New research from SnapChat shows how Generation Z relates to brands and how marketers can respond. While some findings can be classified as expected, others might be surprising. Gen Z members, who were born in the late 1990s and early 2000s, grew up with the internet and social media. As digital first consumers, they hold different views than previous generations.

generation Z marketing research, Gen Z marketing tipsOver a quarter of Gen Z members, said they first heard about a new brand from a friend or family member’s recommendation. Only 9% said they learned about a brand through a sponsored influencer post. That could be a sign of increasing distrust of influencers and growing fatigue with their sponsored posts. Some PR and marketing pros have warned that the influencer marketing bubble will soon burst.

How Gen Z members learn about new products varies by its category, according to the SnapChat research. Friend and family recommendations are especially important for retail, entertainment, fashion, and technology brands. They’re less important in some categories.

Seeing the item in a store is the best way for Gen Z to learn about food products. For consumer goods and beauty products, one in four agree that an online ad is the preferred way to discover new brands.

To learn more about a new product, 35% visit the company’s website. Fewer cited other means, such as talking to friends and family or reading reviews. Only 15% said they look at the company’s social accounts.

Key Takeaway: Brand Websites Must be Designed for Easy Use on Mobile Phones

The preference for visiting websites highlights the value of mobile-friendly sites. In 2018, 58% of site visits were from mobile devices, according to research from SimilarWeb. This number is estimated to rise drastically in the coming years. Brands that optimize website content for mobile users will have an advantage.

Again, favorite information sources vary depending on product types. User reviews are their go-to resources for more information on new beauty brands, and family and friends are most reliable for learning more about new food brands.

Nearly 3 in 4 said they would be interested in a new brand if their friends were talking about it (73%). Additionally, nearly two-thirds said they would be interested if the brand created a unique experience for them and their friends to attend (65%). They are looking for brands to entertain (42%), educate (40%), advise (39%) and provide an experience (37%) for them.

Key Takeaway: Gen Z Members Can Become Valuable Brand Advocates

Gen Z is more likely to share positive, rather than negative, brand experiences. Close to half (46%) said they’ve shared a positive experience at a store, and 40% indicated they recently shared a good customer service experience with their friends or family. That contradicts the common view of young customers complaining or “calling out” brands on social media. Gen Z members can become valuable brand advocates, but they expect brands to be accountable.

More than half said they would stop using a brand if they feel the company engages in unethical business practices, and 37% cited negative environmental impact as another reason to stop purchasing a product. The finding reiterates the importance of following ethical business practices. Other research also indicates that Gen Z and millennials in particular and consumers in general are more likely to purchase form companies with solid ethical records.

“Provide consistent value, be real, stay mobile-friendly, and don’t fall into the pushy sales trap—that’s how you win over today’s young generation of consumers, with or without social media,” urges content marketer Julia McCoy, CEO of Express Writers.

Bottom Line: Generation Z will emerge as a large and influential demographic group but, as digital first consumers, Generation Z relates to brands differently than previous generations. Understanding their behavior will help guide brands to design better PR and marketing campaigns targeted to Gen Z.