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Millennial vs Gen-Z Marketing: 7 Key Differences Marketers Should Know

Millennial vs Gen-Z Marketing: 7 Key Differences Marketers Should Know

Home Blog Digital Marketing Millennial vs Gen-Z Marketing: 7 Key Differences Marketers Should Know

If you think marketing to millennials is the same rodeo as marketing to Gen-Z, think again. As Gen-Z gets older and joins the workforce, we’re seeing some key differences in how each one budgets, spends, and saves based on their values and perception on brands and industries. 

It’s no secret that each generation is shaped by different factors, including environmental and political events that may shape their worldview. And in the age of the internet, we can see just how different each generation is.

Soon enough, millennials and Gen-Z will make up most of our workforce and will hold more spending power, so it’s important to brush up on exactly what makes them different so you can create marketing campaigns that cater to different markets.

In this article, we want to help you do just that. Let’s first examine what makes millennials and Gen-Z different from one another as a whole. Then we can move on to the differences you should know about how to market to these similar yet distinct generations.

Digital marketing campaign

Table of Contents:

Millennials vs Gen Z in a nutshell

Let’s take a look at some major distinctions between millennials and Gen Z.

Facts about Millennials

  • Born between 1981 to 1995
  • Because they were raised during an economic boom, they are comfortable with job hopping and are optimistic about their future.
  • Millennials prefer more collaboration between themselves and colleagues than their Gen Z counterparts.
  • 20% of millennials are likely to have a bachelor’s degree but doubt if their student loan debt is worth it.
  • Tech savvy — millennials are known to be adept at technology, being multi-screen users. They are the last generation to know and remember what life was like before the internet and gadgets became mainstream necessities.

Facts about Gen Z

  • Born between 1996 to 2012
  • Unlike millennials who were raised in an economic boom, Gen Z were raised during the Great Recession between 2007 to 2009. Because of this, they’re more pragmatic than their millennial counterparts and seek job security over the ability to explore different positions and companies.
  • In the workplace, most Gen Z prefer to be independent and have a “do it myself” attitude. Where millennial counterparts may prefer to work in groups and circles, Gen Z prefer to have their own workspace.
  • 75% of Gen Z believe that there are other ways to get higher education than going to traditional college.
  • Tech innate — these centennials are the first generation to not remember a life without the internet. They’re more likely than their millennial counterparts to use up to 5 different screens (sometimes all at once) and can navigate the online world without any friction.

These generational differences set the bar for how companies and brands can cater to each individual market. To help you really nail your marketing campaigns for these generations, let’s now take a look at some key differences to keep in mind when marketing to millennials and Gen Z.

7 Key Differences When Marketing to Millennials and

1. Outlook Towards Technology and Money 

As we’ve seen from the key facts above, millennials and Gen Z grew up in different times. Even the youngest millennials grew up with gadgets that were deemed revolutionary for their time: cell phones with small screens and physical keypads (the smartphone’s older and very different brother), personal computers you could not simply use from your lap or bed, dial up internet that took a few seconds to load even an image…

On the other hand, only the oldest of Gen Z would remember these inventions, if at all. The youngest of Gen Z would have been born in the age where smart technology — smart phones, TVs, appliances — is becoming mainstream.

But because they grew up with things like the internet and social networking at their fingertips, these things are more integrated in the lives of Gen Z. They’re heavily connected and are likely to be using most social media apps and platforms. 

They’re known to shop online more than millennials (though all age groups are likely to have seen a boost in online shopping because of the recent COVID-19 pandemic), but are notably not as easily persuaded by things like discounts and online ads.

Each generation’s outlook on money also plays a role in how well they receive marketing messages. 

For instance, 51% of Gen Z have said that being able to compare the same or similar products with different price points is the top online shopping benefit for them. On the other hand, for 55% of millennials, the top benefit for shopping online is convenience. 

Because they were born into different economies, millennials were able to build up their finances after the 2007-2009 recession, while Gen Z were either born or raised in the middle of it. This has led to an almost drastic outlook on money for younger generations, who view job security, income, and spending with more practicality than their optimistic older generation. 

Applying this when Marketing to Millennials vs Gen-Z

Knowing what we know about their outlook towards technology and money, here are some of our recommendations to effectively market to each generation:

  • Younger generations are more likely to purchase if they see a product is practical or truly valuable in their lives. Because of this, shift your marketing messages to reflect that desire to purchase practical things.
  • Because millennials value things like convenience and customer experience, it’s important to invest your resources into creating more seamless experiences, especially online.

2. Where They Do Their Online Shopping 

We see another key difference between millennials and Gen Z in where they do their online shopping. Both these generations may have grown up with the internet, but the younger of the two have been exposed to this technology from a younger age, learning digital literacy from much younger ages.

It comes as no surprise that Gen Z are known to be more mobile-first. This extends even to their online shopping habits as Gen Z are more likely to purchase through mobile before any other device. In fact, they’re twice as likely as millennials to make their online shopping orders through mobile.

Where They Do Their Online Shopping 
Source: Hubspot blog

While it can be argued that this statistic may apply because smartphones are the more accessible gadget option for teens compared to personal computers and laptops, it’s safe to say that mobile shopping will still be a big habit Gen Z will have.

Even millennials have said they prefer to use their phones when shopping online, especially as the experience and technology has made it more accessible, convenient, and even desirable — as in the case of many retailers and stores creating dedicated apps for shopping, checkout, and order tracking.

Applying this when Marketing to Millennials vs Gen Z

As both generations are very mobile-first when it comes to doing their online shopping, here are some recommendations to help you level up your marketing campaigns:

  • Invest in mobile-first design for your online store and website.
  • Consider launching an app for ecommerce experiences. Alternatively, consider finding retailers with said apps who can carry your products and get your brand in front of millennials and Gen Z who have these shopping apps on their phone.
  • Make sure your shopping sites load quickly on mobile. These tech-savvy generations, and Gen Z especially, are known not to want to use sites and apps that are slow to load.
  • For millennials who put priority over convenience and experience, test your user experience and user interface to make sure online shopping flows well. Whenever possible, make sure your checkout process is as short as possible.
  • Many Gen Z, most especially the younger within this generation, are currently not able to have a credit card. Because of this, enable as many online shopping payment methods as possible, including online wallets or “buy now, pay later” type of plans. 
  • As we see a rise in new technology, we also see that Gen Z is paving the way for “social commerce” — or shopping completely within a social media app like Facebook or Instagram. Because of this, make the most of free shop tools from Instagram or Facebook, and keep an eye out for social media platforms that release new shopping features to follow suit.

3. The Marketing Channels They Frequent 

While both millennials and Gen Z are social media savvy, there can be a surprising difference in the marketing channels that they prefer to frequent and how much time they spend on them.

Millennials grew up with early social media sites like Myspace and Tumblr, but the most popular social media platform for them is still Facebook, followed closely by YouTube and Instagram. Platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn are also close to their top social media channels visited in a day.

Social media platforms Millennials are using now
Source: YPulse

Millennials, according to their self-reports, say they use social media for about 3.8 hours a day on average. This number may have gone up during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re still to see if these changes will carry through in a post-pandemic world.

On the other hand, the top social media platforms for a Gen Z are mostly video-based platforms, like TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube. 

Social media platforms Gen Z is using now
Source: YPulse

Gen Z is the generation most likely to spend more time on social media than any other generation. According to their own self-reports from the same study on millennials, they estimate that they spend over 4.5 hours on social media per day. This number reportedly does not include the time they spend gaming.

Despite the differences, both generations seem to prefer each social platform for more or less the same reasons. The top reasons millennials and Gen Z are on their preferred social media platforms are to follow people who share their interests, creators and influencers, and entertainment accounts.

Who do they follow on social media?
Source: YPulse

Applying this when Marketing to Millennials vs Gen Z

As we’ve seen here, social media platforms are not equal between these two generations. Take note of these recommendations when you’re planning campaigns for marketing to millennials and for marketing to Gen Z:

  • Both generations follow online creators and influencers and are known to trust influencer recommendations. Take note of rising social media apps like TikTok and work with influencers on these platforms.
  • Video platforms, especially those that support short-form videos, are on the rise for both generations. Be present in these platforms and create engaging content that can keep their attention.
  • Create strategic partnerships with not only influencers but other brands or individuals who may already have a millennial or Gen Z audience.

4. Buying Frequency 

As we see more Gen Z join the workforce, we’re starting to notice just how different their purchasing habits are from their millennial counterparts. Despite the difference, however, we can say one thing they have in common: both millennial and Gen Z generations spend significantly less than the generations prior.

According to a report by Ernst & Young, a whopping 74% of millennials have bought products online more than once a month. Meanwhile in comparison, only 49% of Gen Z report the same purchasing habits.

We can tie these back to their outlook on money. Because Gen Z are known to be more practical and pragmatic, they may only purchase when a need arises. 

Millennials, on the other hand, are more likely to be optimistic about their financial futures. They’re educated and are reportedly earning more than older generations did at the same age.

Applying this when Marketing to Millennials vs Gen Z

As buying habits of Gen Z are yet to get clearer as more and more join the workforce and increase their spending power, here’s what we can learn from the current generation when it comes to selling to them:

  • Gen Z are known to be pragmatic, so make your marketing campaigns reflect that need for pragmatism. Add practical value add-ons like free shipping or discount codes that might help them make easier decisions about your product.
  • Because both generations are spending less than older generations, brands may need to ramp up their products’ benefits to truly convince these generations to make a purchase. Product quality is going to be a big factor for these groups, so make sure your product gives them their money’s worth.

5. Brand Loyalty Levels 

Brand loyalty will play a huge role in the purchasing decisions of both millennials and Gen Z. Where we first saw this among millennials, who were the first generation who took their personal values and demanded that brands follow suit, we see this trend only keeping up among the Gen Z market.

Both millennials and Gen Z value sustainability, environmentalism, and social justice. They want their brands to stand for a cause; a cause that they themselves would stand for. 

In fact, Gen Z have notably said they are willing to pay a premium on brands who offer sustainable options or have sustainability as a core value in their business model. 

These generations are far more willing to hold brands that do wrong accountable, will not be afraid to boycott, nor will they be silent online if said brands in the wrong don’t change.

Applying this when Marketing to Millennials vs Gen Z

Brand loyalty will be a key currency when marketing to millennials and Gen Z. Here’s what we recommend as you plan your next campaigns:

  • Invest in a strong brand identity. Reports have shown that 71% of millennials are more likely to purchase from brands that share the same values as them, so your brand identity needs to reflect these values important to your customers.
  • Walk your talk. Expressing your values is one thing, but living them is another. It’s a big investment to make sure your company can align its values with millennials and Gen Z, but consider it an investment in the future as many individuals in these markets refuse to compromise on what drives them.
  • Make the effort to show consumers how you are living out your values. Publish reports that summarize any causes you’ve supported and how, or make it clear that their support for your brand is helping make a difference.

6. Perception Towards Ads and Branded Content 

Advertising might be taking a hit with these younger generations. Millennials and Gen Z feel less connected to the ads they see online; only 36% of millennials and 32% of Gen Z reportedly trust the ads they’re targeted by on social media.

What this means is relying solely on ads won’t guarantee success of your marketing campaigns. While millennials are more likely to consider buying from brands after seeing them on traditional ads (including social media and podcast brand sponsor read-outs), Gen Z might be a little more immune.

A huge chunk of Gen Z have reportedly installed some kind of ad blocker on their devices — even mobile — and an even bigger chunk is more likely to skip an ad they see online.

Applying this when Marketing to Millennials vs Gen Z

If traditional advertising means online is endangered by the younger generations’ shifting habits, here’s how you can still make the most of your marketing and sales:

  • Prioritize information over simple advertising. Millennials and Gen Z don’t want to be sold to; they prefer content that feels more educational and beneficial over content that is only meant to sell. Because of this, focus on tactics like influencer marketing.
  • Generate as much organic buzz about your brand as possible. Earned media is that which you can’t buy; it’s when the press and consumers themselves talk about you online and spread the word. Because of this, brainstorm products and campaigns that stand a chance to get picked up by consumers and media outlets alike.

7. Preferred Content Type 

Finally, let’s take a look at how millennials and Gen Z differ in their preferred types of content to consume online. These can vastly influence their purchasing decisions, especially if you’re creating the right content that appeals to their tastes.

For one thing, both Gen Z and millennials seem to enjoy entertaining content online. They flock to sites like YouTube to see videos from popular creators, and they spend time consuming micro-content like Instagram Stories and TikToks.

Gen Z is more likely to prefer video content over their millennial counterparts. And though they’re active on sites like Instagram, they are increasingly moving away from over-filtered and aspirational feeds and posts. They want brands to be more authentic and real than selling them a lifestyle they know is unreachable for the majority. 

What are the main reasons they visit the social media platforms they use?
Source: YPulse

Applying this when Marketing to Millennials vs Gen Z

As we’re seeing video content rising the ranks between Gen Z and millennial shoppers, it’s time we make changes in our own marketing campaigns too. We recommend:

  • Investing in video marketing and influencer marketing together. These consumers want to feel like they’re not being sold to, so meet that need by creating or partnering with creators who can educate consumers about your products instead.
  • Entertainment is quickly becoming a key ingredient in successful marketing campaigns. As younger generations tend to prefer entertaining content, you can look into memes and comedy to reach these shoppers and get their attention.
  • Just because video is rising doesn’t mean you can’t invest in other content types. Some content like infographics, Carousels and albums, and the like have the ability to go viral on social media apps like Instagram, especially if they relate to consumers’ values, as we saw in a previous item on this list.
Digital marketing campaign

Key Takeaways/Conclusion

Now that more and more Gen Z are joining the workforce, we’re seeing just how different their shopping habits and views are compared to millennials. There are definitely similarities, and we can almost say that Gen Z shoppers take what millennials believe and prefer to the next level. 

Keep this article handy for the next time you plan your marketing campaigns. Highlight which market segment is your bigger market so you can prioritize different platforms, content types, and more. And don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things; if there’s anything we’ve learned about millennials and Gen Z, they’re not afraid to make changes in the world and will likely appreciate brands who do the same.

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Kevin Payne

Kevin is a Content Marketing Consultant. He helps software companies to build marketing funnels and implement content marketing campaigns to increase their inbound leads.

Content Marketing Consultant @KevinTPayne