The sounds, sights and sensations hurled at students grow as more people fight to win their demographic. A variety of businesses vie for their attention, each promising bigger and better things if they are chosen. With so much noise all around, how does your store stand out from the crowd?
Savvy Generation Z is more aware of marketing noise than previous generations. Having grown up in this loud world, they are adept at sussing out marketing messages and discarding them just as quickly. They also look at websites or online presences and draw conclusions without listening to a single word the company has to say. This generation has specific expectations that must be met to win their trust, time and business.
Developing a strong, relatable brand that your store embodies across all channels is necessary for staying connected to current students. How do you know which areas have the greatest impact on building an effective brand with today’s students? Pay attention to what they aren’t responding to as much as what they are. Don’t assume what you have done in the past will continue to work. And, be prepared to try new marketing strategies.
Here are some tips for marketing your brand to Generation Z.
- Be genuine
You can’t go online without encountering some sort of advertisement. They’re on the sidebars and newsfeeds of all social media channels. YouTube plays commercials before — and sometimes during — videos. And, of course, the first several search results on Google are paid advertisements. This is the only world Generation Z has ever known and they have adapted to it. They do not watch commercials, and they are often dismissive of sponsored content. If you want to get this generation’s attention, your message needs to be succinct and genuine. Make them aware of what you offer that is of value to them: savings, a simplified shopping experience and helpful people who genuinely care that they get what they need.
- Go to the students
Advertising in higher education grew by 22% between 2013-2016. Online advertising received more of that revenue than any other medium — a trend that is likely to continue. However, it is no longer as easy as placing an ad and hoping people see it. Stores need to understand the mediums they use and how students use them as well. Each social media channel is different with a unique audience to reach. A traditional advertisement is likely to be ignored. An entertaining, yet informative, account will have a lasting impact whereas an advertisement will likely be passed by.
- Use influencers
Generation Z doesn’t want advertisements that look like advertisements. This is where influencers come in. Influencer marketing is the strategy of enlisting other people to advertise your products. Think of it like celebrity endorsement, only you don’t need celebrities. Major brands will use YouTube and Instagram “stars” to wear or talk about their products. However, that isn’t necessary for a college store. You already have relationships and access to a plethora of influencers — your students. Working directly with students on campus to help market your brand to their peers can increase your reach and engage more of the student body. Brainstorm with marketing students or student leadership groups on new ways to represent your store online. Learn what they like and don’t like about their experience with the college store and ways to improve the experience.
- Keep technology up-to-date
Generation Z spends as much as 10 hours a day online. Having old websites or inactive social media pages will paint a negative picture in the minds of Generation Z. They can be impatient with websites that do not scale to screen size or that are slow to load. They expect to find what they are looking for quickly and to have the option to do most tasks digitally. Not meeting these expectations can mean students will turn their attention to a store that does.
Students are likely to have a variety of social media accounts, though one or two may be their favorites. To engage the majority of students, your store will need an active presence across multiple channels. However, make sure you aren’t spread too thin and that online interactions remain human — auto-responses can feel cold and impersonal which will likely not result in a positive experience. Choose three student-favorite platforms, in addition to your website, to build a presence. As long as your marketing messages are succinct and speak directly to student pain points, you will gain their attention, at least for eight seconds.