How to Use Email Marketing to Reach Gen-Z

Over the last decade, marketers have been feverishly trying to figure out the best ways to market to the Millennial generation, or those born between 1981 and 1996.

Older millennials are in their late 30s and younger millennials are nearing in on their mid-20s. This generation is now made up of adults progressing into their careers; they are key decision makers and have major purchasing power.

The generation right below the Millennial generation is known as Gen Z and they have even more purchasing power. They were born between 1997 and the present, making the oldest in the generation currently in their early 20s.

Graph showing which birth years correlate with which generation

Members of Gen-Z are gaining purchasing power of their own, while still directly influencing their parents spending. A Barkley report estimates that members of Gen Z are currently spending $143 billion of their own dollars. Compared to Millennials who spend about $65 billion a year, this newest generation’s purchasing power is staggering.

Understanding Gen-Z’s Online Shopping Behavior

Both Millennials and those belonging to Gen-Z grew up in the digital age. However, the younger generation uses social media much differently.

While Millennials engage well with Facebook Ads, members of Gen-Z like to discover new products on Instagram. Once they learn about a new product they like, they begin to research it on YouTube at twice the rate of their millennial counterparts. And after they decide to make a purchase? Many head into brick-and-mortar stores to complete the purchase.

Gen Zers aren’t just using social media to engage with brands, 58% check their email multiple times per day and 81% check their email at least once a day.

Pie chart showing how often Gen Z checks their email

While many brands use email to engage with Millennials and members if Gen-X, most tend to feel social media is the best way to engage with Gen-Z. Because marketers are spending so much time sending the younger generation messages on Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat, the inbox of Gen-Z is less cluttered than that of older generations.

A study by Campaign Monitor found that Gen-Zers tend to get less than 20 emails per day. This represents a huge opportunity for companies to gain attention in the inbox.

What to Write in an Email to Gen-Z

Similar to older generations, members of Gen-Z like to receive emails that have sales or special offers. However, they are also interested in company updates and how-to content.

Types of emails Gen-Z likes:

  • 82.3% – Promos and special discounts
  • 44.3% – Product recommendations
  • 26.6% – Company updates
  • 20.3% – Links to blogs and resources

You may be surprised to see “company updates” included in this list but you shouldn’t be. Gen-Z grew up consuming digital content from the moment they could remember what was happening. They have always had access to brands not just locally or in the United States, but they have options from around the world. This global competition for their attention means this generation knows it has a choice on which companies it spends its money with.

Brands that want to earn the business of Gen-Z need to be socially conscious and have values that align with the personal values of the generation, which tend to be fairly liberal. Consensus data in the U.S. shows that Gen-Z is the most ethnically diverse population in history. This diversity has shaped the values of the generation and made them very inclusive.

It’s not enough for brands to say that they are eco-conscious or support diversity, the brands must demonstrate that they authentically share these values. Gen-Z not only knows how to research a company online, but they will do it, and they will share feedback if they feel the brand is not being true to the values it says it cares about.

Incorporating these values into emails can be a great way to establish a strong connection with members of this generation.

How to Write Emails for Gen-Z

While the Millennial generation is attracted to clever and witty humor, having grown up with the likes of Jon Stewart, Seth McFarlane, The Oatmeal webcomics, and ads with the Old Spice Guy, Gen-Z grew up with a quirkier sense of humor.

The younger generation grew up with YouTubers like Pewdiepie and Shane Dawson. They embrace a humor that is often over-the-top and absurd. They love self-deprecating memes from Instagram accounts like @FuckJerry and @Betches.

@FuckJerry meme

If you want to capture the attention of Gen-Z you should hire a comedy writer to integrate values-based messaging with a little bit of humor.

Dollar Shave Club is a brand that is known for capturing the attention of Millennial and Gen-Z men with humor. This becomes not-so-surprising when you learn that the founder of Dollar Shave Club, Michael Dublin, was once a stand-up comedian who studied comedy at New York City’s Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre founded by Amy Poehler.

Dublin says you can punch above your weight as a brand if you have messaging created by the right people. He tells Ad Age, “I would encourage you … to hire some comedy writers. Go down to the local comedy club and bring them into your marketing brainstorm.”

Here’s an example of an email Dollar Shave Club sends out in its drip campaign:

Screenshot of Dollar Shave Club email

“If you poop, shower, and shave daily, then you need the Daily Essentials Starter Set. If you don’t poop, shower, and shave daily, then you may need to seek medical attention for one of those things.”

Zing.

In addition to injecting comedy into your emails to Gen-Z, you’ll also want to use plenty of social proof in your messaging because Gen-Z likes to get the opinions of others in the decision making process.

Using customer testimonials is one easy and effective way to capture the attention of Gen-Z:

screenshot of fabletics email showing top product options

Another is to include user-generated images in your email marketing campaigns:

screenshot of fabletics email showing customers in their clothing

Getting these user-generated images shouldn’t be hard because Gen-Z loves to feel included and wants to interact with brands that celebrate them.

The youngest generation also loves: real stories, day-in-the-life videos (aka vlogs), “behind-the-scenes” videos (aka BTS), and short but helpful How-To content. Using this type of content as frequently as possible in your emails will help you win the hearts and dollars of Gen-Z.

Don’t Rely on Email Marketing Alone

As you start focusing your attention on reaching members of Gen-Z in their inboxes, remember that a multi-touch approach is really what’s necessary to win members of Gen-Z over as customers in the long run.

Gen-Z is firmly a multi-platform and multi-screen type of consumer. According to Forbes, millennials are known for using up to 3 screens at once, but Gen-Zers are known for using as many as five screens at once (smartphone, TV, laptop, desktop, iPad, and smartwatch are all common options).

How to capture their attention on these screens? Video.

Gen-Z watches 68 short videos a day on average, and like mentioned above, they love Behind the Scenes and How-to videos from brands. Additionally, since they love getting the opinion of others, integrating product placement into Day in the Life videos from influencers, and video reviews from other customers are also great ways to reach this generation across all platforms and devices.

Getting Started

While focus groups tend to be reserved for the biggest brands, smaller companies would do well to reach out to members of Gen-Z for informal focus group sessions. Interacting with members of this generation, learning what they like and dislike about your products, website, marketing campaigns, ,values, sense of humor and more is all information you can use to improve your results with this generation over time.

This is worth the effort because this generation has major purchasing power. Don’t ignore Gen-Zers because they’re “just kids” because they are so much more than that.

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