Get insights into Gen Z financial habits today, what makes the group tick, plus tips and strategies to effectively engage them.
- COVID-19 has impacted Gen Z financial habits, which could leave your Gen Z financial marketing strategies out of date
- Gen Z financial concerns include saving, preparing for their financial future and minimizing debt
- The influence of Generation Z on financial services includes an emphasis on your brand’s values, collaboration opportunities and factors driving loyalty
- Gen Z seeks information and opinions on social media and will open relevant emails, but they want a seamless omnichannel experience and choice
- Gen Z personal finance content needs to be relevant, authentic, direct and personalized
Think you have your Gen Z financial marketing strategies ironed out? You may need to think again. The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on Gen Z financial habits and, as the group ages, their needs, lifestyles and attitudes are also evolving. If you haven’t revisited your Gen Z marketing tactics lately, now is a good time to do it. We’ll help with a refresher on basic Gen Z demographics, a look at some key Gen Z financial habits, traits that could influence your Gen Z financial marketing plans and tactics you can use to win over this potentially profitable audience.
Who is Generation Z?
While Generation Alpha is growing up and Millennials reach middle age, Generation Z is in the hot seat as the consumer group to watch — and attract. Defined by the Pew Research Center as people born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Zs are now age 9 to 24. They are the largest generation in American history, accounting for 27% of the country’s population.1 They are an ethnically diverse group that embraces diversity and inclusion — an important mindset to remember when you’re talking to them.
Many Gen Zs are already in the workforce, earning, spending and making financial decisions large and small. Yet the youngest Zs are still in grade school, just learning the most basic personal finance lessons. This age spread means Gen Z is an important client base for financial institutions to focus on today and for decades to come.
2 Key Gen Z Financial Habits
To effectively reach, engage and retain this audience, you need to understand Gen Z financial habits, including how they’ve been impacted by the pandemic.
They’re early savers.
Gen Zs are forming relationships with financial institutions earlier than previous generations. Most have a bank account in their name by the time they’re in high school. In total, 60% have a savings account, and 54% have a checking account.2
While this group was already keen on saving, the pandemic reinforced that attitude. Zs saw millions of people lose their jobs and, just as many were graduating, they faced a shockingly high unemployment rate. They had front-row seats to a lesson on the importance of saving and preparing for their financial futures.
Personal finance app Stash reported a nearly 60% increase in 18- to 24-year-olds using its automated saving tools and a 118% increase in the same group opening retirement accounts.3
Gen Z financial marketing tip: Make them aware of direct deposit and other tools that make saving easy. For example, allow them to make automatic deposits into specific buckets like clothing, car, college, etc.
They’re wary of debt — and of making mistakes.
Gen Z financial concerns include a desire to not amass student loan or credit card debt, or to make the financial mistakes of previous generations. In fact, 89% of Gen Zs say planning for their financial future makes them feel empowered, and 64% have already begun researching on their own or talking to others about financial planning, with 13 the average age Gen Zs start this process.2
They’re facing serious hurdles, though. This generation faces potentially the largest increase in student loan, personal loan and home loan balances, according to a report by EducationData.org. One-third already have a credit card,2 while Insider Intelligence predicts that 44% of Gen Z digital buyers age 14 and older will have used a Buy Now Pay Later service at least once by the end of 2022.4
Gen Z financial marketing tip: Let this audience know about products that can help them manage debt. For instance, offer child-parent joint credit cards that can help younger Zs learn how to handle credit. Provide student loans and student loan refinance or consolidation products to help older Zs fit repayment into their budget. Offer budgeting, credit and debt management workshops.
3 Traits That Could Impact Your Gen Z Financial Marketing
Beyond Gen Z financial habits, there are additional traits that could influence how you market to this group. Here are three.
They value values.
Gen Z wants to know your values and that you follow through with what you say. They seek out companies whose mission and practices fit their own values, and who show how those values impact the way they do business. In short, they want you to take a stand for the greater good. During the pandemic, for instance, 89% of Zs said they believed it was necessary for brands to do something to help with COVID-19.3
Gen Z financial marketing tip: Make sure your imagery and messaging reflect inclusivity and work in ways that you’re living your values, such as through sustainable practices or equitable hiring practices.
Zs don’t just want to hear from you. They want to work with you. Thirty-six percent say they would be interested in creating digital content (e.g., reviews, images, other copy) for a brand, while 44% would like the chance to contribute product design ideas.5
Gen Z financial marketing tip: Provide user generated content opportunities. For instance, encourage customers to submit reviews on your website and to share photos on your social pages, such as images showing them achieving a financial goal, like buying a car or graduating. Consider a contest that lets customers contribute ideas for new products or product logos, etc.
They can be loyal.
Our 2021 Retail Customer Brand Loyalty Study showed that Zs aged 18-24 tend to be Loyalists — they find a brand they like and stick with them for specific types of purchases. The study also notes Gen Z loyalty is heavily influenced by the belief that the brand is socially responsible. Compared to other age groups, they are less likely to be influenced by receiving incentives from a company. We believe these behaviors and attitudes remain the same when it comes to Gen Z relationships with financial institutions.
A Forbes article supports this, showing that 46% of 19- to 21-year-olds have “a strong connection or loyalty” to a brand. And 66% of Zs overall tend to buy from a preferred brand for a long time.5
Gen Z financial marketing tip: Along with showcasing your values, as mentioned earlier, consider gamification strategies to encourage Gen Z loyalty. For instance, offer rewards for completing certain banking actions, like setting and then reaching a savings goal. Or motivate them by offering the opportunity to earn badges or points for completing an activity, sharing your posts with friends or taking another type of action.
3 Attitudes That Could Influence Your Gen Z Digital Marketing
Zs are digital natives: They’re the first generation that’s never known a world without easy access to the internet, mobile apps and social media. They were comfortable with technology and with managing all aspects of their lives on their digital devices long before the pandemic pushed many others onto the tech track.
They’re very social.
Some Zs check their social media accounts as often as 100 times a day.6 But often these are quick “micro-interactions” — possibly just a few seconds at a time. And they’re spreading that fleeting attention across multiple platforms. According to Campaign Monitor:7
- 85% of Gen Zs use YouTube
- 72% use Instagram
- 52% use Facebook (although one-third think it’s for “old people”)
As brief as their social interactions may be, Zs are using those moments to seek out product information, as well as peer and influencer opinions, to help them make decisions. Sixty-nine percent say they’ve made a purchase because of social media.7
Even more interesting to financial institutions, 64% of 18- to 29-year-olds discuss investments with friends, and 41% of Gen Zs turn to social media influencers to educate themselves on investing.8
Gen Z financial marketing tip: You don’t need a social media presence on every platform, but you should be visible on at least some channels. Use your posts to relay useful advice and information on Gen Z financial concerns and questions.
They like email (within reason).
Far from considering email passè, nearly two-thirds of Gen Zs check their email multiple times a day, while one-fourth check at least once daily.7 More than half of Zs say they’ve made one or more purchase in a month because of an email.7
Since most Zs receive fewer than 20 emails per day — compared to more than 100 for older generations — your messages will have less competition for Gen Z’s inbox attention.7 But don’t overdo it: While a third of Gen Zs prefer to get emails from a brand a couple of times a week, another 19% say once a week is plenty — and 18% prefer once a month.7
They want choice — and a seamless omnichannel experience.
A whopping 88% of Gen Zs want an omnichannel marketing experience.5 Besides social media and email, they name in-person discussions, ads, chat and company blogs as preferred communication options. And while mobile devices are their top technology, they use other digital devices as well.
Across all channels and devices, they want to have a seamless experience with you. They view all your channels as one integrated experience, expecting to move seamlessly from one to another without having to re-enter information or restart a process. And they expect that accessing information about your products and services — and carrying out banking activities — will be simple and quick, no matter what device they’re using.
Gen Z financial marketing tip: Make sure that your messaging remains consistent across channels. Balance digital offerings (like mobile banking and remote deposit) with options for interacting with a live person or a chat bot to quickly find the information they seek. Optimize your conversion process for mobile devices.
Offer an online preference center that lets customers select their preferred channels for hearing from you, as well as frequency and financial topics of interest. Link to it from key pages of your website and from other communications.
4 Content Traits That Will Engage Gen Z
Given their youth, Gen Zs are still developing financial habits and learning personal finance skills. They need honest, transparent content that relates to their lives, concerns and goals. As digital natives, they are highly likely to seek this information online. Unfortunately, that means they’re as likely to encounter bad advice as good.
That’s where you can come in, delivering credible advice they can use to make sound financial decisions and gain the knowledge they need to answer their financial questions and achieve their objectives. You’ll position your brand as an expert resource and assistant — and you can improve engagement with Gen Zs, as well. Sixty percent of this audience say they open emails that have relevant content, second only to opening emails for special offers and sales.7
Gen Z financial marketing tip: Think broadly about how and where you can reach Gen Zs with personal finance content. For instance:
- Create a free resource library or financial education center on your website and as part of your mobile app.
- Offer financial literacy courses on topics appropriate for different age levels, from elementary school to 20-somethings. Do some research to decide on the most appropriate format, such as in-person, virtual lessons or webinars.
- Partner with local schools, including colleges, to provide educational materials and/or guest lecturers to cover personal finance topics.
- Distribute content through a variety of formats and be sure to leverage visuals, such as infographics and videos.
To truly resonate with Gen Z, make sure your content is relevant, authentic, direct and personalized.
Your messaging and visuals must relate to the world Gen Zs live in — their experiences, challenges and aspirations. In general, this means sharing advice on fundamental personal finance topics, such as creating and living within a budget, reducing debt, financial planning, investing basics and understanding credit.
Anything “salesy,” phony or too perfect will quickly turn off this audience. Be honest, transparent and real in your Gen Z financial marketing communication. Imagery and messaging should mirror everyday life, including its diversity.
That said, Gen Z also appreciates an uplifting, positive outlook and an upbeat, friendly tone. Show how your products or services can reduce stress. And leverage photos, testimonials and reviews from real-life people who have used your products or services to improve their lives and reach their goals.
Remember those micro-interactions with social media? That splintered focus spills beyond that. Zs may use as many as five devices simultaneously.5 And that leads to a tiny attention span — as short as eight seconds by some estimates.5 This group is also more likely than previous generations to apply ad-blocking technology and much quicker to skip online ads. But, once you capture their attention, they can focus on your content and engage for extended, binge-like periods.
Gen Z financial marketing tip: Get to the point immediately so you can connect with readers before they have time to think of something else to do. Then keep their attention with snackable, skimmable comment — short paragraphs, bullet lists and visuals.
The value of personalization is no longer news. But it is essential for your Gen Z financial marketing initiatives, since 64% of this audience believe brands should provide personalized experiences.9
That doesn’t just mean adding a name to a subject line or salutation. Ideally, it also means personalizing content and even images based on what you know about that individual’s interests, life stage and other demographic or behavior data.
Realize, though, that privacy is also important to Gen Z. Only 39% trust brands to keep their data safe — less than any other generation.10 On the flip side, they are less concerned about how you use the data you have.10 In short, letting them know how you’ll protect their information is far more important than telling them how you plan to use it — but a good marketer will do both.
Every Generation Matters
These insights will help you create effective Gen Z financial marketing strategies so you can grab the opportunities presented by this large and potentially profitable group. But every generation has its 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 leaders 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. Schedule a free consultation or call us at 303.986.3000.
1 “Gen Z News: Latest Characteristics, Research, and Facts,” Andrew Meola, Insider Intelligence, posted July 29, 2021, https://www.insiderintelligence.com/insights/generation-z-facts/, accessed Sept. 8, 2021
2 “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. 7, 2021
3 “A Look at Gen Z’s Financial Habits, from Spending to Saving and More,” Nicole Spector, GoBankingRates.com, published March 22, 2021, https://www.gobankingrates.com/money/financial-planning/look-gen-zs-financial-habits-spending-saving/, accessed Sept. 7, 2021
4 “Almost 75% of BNPL Users in the U.S. Are Gen Z or Millennials,” Insider Intelligence, posted June 25, 2021, https://www.emarketer.com/content/almost-75-of-bnpl-users-us-gen-z-millennials, accessed Sept. 7, 2021
5 “Marketing to Gen Z? Here are 5 things you need to know,” Bernard May, Forbes, posted Aug. 13, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2021/08/13/marketing-to-gen-z-here-are-5-things-you-need-to-know/, accessed Sept. 7, 2021
6 “Engaging Generation Z: Marketing to a New Brand of Consumer,” Josh Perlstein, Adweek.com, posted Nov. 27, 2017,
https://www.adweek.com/performance-marketing/josh-perlstein-response-media-guest-post-generation-z/, accessed Sept. 25, 2019
7 “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. 7, 2021
8 “Gen Z is rewriting the rules for personal finance in real time. That’s good, right?” Mallika Mitra, Money.com, posted July 21, 2021, https://money.com/gen-z-rewriting-personal-finance-rules-real-time/, accessed Sept. 7, 2021
9 “Email Marketing for Gen Z: Statistics and Strategies,” Dianna Gunn, MailPoet, posted May 11, 2021, https://www.mailpoet.com/blog/email-marketing-for-gen-z/, accessed Sept. 9, 2021
10 “Gen Z is the most skeptical — but the least concerned — about brands’ data privacy practices,” Sara Lebow, Insider Intelligence, posted July 2, 2021, https://www.emarketer.com/content/gen-z-most-skeptical-about-brands-data-privacy-practices, accessed Sept. 8, 2021