Ready or not, marketers who are weary of pursuing millennials can look forward to targeting another demographic group: Generation Z. While people who were born in the mid 1990's still have limited spending power, they make up a quarter of the U.S. population and are expected to have an even greater digital impact on retail compared to their predecessors. The key to serving this generation and other age groups is insight into customer behavior and preferences. Brennan Agranoff is a 15-year-old entrepreneur who recognizes the value of knowing his customers. Agranoff founded Hoopswagg, an online business that offers custom-designed athletic socks, when he noticed kids wearing colorful socks on the basketball court. With his father's help, he researched printing techniques and invested in a sublimation printer. Agranoff taught himself how to use Adobe Illustrator and now prints his own designs.
Customers can purchase Hoopswagg socks through eBay, Amazon, and the company's website. And with a staff of six part-time employees who print and ship the socks from Agranoff's home in Oregon, the two-year-old company sells 30 to 40 pairs of socks per day. "Our average customer is anywhere from 12 years of age to 30 and primarily male," Agranoff says. The reports that young shoppers today look for visual content and trust word-of-mouth recommendations are in line with the behavior of Hoopswagg's average customer.
"I can see this through our social media, where the majority of our follower base is from [the millennial] generation," Agranoff notes. "They love to look at pictures of our socks and over time we believe we can get them to buy. The other common trend among this generation is the trust they have in their friends. Our largest, most successful campaigns have been quickly spread through friends sharing with friends."
Data analytics is also a key part of the company's marketing strategy. Agranoff uses marketing analytics provider Terapeak, which also offers pricing and SEO tools, to optimize sales on eBay and Amazon. Being mobile-friendly is also crucial, Agranoff adds, noting that his generation "relies on their phone to get through the day."
Although mobile-optimized sites and the ability to understand consumer preferences are already important strategies, these tactics will be even more crucial for reaching the next generation of shoppers who are already wary of generic marketing, agrees Lucinda Duncalfe, CEO of Monetate, which offers testing and personalization tools to marketers.
But before brands can even think about customizing their content at an individual level, many are still working on connecting their various data sets and testing their campaigns. Many of the marketers that Monetate works with are focused on optimizing their targeting and segmenting capabilities while cross-channel messaging and other customized approaches are on their road map.
"We know generation Z are true digital natives but it's too early to say for certain how to best approach them," Duncalfe says. "What we do know though, is that they'll expect brands to know them and understand their interests which is why personalization and the ability to anticipate your customer's needs is critical."