Marketing to Gen Z for Financial Institutions

Get insights into what makes this group tick, plus tips and strategies to effectively engage this unique demographic.

By Greg Sultan, SVP, Financial Strategist

Marketing to Gen Z

Are you ready to market to Generation Z? They’re the latest demographic group to come of age as consumers and, more importantly, financial account holders. Defined by the Pew Research Center as anyone born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Zers are now ages 7 to 22, meaning this is a group that financial institutions will need to factor into marketing plans for decades to come. By next year, they’ll account for 40% of the U.S. population,1 or about 61 million Americans,2 with many of them already in the workforce, earning and spending their own money.

Below we share insights into Gen Z financial habits, along with strategies and tactics to ensure your financial marketing strategies are on track to win over this important demographic.

Gen Z Financial Habits and Characteristics

In order to effectively reach, engage and retain this unique demographic, it’s important to understand the traits and behaviors that make this group tick — and how they differ from previous generations. Here’s a look at their preferences, behaviors and approach to money.

They are digital natives.

Generation Z is the first generation that’s never known a world without easy access to the internet, mobile apps and social media. They’re comfortable with technology and increasingly manage all aspects of their lives on their digital devices. It’s no surprise that they spend more time online than any other generation, with many checking their social media accounts up to 100 times a day.3

They have short attention spans.

In a society where consumers are bombarded with marketing messages, brands generally have about eight seconds to capture a person’s attention. This is especially important to consider when marketing to Gen Zers as they’re more likely than previous generations to apply ad-blocking technology and much quicker to skip online ads.

They crave relevant, authentic content.

Gen Zers want honest, transparent content that relates to their lives. They follow social media influencers and are more likely than other generations to purchase products and services recommended by influencers.

Most have a bank account in their name by the time they’re in high school.

Whether in their own name or jointly with their parents, Gen Zers have financial accounts and are already saving and spending their own money. Since they’re forming relationships with financial institutions earlier than previous generations, as well as developing opinions about financial brands, it’s crucial that your Gen Z marketing strategies start early on.

They are more likely to be savers.

Gen Z financial concerns include a desire to not amass student loan or credit card debt, or make the financial mistakes of previous generations. In fact, 89% of Gen Zers say planning for their financial future makes them feel empowered.4

They expect a fast, connected, seamless experience.

In banking as well as with every other industry they interact with, this generation expects quick access to the information they seek, and a positive customer experience.

Six Strategies for Marketing to Gen Z

Generation Z gives financial institutions new opportunities to expand their customer base. But to leverage this prospect, you must understand this group’s beliefs and behaviors — and shift your marketing strategies to create value for this important segment. Like the millennials that came before them, Gen Zers value experiences and want to be reached when and where it’s convenient for them. To get their attention and earn their trust, try these six strategies for engaging Generation Zers.

1. Provide educational financial content.

Offer informative personal finance content on topics that appeal to this generation, such as budgeting, understanding credit and investing, saving and financing college. Engage them by providing content in different formats — especially visuals, like infographics and videos. To start building relationships with this demographic when they’re young, consider partnering with grade schools and college campuses to offer educational materials or workshops specifically geared toward personal finance for Gen Z.

2. Offer a seamless customer experience across all channels and devices.

With convenience and speed being a high priority to Gen Zers, make it easy for them to access information about your products and services, including how to access customer service. Keep in mind that the mobile experience is particularly crucial with these consumers. Additionally, being digital natives, they view all of a brand’s channels as one integrated experience, expecting to move seamlessly from one channel to another without having to re-enter information or restart a process.

This experience includes balancing digital offerings (like mobile banking and remote deposit) with access to a branch or other options to interact with a live person or a chat bot to quickly find the information they seek.

3. Know their channel preferences.

Effectively marketing to Gen Zers means engaging with them where they are and when they want to engage. That makes it crucial to pay attention to their channel preferences — potentially breaking out email, mobile and social media, in particular. Ensure that your messaging stays consistent across every channel.

It’s also important to understand how to engage on different channels. For instance, to gain trust, use social media to build brand awareness versus selling products. Keep in mind that within social media, it’s common for Gen Zers to use multiple platforms.

Not sure how often, and on which channels, they want to hear from you? Let them tell you. Create an online preference center and link to it in your communication pieces so customers can choose their preferred channel(s) to receive your messages. A preference center also lets them tell you how often they want to hear from you and what financial topics they’re interested in learning about. Remember that Gen Z grew up in the age of data collection and are accustomed to sharing — as long as you use the information to provide content that’s truly directed at them.

4. Deliver relevant, targeted messages on their preferred devices.

To effectively capture Gen Z attention, your communications approach needs to be direct, authentic, relevant and personalized.

  • Direct. Get to the point immediately and stick to it.
  • Authentic. Anything “salesy” or phony will quickly turn off Gen Z. Be honest, transparent and real in your communication.
  • Relevant. Sixty percent of Gen Zers will open an email if it contains relevant content.5 Your messaging and visuals have to relate to the world Gen Zers live in — their experiences, challenges and aspirations.
  • Personalized. Your Gen Z marketing strategies need to focus on the customer by answering the fundamental question, “What’s in it for me?” Don’t just promote a financial product or service — show how it will benefit the individual. Leverage your data to create one-to-one interactions that show them you know them.

5. Consider loyalty rewards or gamification to incentivize specific actions.

This generation has grown up with loyalty rewards (think Starbucks) and other perks that incentivize engagement. Consider offering accounts or certain banking actions that offer rewards, such as when they reach a certain savings goal. Or, motivate them by offering the opportunity to earn badges or points for completing an activity, sharing with friends or taking another type of action.

6. Offer simple tools that encourage saving.

Win this group over by providing easy-to-use personal finance tools. For example, the ability to seamlessly make automatic deposits into specific buckets like clothing, car, college, etc. This is especially important for the older Gen Zers who are starting to earn paychecks, pay bills, grow in their careers and save for future goals. If you can gain this group’s loyalty now, you stand a much greater chance of retaining them as long-time customers.

Every Generation Matters

It’s critical to create distinct Generation Z marketing strategies. But every generation has their unique characteristics, making it crucial to understand every age group that makes up your financial institution’s client base. That way, you can make products, services, offers and other marketing as relevant as possible, helping to win customers today and drive loyalty for years to come.

As a leader in financial services marketing and relationship building, CCG’s financial marketing experts have spent the last four decades helping clients successfully target audience segments with relevant messaging to increase engagement, retention and profits. Click here to schedule a free consultation or call us at 303-986-3000.

1 “Marketing to Generation Z? Here’s what you need to know,” Ryan Jenkins, Inc.com, posted Aug. 27, 2018, https://www.inc.com/ryan-jenkins/marketing-to-generation-z-heres-what-you-need-to-know.html, accessed Sept. 25, 2019

2 “Corporate America Can’t Afford to Ignore Gen Z,” Tiffany Kary, Bloomberg.com, posted March 29, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-29/how-gen-z-s-different-than-millennials-companies-try-asmr-memes, accessed Sept. 25, 2019

3 “Engaging Generation Z: Marketing to a New Brand of Consumer,” Josh Perlstein, Adweek.com, posted Nov. 27, 2017, https://www.adweek.com/digital/josh-perlstein-response-media-guest-post-generation-z/, accessed Sept. 25, 2019

4 “Why Gen Z Is Approaching Money Differently than Other Generations, Jeff Desjardins, Visual Capitalist, published Nov. 27, 2018, https://www.visualcapitalist.com/why-gen-z-approaching-money-differently/, accessed Sept. 25, 2019

5 “The Ultimate Guide to Marketing to Gen Z in 2019,” Campaign Monitor, https://www.campaignmonitor.com/resources/guides/guide-to-gen-z-marketing-2019/, accessed Sept. 27, 2019

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