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What Your Brand Needs To Know About Email Marketing to Generation Z, Plus 9 Brands Doing It Right

By 2020, Gen Z will make up 40 percent of consumers. Also known as the iGeneration, these teens and tweens grew up with smartphones in their hands.

Born between 1996 and 2010, these digital natives are the group after the millennials, and they have different needs, wants, and expectations. As such, brands need to adjust their marketing strategies accordingly.

Below we’ll cover email marketing to Generation Z and how it does particularly well with this demographic, as long as you do it right.

What Email Marketers Need To Know About Gen Z

Unlike their narcissistic predecessors, Gen Zers have been described as independent, realistic, and private. They grew up with pragmatic Generation X parents (instead of baby boomers constantly telling them how special they are) and, thanks to millennials, they’ve seen the dangers of oversharing. As a result, they’re fans of the disappearing, anonymous nature of Snapchat, Secret, and Whisper, versus the very public world of Facebook.

Speaking of Snapchat, Generation Z never knew a time before social media. They’ve always digested information instantly. If your brand wants to catch their attention, you need to do it as quickly as possible (this is where emojis can really come in handy).

Overall, Gen Z holds brands to higher standards. To a group who grew up with smartphones, any experience that’s less than perfect indicates a brand who doesn’t know what it’s doing. They’re also incredible multitaskers, so brands need to bend over backwards for them. Otherwise, they’ll simply leave.

Finally, it’s important to remember that Gen Zers grew up in a world with 9/11, and saw firsthand how the recession impacted their families. They want to make a difference in the world more than any previous generation, and they’re willing to work for it. Make sure they know about your brand’s humanitarian impact, and how they can contribute.  

3 Rules for Marketing to Generation Z

Over half of Gen Zers prefer to shop online, and one of the best ways to invite them to shop with you is through email marketing. Here are three rules of thumb to follow.

#1. Be instant

Gen Zers grew up traversing the web and multitasking like there’s no tomorrow. Millennials use three screens at a time, while Gen Zers use five. This means they can tune out your ad on one screen while they look at another. How’s that for multitasking?

At 8 seconds, their attention span is a full 4 seconds shorter than the typical millennial. According to Fast Company, this is more of a filter than an attention span: you have 8 seconds to convince them not to move on from your brand.

Marketers need to prioritize immediacy in their marketing strategy for Gen Z. Don’t worry about complete sentences – it’s better to make information easily scannable. Lean into their at-a-glance digestion abilities by using emoji, abbreviations, images, and videos. Splitting up one piece of content into smaller chunks will perform better than long-form stories. Marketing workflows should react to their actions – special offers, cart abandonment, and welcome emails should all be timed accordingly.

#2. Be personal

Yes, email marketing may be way older than Snapchat, but its personalization capabilities make it a perfect fit for Generation Z. With segmentation and marketing workflows, you can cater precisely to them.

Unlike me-me-millennials, Generation Z isn’t necessarily focused on becoming rich and famous. These individualistic teens are concerned about crafting their unique personal brand, whatever that may be. They’re more discerning and less prone to flattery than their millennial counterparts. Rather than just catering to their ego, be a helpful partner to their brand creation process to gain their loyalty.  

Let Gen Zer’s shopping habits inform what you send them, and also let them dictate how often you fill their inboxes. Don’t bombard them, and don’t resend the same information, just repackaged. Remember that you don’t have as much leeway with this generation: unlike older users who may have been more understanding of irrelevant or repeated information, Gen Z will view it as a fault in your system and lose trust in your brand.

Use email as a jumping off point for other social media channels, especially YouTube: this generation watches up to 2 hours of YouTube video per day.

#3. Be authentic

Many Gen Zers never had to sit through ads – they started watching TV on Netflix straight from their iPads. As a result, they know an ad when they see one, way more so than any other generation. In the same vein, they also know when you’re BSing them. The days of getting by just talking the talk are officially gone.

To connect with Gen Z, you have to genuinely talk with – instead of at – them. A great way to do this is through finding influencers their age that inherently “get” them in a way your brand may not. Gen Zers prefer real people (or YouTube and Snapchat stars) over celebrities as brand ambassadors. They like behind-the scenes content that feels real, not marketing jargon.

And your actions need to back up your words. You need to actively involved in the causes your Gen Z customers care about if you want them to take you seriously. Go global and speak to the world. Gen Z grew up in a multicultural society with a black president and believe the world can coexist peacefully.

9 Brands Doing Gen Z Email Marketing Right

Now that you know what to do, let’s take a look at some brands for inspiration.

#1. Do Well by Madewell

In their “Do Well” email series, women’s clothing brand Madewell keeps it short and sweet, just how Gen Z likes it. They use their lingo (“this new collab gives back”) with a big image that instantly creates a story. They offer choice, too: shoppers can click through to browse featured products or learn more about Madewell’s various philanthropic “do Well” efforts, such as their work with the Surfrider Foundation and their jean recycling program.

#2. Go Behind The Scenes With Sephora

With a subject line that says, “Go behind the scenes with RIHANNA ? ✨,” beauty retailer Sephora starts things off right. Both the subject line and the pre-header use fun emojis (the company has even created their own Sephoji app to cater to younger demos) and speak to Gen Z’s desire to go behind the scenes with people they admire. 

The email emphasizes the “real-life” authenticity of Rihanna’s look, and how it’s helping expand global definitions of beauty in its design “for women of all skin tones” (which are still woefully underrepresented by many of the major beauty brands). Finally, the email creates multiple jumping off points to the various screens Gen Zers use: they can watch a quick 3-step YouTube video featuring Miss RiRi herself, or virtually try on makeup using the Sephora app.

#3. Welcome to Adidas

Adidas remains a popular brand with Gen Z, and their emails explain why. They reward users for subscribing with a 15% off coupon, and their imagery focuses on young people having fun. They show everyday, smiling people enjoying their lives while wearing Adidas clothing. It’s about the customer living their best life, not Adidas making the most money.

#4. H&M: Look Good, Do Good

H&M wants Gen Z to know they believe they can make the world a better place, but still look good doing it. They even found a clever way to bring people into their stores with a clothing recycling day on Earth Day.

H&M also does a good job getting the point across with a heavy focus on imagery and minimal text. With a clever play on words (“Go Green, Wear Blue”) and callout that H&M jeans are “conscious denim,” Gen Zers can feel good about shopping at H&M.

#5. Victoria’s Secret PINK Nation

It’s easy to see from their email that Victoria’s Secret’s PINK collection targets young shoppers. Victoria’s Secret customizes the brand for Gen Z, using youthful color choices and fonts, inviting recipients to “shop your school” through their collegiate collection, and leaning into the temporary nature of their preferred social networks like Snapchat through a “pop-up blog.”

Showing that they walk the talk, the PINK experience continues once users click through to the website. They’re taken straight to the home page for the PINK sub-brand, which utilizes a different header, font, and even account logo than the standard Victoria’s Secret page (it’s a dog instead of a heart). The PINK Nation home page highlights their “campus life” content and their Instagram, which includes personalized local city accounts. All this adds up to a true lifestyle hub, a social media destination worthy of Gen Z’s time online, instead of just a place to buy new bras and underwear.

#6. Urban Outfitters Keeps Things Fresh

Urban Outfitters constantly keeps things fresh with entirely redesigned and radically different, but all equally fun, email newsletters. These funky emails stand out in Generation Z inboxes, and despite an occasionally cluttered design, the essential information is always clear. From sales to co-branded events, UO keeps their brand top of mind with Gen Z shoppers.

#7. The Chubbies Lifestyle

Chubbies became famous for their no-holds-barred content marketing and unabashedly short shorts for men. They don’t just sell shorts; they offer shoppers a carefree beer-and-shorts lifestyle. Sales emails like this one barely even mention the shorts – they let the image do the talking:

The brand’s abandoned cart emails have made the internet rounds for their hilarity. With a distinct voice that pervades all their content, they’re funny, to the point, and effective.

#8. Asos Caters to Curves

While brands are starting to offer plus-size lines, they’re often tucked away in the stores and  altogether ignored in their marketing. Asos takes a decidedly different approach: their Curve Crew makes plus-size women not only feel welcomed, but part of an exclusive group. They do more than just offer a few token plus-size items. Instead, Asos offers dedicated emails, special promos for plus-size brands, and even plus-size stylists to cater to all aspects of the buying experience.

Asos maintains a clean look across all their emails, using pops of color to highlight important text callouts and relying on big images to sell the product. They do a wonderful job making sure their emails are responsive and look good, regardless of which device they’re being viewed on.

#9. Content that Sells: Warby Parker

Warby Parker has since expanded into retail stores, but the e-commerce brand has always known how to be successful online. They consistently use the same blue font for CTAs across all their marketing, training customers to know where they’re supposed to click.

Their content often uses hand drawn sketches, expressing their modern brand look and mimicking the frame of glasses at the same time. They also provide Gen Z with fun content that helps them live a better life. Instead of an email saying, “Hey, check out our latest sunglasses!” Warby Parker presents a whimsical look at how to wear sunglasses indoors, amusing customers while at the same time persuading them to buy.

Conclusion

Email marketing for Generation Z can be extremely effective, when done right. Take a cue from the brands above. Be instant. Be personal. Be authentic.


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Michael Quoc is currently the CEO of Dealspotr, a social platform for up-and-coming brands, lifestyle influencers, and the savviest shoppers. Formerly, Michael was the Director of Product Management for Yahoo's media lab, launching several innovative services relating to live video and mobile social networking. He has been awarded nine patents relating to mobile and social network applications and technology. Catch him on Twitter. https://dealspotr.com

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