed on mobile device

6. Include social proof 

Gen Zers are likely to seek out reviews before making a purchase, so give these recipients a head start by including social proof—e.g., reviews, testimonials, influencer campaigns, etc.—in your marketing emails. This leverages word-of-mouth marketing and lets your customers speak to the value of your brand. Your Gen Z audience will value authentic feedback from real customers. 

Jeni's ice cream email showcasing customer reviews

Engage with Gen Z via email with Twilio SendGrid

Although this post focuses on Gen Z, email is a valuable channel to connect with all generations, and these strategies will help you improve your email marketing campaigns overall. 

Ready to start sending emails that Gen Zers will be glad to receive? Twilio SendGrid’s Marketing Campaigns offers a library of responsive email templates ready for you to modify, testing tools to ensure each email renders correctly before you send, and list-management solutions that help you better target your audiences. Sign up for free to get started. 

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