Don’t Blur the Lines When Marketing to Millennials and Gen Z

Smart performance marketers are making the distinction
between these two generations of consumers

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Gen Z is standing apart from millennials more than ever.
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When developing marketing plans, it’s all too easy to lump different generations of buyers into similar categories, hoping to hit them both effectively with broader messages. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work with millennials and Gen Z which, on the surface at least, may seem easy enough to put into the “under 41 years of age” category and hope for the best.

Dig down deeper and you’ll see that there are some clear distinctions between American consumers aged 26-41 (millennials, or Gen Y) and those aged 10-25 (Gen Z). Here are five differentiation points that performance marketers should factor in when creating advertising and content for millennial and Gen Z consumers:

Gen Z likes to disconnect

While millennials came of age along with technology, most Gen Zers have been using it since they were infants or toddlers. “Phones have transformed from a way to communicate with friends and family from a distance into a doorway giving people and companies 24/7 access to each other—and all the information in the world—with the tap of a finger,” writes Stefan Pollack in Forbes.

This might indicate a love of digital interaction on the part of younger consumers, but in reality they do enjoy talking face-to-face: “It seems that while using technology can provide an escape for millennials and older generations, the escape for digitally native Gen Zers is to disconnect and be in real life,” according to Pollack.

Social media: Boredom killer or connectivity tool?

According to Relative Insight, Gen Z finds value in the connectivity of social media. They use Snapchat and TikTok to keep up with what’s going on with family, friends and colleagues. They’re also using newer platforms like BeReal, which has been downloaded more than 43 million times since its launch in December 2019 and has grown its user base by 315% as of August 2022. Not to be left out of the party, TikTok recently rolled out TikTok Now, which emulates some of the core features of BeReal’s platform.

Unlike Gen Z, millennials view social media as a place to scroll through their feeds to stave off boredom and kill time.

They spend differently

Gen Z is more apt to put a small financial windfall in the bank or purchase gifts for loved ones, Relative Insight says, and tends to place a lower value on pricy items and material possessions. Millennials think differently and are more apt to invest in a fun vacation or a designer bag.

“This could imply that, because they have greater financial security in their daily lives, they think they deserve a treat,” the report points out, “or that they put less cultural emphasis on the importance of saving money, and they really are the entitled generation.”

Authenticity is a must-have for Gen Z

Citing recent CM Group research, Alexandra Pastore of Women’s Wear Daily writes that Gen Z buyers are practical, ambitious and focused on education. They like to buy from companies that are authentic—right down to their designs, brands, products and social impacts.

“In the past, the images people saw in media were aspirational and out of reach for many of them,” Allison McDuffee writes in Adweek. “More recently, consumers have become wary of meticulously curated and perfectly polished content. Consumers are now searching for genuine, human connections and the accompanying imperfections: A selfie without makeup, a look behind the screen or a vulnerable moment with fans.”

Online versus in-person

Shopping habits are another major differentiating factor between these two generations. Millennials prefer to shop online while Gen Z enjoys browsing and buying in physical stores. “If you’re targeting Gen Z,” advises Jennifer Herrity of Indeed, “consider ways you can bring more people this age into your stores with social media-worthy experiences.”

Keeping both the generational similarities and differentiation points in mind will only become more important for marketers as they work to reach and engage with younger consumers. As you plan your next campaign, try to avoid blurring the lines between these two distinct consumer groups.

Are You Using Social Media to Inspire Younger Buyers?

Millennials and Gen Z are increasingly turning to social networks for advice.
Here’s how performance marketers can leverage this trend.

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Performance marketers looking to capture the tech-savvy market have to consider speed, efficiency and social change.
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Whether they’re following accounts that inspire them, perusing videos, researching products or connecting with their favorite brands, the younger generations of American consumers are clearly influenced by social media. More of them also want to become influencers, start their own businesses and get involved in new hobbies.

Millennials and Gen Z will often go first to social media platforms like TikTok, Pinterest and Instagram to learn and get advice before making a purchase or taking on a project. With millennials standing to inherit more than $68 trillion from baby boomer and early Gen X parents by the year 2030—setting them up to potentially be the wealthiest generation in U.S. history—and Gen Z projected to hit $33 trillion in income by 2030, performance marketers should be paying attention to these trends.

Here’s how performance marketers can leverage this trend in a responsible, deliberate manner.

Stepping up their games

Social media companies are clearly aware of these trends and are finding new ways to optimize their platforms. In February, for example, TikTok launched a new feature called Collections, which allows users to organize their favorite videos into folders (Instagram implemented a similar feature in 2019.)

The Collections feature allows users to save recommendations and sort them into useful categories, making it easier for them to quickly return to ideas and recommendations.

TikTok’s core offering feeds millennials’ and Gen Z’s desire for inspiration. Upon pulling up a video, users can instantly see what a restaurant looks like inside and who’s recommending it. “It allows for maximum vibe reconnaissance,” Mashable points out. “And if someone made a TikTok on it, and it came up on your FYP [For You Page], chances are it’s something you’ll actually enjoy and the information is up to date.”

4 tips for Success

Performance marketers looking to capture the tech-savvy market that’s turning to social media for inspiration can’t just advertise and sell products. They also have to consider speed, efficiency and social change versus just spending time polishing up their marketing messages. And knowing that Gen Z are all under 25 years old—and as young as 10—positively influencing behaviors is also important.

Here are four tips for success:

  • Step up the pace. Your Gen Z customers are used to a fast pace, so get onboard with it. They also have shorter attention spans and tend to be highly influenced by what they see and interact with on social media.
  • Know your platforms. According to a recent YPulse, Ad/Marketing Effectiveness report, TikTok (27%) is the top place Gen Z is seeing ads that influence them to make a purchase. That’s followed by YouTube (17%) and Instagram (13%). Millennials, on the other hand, respond best to Facebook (16%), YouTube (15%), Instagram (14%) and TikTok (9%) ads.
  • Support social change. Gen Z and millennials both care about making a difference and leaving a smaller footprint on Mother Earth. They’re also involved with social causes and tend to look favorably upon organizations that put an effort into environmental, social and governance (ESG) causes.
  • Be authentic. Younger consumers can see right through the glitz, glamour and overpolished marketing messages. And when they’re getting their information from friends, connections and influencers, it’s not hard to figure out which brands do and don’t deserve their hard-earned dollars.

Want to Attract Younger Consumers? Just Be Yourself

To most effectively tap into Gen Z and millennials,
personalized and transparent communication is key

Adweek

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The consumer is more and more aware every day of marketing “hype” and language that is not authentic to the brand or corporate mission. Gen Z and millennials are acutely aware of this and will expect nothing less and can see through it all. This differs from their predecessors on many fronts. They’re digital natives who think greener, expect more from the companies that they buy from and love authenticity.

Currently aged 10-25 (for Gen Z) and 26-41 (for millennials), these consumers have a lot of buying power—and are accumulating even more—and a habit of aligning their purchase decisions with their own personal values. However, Gen Z and millennials are more aware of cost of living and finances and so they research and put a lot of thought into purchasing decisions to make sure it not only fits their personal needs, but also fulfills social and societal needs.

Gen Zers, in particular, are very intentional about those decisions; they think before they buy.

“Gen Z has let us know—loud and clear—that they are passionate about making a change and fighting for the values they believe in,” BigCommerce pointed out. This opens the doors of opportunity for performance marketers to share the mission and values of their brands.

“Or take it a step further and partner with a charity or cause your brand is passionate about,” the publication added. For example, it says one direct-to-consumer shoe manufacturer teamed up with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to gift a pair of pink shoes to those impacted by the illness illustrates the company’s understanding of what younger consumers want from the brands they buy from.

More personalized ads, please

We all know personalization and micro targeting has become more and more prevalent, but it is a “must have” instead of a “nice to have” at this point for marketers. “While 57% of millennials and 43% of baby boomers said they liked personalized ads, a whopping 81% of those in Generation Z said the same,” in a study conducted by Unsupervised.

Gen Z is a huge user of social media, and that the medium as a whole has evolved quite a bit over the last few years. Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram are the main platforms where Gen Z spends its time, and TikTok ads are a good starting point for performance marketers looking to leverage this trend. In fact, all four social media platforms are good vehicles for reaching consumers of all ages.

Personalized ads are a great opportunity for companies that want to reach and engage with younger consumers and when done effectively, accurately link relevant social content to brands with the same values and end up with a completed sale.

Speaking with images instead of words

The emoji has taken on a whole new level of communication and there are even varying levels of enthusiasm within the emoji universe. If you didn’t know that the thumbs-up emoji was meant to denote passive aggressiveness, or that some people like to speak mostly in emojis on social media or when texting, then it’s time to listen a little harder to what younger consumers want, respond to and engage with. But don’t worry because you’ll be in good company; entire industry sectors are also trying to figure out what they need to do to get the attention and wallet share of more Gen Z customers.

The wine industry is a good example. According to the Wine Market Council, just 14% of Americans aged 21 to 30 drink wine on a weekly basis, and 11% drink it occasionally. Compare this to individuals who are aged 30 to 39, 20% of whom are weekly wine drinkers. Much like performance marketers are digging down deeper to determine how to attract and retain more Gen Z and millennials customers, this entire sector is doing the same.

“The wine industry still has work to do in order to attract younger generations in an increasingly competitive beverage alcohol landscape,” SevenFiftyDaily reported. “This will involve not only revisiting the lessons of the past, but [also] employing new tactics for each new generation as it reaches legal consumption age.”

The bottom line is that creativity and effectively communicating to reach your target audience is not a new concept but the importance of keeping up with how Gen Z and millennials want to be communicated with is key for marketers and a successful and long-term brand relationship.

Despite the Bear Market, Younger Generations Should Embrace ‘Buy and Hold’ Strategies Crypto, Neobanks, NFTs

The economy is looking even more dire, and there are lessons
performance marketers can take away

Adweek

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Most financial planners would steer their client away from get-rich-quick investment approaches and instead advocate for “buy and hold” strategies. In most cases, the latter involves finding reliable workhorses of the stock market and then hanging onto them for years or even decades.

Generations Y and Z have a different idea about how they want to build their assets. From cryptocurrency and bitcoin to NFTs and other digital assets, younger investors are forgoing blue chip stocks that their parents and grandparents used and taking bolder, riskier moves with their money.

Some of the shifts can be traced to the rise of “neobanks,” or those fin-tech firms offering up apps, software and other technologies that help streamline mobile and online banking. According to Forbes Advisor, neobanks—which specialize in checking and savings accounts—tend to be nimbler and more “transparent than their megabank counterparts, even though many of them partner with such institutions to insure their financial products.”

“The advancement of digital banking and the rise of neobanks is creating a new paradigm of how younger millennials and Gen Z want to interact with their finances and investments,” Nasdaq has pointed out, adding that the adoption rates for neobanking are high in the U.S.—a trend that’s supported the expansion of cryptocurrencies, digital assets, digital wallets and digital real estate.

“With digital-only finances and tools, the realm of possibilities for investing extends beyond the physical,” Nasdaq also stated. It went on to say that mainstream consumer brands are also shifting brand equity into the digital world; Walmart is launching cryptocurrency and NFTs and Nike is creating shoe NFTs for the metaverse. “Other brands have rushed to claim space in the metaverse, even while the future of the metaverse remains unclear.”

They’re already digital-savvy

Credit the digital-savvy Gen Z and the younger end of the millennial generations with driving higher interest in electronic-based investment options. Already used to communicating on social, learning remotely and basing important decisions on virtual peer reviews, these consumers gravitate toward options that older generations didn’t have when they were in their 20s and 30s.

Take NFTs, for example. Used to indicate ownership or usage right of a unique asset—typically art, music or a video game item—”these tokens are built and managed on a blockchain, the same digital ledger technology system utilized by bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies,” as explained by The Motley Fool. Younger investors have taken to NFTs like a moth to a flame, so to speak.

According to YPulse, 13% of people aged 13 to 39 have purchased NFTs and 28% have bought cryptocurrencies, the latter of which further proves the Gen Z and millennial thirst for alternate, digital investment options. This research “found that between crypto, NFTs and digital land, more young people have made digital asset investments than have invested in stocks.”

“We also found that overall, young people don’t believe that they can build wealth the same way that previous generations did,” YPulse added, “making new avenues to making money more attractive to them.”

Time to sharpen your pencils

Right now, performance marketers should be watching the trends, sharpening their pencils and coming up with new ways to attract, serve and retain these digital-centric generations of consumers. Accepting cryptocurrencies as a payment option is one method to lean into this trend. There’s a massive digital opportunity for fin tech, banks, financial companies and other brands that can meet consumers where they are right now. It also opens up the opportunity for even more brands or influencers to be able to play in this space and leverage their hip and cool business approaches.

From exclusive branding opportunities to VIP offerings to specialized experiences, younger generations of consumers want it all. And while the boundaries may be down for marketers right now, the environment is evolving quickly, and companies are catching on. Keeping up and staying out in front of the digital metaverse requires effort, energy and resources, but the payoff can be significant for marketers that jump into the emerging space now.

Harnessing Gen Z’s Summer Travel Wanderlust

It’s all about marketers inspiring choices, spontaneity and loyalty rewards as the summer approaches

Gen Z Travel AdWeekChadchai Ra-ngubpai/ Getty Images

 

With travel restrictions waning and the summer season beckoning, millennials and Gen Z travelers are thinking beyond the “staycation” ideals and are laying out plans to see various cities, states and even countries in the coming months. As they break out of their shells and begin exploring their options, these consumers are taking a different approach than they did two years ago.

A recent Forbes article highlighted the notion that “travelers want to spend big and go far” in 2022, and 78% of those asked said travel was one of the top activities they missed the most. Travel in 2022 will be significantly higher than in past years: 62% of survey respondents wanted to take two to four trips this year. The piece also emphasized millennials as driving major travel trends, like bucket-list trips to exotic locations such as the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica. Dream destinations are ultimately most desired by millennials and Gen Zers, and two-thirds of those surveyed preferred a once-in-a-lifetime vacation over purchasing a new car.

Gen Z is ready to spend more on travel

Avail’s State of Travel in 2022 survey suggests Gen Zers, rather than millennials, are leading the charge in the return to travel—and furthermore, that 72% of Gen Z respondents plan to invest the same or more in travel this year than pre-pandemic. An equal percentage of Gen Zers say they’re already planning or may splurge on a big trip this year, versus 68% of millennials, 60% of Gen Xers and 51% of baby boomers.

To harness this huge group’s serious case of wanderlust, marketers will have to think differently than they did a few years ago. With the oldest member of Gen Z now being 24 years old, they’re collectively new in the travel category, and 80% say they have “some responsibility” in the trip-planning process—a share that will grow as Gen Z continues to gain spending power.

Until then, marketers can attract these young travelers with better deals and last-minute opportunities that feed their spontaneous natures and buy-now/pay-later types of deals that spread any travel-related financial responsibility over time.

Harnessing the opportunity

The question is, how can performance marketers effectively reach these travelers where they are and at the time when they are ready to click “buy now” for that flight, hotel, rental or car-sharing service?

The key is meeting the consumer on their media of choice, and the younger consumer goes beyond large or well-known travel or home-share sites, reacting more spontaneously based on word-of-mouth recommendations from family, friends, influencers or the best deal that shows up online. So, there is a big opportunity not only for established travel companies, but also for emerging platforms as well.

Social media is a channel that will create interest and excitement for travel, as well as the opportunity to extend marketing offers and deals for younger travelers like Gen Z and Gen Y. A primary resource for Gen Z travelers, TikTok, serves as a hub for finding personal recommendations and things to do in whatever town they’re visiting. Comments like, “Oh, I’ve been there. It’s amazing,” can influence others to give it a try. (Negative comments on any platform have the exact opposite effect and should be monitored closely and addressed immediately.)

Gen Z doesn’t mind booking last-minute trips and activities, which gives marketers the opportunity to push specials and deals when filling up available space. Throw in a free dinner for two at a local restaurant, or a stocked coffee bar on the kitchen counter, and your offer will probably be snatched up quickly by a young traveler that wants to experience the world on a budget.

Meeting them where they are

With Avail reporting that younger generations emerged as the most eager to travel more often than pre-pandemic, it’s time to come up with new and engaging ways to attract these eager consumers.

Be sure to target the ads with deals and discounts on a routine basis and right before the trip and use geotargeting to help travelers book any last-minute, spontaneous activities once they’re on site. Know your audience, come up with your best deal and tip them over the edge.

Luxury Goods Are Becoming as Attainable as Fast Fashion

How marketers are bridging the gap between millennials’ and Gen Z’s love of upscale goods and desire for economy

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Millennials and Gen Z walk a fine line when making decisions between whether to buy affordable, fast fashion options that may not make it through more than a handful of wash cycles, and items that may cost more upfront but last longer and stay out of the world’s landfills.

Environmentally aware and well educated on the value of sustainability, these younger consumers view fashion through a different lens than their predecessors, and marketers have taken notice.

These realities are pushing clothing makers to rethink their manufacturing process, how they go to market, and even reusing and recycling their products, with sustainability top of mind. It’s also encouraging companies to emphasize the pre-buying process and offer try-before-you-buy services to generate less waste.

In a world where acquiring a few different sizes and colors of the same item and discarding what didn’t work is the norm, these smart fashion brands are focused on Coco Chanel’s mantra of “less is always more.”

Blurred lines

For now, it looks like younger consumers are divided into two camps, although the lines are blurring.

The first group enjoys purchasing from retailers like Shein for its low-cost and trendy options, while the second would rather invest a bit more in luxury goods that could last a lifetime (and even become inheritable, heirloom goods for the next generation).
To meet these various needs, some companies are serving up luxury that’s attainable for a wider group of potential customers. Gucci’s experimental Vault ecommerce shop, for example, has the option to buy now, pay later through Affirm, putting bags, accessories and other goods within reach for younger buyers. Through Vault, the company offers a curated selection, an interactive virtual experience and the written assurance that each order is “100% carbon neutral.”

Rent the Runway is another company whose business model aligns well with what younger generations have come to expect from their fashion retailers.

The ecommerce platform allows users to rent, subscribe and buy designer apparel and accessories. And while the company was founded in 2009, long before Gen Z began demanding that the world pay more attention to environmental sustainability, its wide variety of styles appeals to everyone from the high schooler looking for an expensive prom dress to the executive in need of a full suite of professional attire (but who can only be seen in those outfits one or two times at most).

Like Gucci, Rent the Runway appeals to millennials and Gen Z’s desire for high fashion at a price they can afford. It also supports good reuse and recycling of clothing and accessories through a “borrowed” model that platforms like Rebag, The RealReal and thredUp also use to successfully resell items that could otherwise be headed to a landfill. The approach truly exemplifies the “one man’s trash” idiom, and it appears to be working.

Secondhand fashion drives growth
Secondhand fashion is also bringing the younger generations to luxury goods. They’re experiencing it, enjoying it and finding the quality they’re seeking.

As more millennial and Gen Z consumers are introduced to luxury brands, they’re also appreciating those brands’ sustainability. This will surely increase their love for luxury items and lead them to outlets like Vault, which we’ll likely see more of in the near future.

While fast fashion has its place, luxury brands are coming up with new ways to meet younger consumers where they are, both in terms of financing and social responsibility. They meet these buyers’ fashion needs, developing sustainable approaches that hit those customers where their hearts are.

“As more millennials and Gen Z shoppers come into their peak purchasing power, luxury brands have an opportunity to capitalize on this growing wealth,” according to ecommerce solutions site Scalefast, noting that younger shoppers have specific buying preferences that brands have to factor in—from sustainability to personalization to social media influence—and adapt to if they want to provide the ecommerce experience that these generations expect.

This purchasing power is digitally driven and reacts to digital content and messaging. A recent eMarketer report highlighted that “Gen Z is getting older and steadily moving toward becoming the most digitally connected generation. In 2024, U.S. Gen Zers will surpass millennials in regular internet use, and they’ll do the same with smartphone penetration in 2026.”

The eMarketer report also addresses the purchasing power of this younger generation, which will only continue to grow. “In 2024, when U.S. Gen Z internet penetration will jump to 99.1%, Gen Zers will be between 12 and 27 years old. Millennials, who will be fully into adulthood (ages 28 to 43), will stagnate at 97.4% penetration.”

And these younger generations are having a significant impact on older consumers too. “These trends are not limited to millennials and Gen Z shoppers. Their preferences continue to influence older generations,” Scalefast added. “This means luxury brands should cater to younger buyers sooner rather than later to avoid missing out on the significant growth opportunities coming by the year 2035.”

5 Ways to Meet Gen Z Consumers Where They Are

It all starts with striving for social impact 

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Generational marketing isn’t easy. Getting it right requires expert knowledge, consistent monitoring of trends and a willingness to make unexpected pivots. With five generations of consumers now in the marketplace, and with Gen Z on track to become the largest cohort of consumers in the near future—performance marketers must sharpen their pencils now or risk getting left behind the generational marketing curve.

That’s because each generation has its own set of beliefs, preferences and shared experiences, all of which influence the way they think and act. These factors also impact how they buy, interact with brands and consume products and services. Attitudes and habits for Gen Z specifically are different and influenced by social impact. Whether they’re watching videos or BuzzFeed reviews to see the latest tech gadgets, looking for recipes online that they can make at home or using interactive technology to color their own hair, younger consumers expect a similar experience online and offline.

Where to watch

In late 2021, YPulse surveyed about 1,200 weekly social media users aged 13-24 in the U.S. and produced the 2022 Instagram Trend Report. “We tapped into the minds of Gen Z to learn more about the rising Instagram trends across categories including music, fashion, creators, beauty, social justice and so much more,” YPulse states.
Here are five top trends that all performance marketers should consider when developing campaigns and strategies that meet younger consumers where they are:

PJs are being replaced with “real” clothing again as consumers get back out into the world. After spending two years in athleisure, young people are making bold moves with their style choices, using fashion as a vehicle for joy, optimism and self-expression, YPulse reports. “Expect to see alt-fashion (think Goth, Dark Academic, Goblincore, etc.) reach its peak as people spend more time together.”

Natural beauty is in. YPulse’s survey found that 33% of young people are interested in learning more about and buying “clean” makeup and skincare in 2022. This includes plant-based skincare, vegan makeup, using less products on their skin in general (i.e., skin minimalism) or more manufactured from “clean” ingredients.

Games are the new malls. Quarantine fueled a boom in video games, and this isn’t slowing down anytime soon. “More young people are spending more time inside playing games, especially in those that also double as social spaces,” reports YPulse, which says 40% of teens and young adults expect to see more video game trends in 2022, and that 3 in 10 expect to livestream others playing video games.

Young consumers like the DIY approach. When quarantines kept them home, consumers across all generations learned to lean on themselves for services that they would otherwise outsource. Knowing this, companies like L’Oréal are coming up with new innovations that feed the DIY trend. At CES 2022, for example, it introduced Colorsonic, a brush-like concept that aims to make home hair coloring easier, and Coloright, an AI-connected system for salon stylists, which allows virtual try-ons and the creation of custom shades.

Technology continues to proliferate. This is happening in response to customer demand for innovative products—and because vendors have the resources needed to bring their ideas to reality. It’s been nearly a decade since the original Oculus Rift was born. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets have been slowly improving since then, as evidenced at this year’s CES show. Some of the newer entrants include Sony’s PS VR2 headset, HTC’s Vive Wrist Tracker and Shiftall MeganeX’s ultra-lightweight headset.

Performance marketers should keep these trends in mind as they plan their campaigns for the rest of the year and seek out new ways to reach Gen Z consumers where they are. Whether these young customers are gaming at home, buying natural makeup products, doing their own hair or testing out the latest gadgets, marketers should focus on establishing meaningful connections and trust with this valuable consumer group, which already boasts an estimated collective buying power of $150 billion.

5 Performance Marketing Trends to Watch in 2022

From new payment solutions to the continuing convergence of social media and shopping, brands must navigate several purchase paths

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Brands that can stay flexible with the current environment while delivering products and services consumers are looking for will always come out ahead, writes Jessica Hawthorne-Castro.

As consumer preferences change and the various ways to reach them continue to proliferate, finding the right approach can be challenging. There are generational factors to consider, emerging opportunities to explore and new hurdles to jump along the path to finding the right marketing mix.

To complicate things further, every new year seems to bring a host of new opportunities worth exploring. To help, we’ve whittled down our list of trends to watch to five key points all performance marketers will want to pay attention to in 2022. Here they are:

1. New ways for consumers to pay for their purchases

From cryptocurrency to Venmo to simplified multi-pay financing arrangements like Afterpay and Affirm, your customers expect these and other options to be at their fingertips as they hit “buy now” on your website. They’re also looking for a seamless experience enabled by QR codes, which cut down on the number of clicks it takes to look at, read reviews about and buy a product or service. These and other trends took hold in 2021 and we expect them to continue and even escalate over the coming months.

2. Social media continues its reign

Try as they might, the powers that be have yet to come up with a more engaging and interesting way to connect with customers and prospects online. For now, at least, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube continue to offer marketers the most affordable and direct way to achieve that goal. And because younger generations are among the biggest users of social media, it’s also an effective way to reach Millennial and Gen Z consumers on their own territory. The social media fire has been stoked and 2022 may be the year that these platforms become the go-to media opportunity for a wider range of companies.

3. Marketers are obsessed with monetizing TikTok

Within these social media circles, TikTok stands out as one of the biggest opportunity areas for the year ahead. That’s because marketers spent much of 2021 figuring out how to monetize this platform and, from our own research, some of them have found the right combination. And while TikTok doesn’t offer video creators the opportunity to monetize their videos, it does provide an Ads Manager service that companies can use to choose a goal, select an audience, set a budget and design an ad. TikTok may be considered one of the newer social media platforms, but it’s already proven to be a major competitor by doubling the number of Snapchat, Pinterest and Twitter users within a short timeframe. Amazon even created an entire page based on popular products recommended by TikTok users at Tik Tok Amazon Finds.

4. Subscription delivery services evade the supply chain challenges

The global pandemic disrupted supply chains to the point where products lingered unfinished on the manufacturing floor; container ships sat stacked up outside of the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles; and stores left entire store aisles empty for lack of product to place on them. Any company that made, sold or distributed products likely managed disruption at some point during 2021, but organizations whose models incorporated subscription delivery services were able to avoid some or all of this strife. Software companies, TV networks, travel services, publications and others all fulfilled orders virtually, thus avoiding the supply chain snarls. We see this continuing during the year ahead as more companies add virtual subscription opportunities to their product offerings.

5. YouTube continues to morph into a shopping destination

In November, YouTube launched a weeklong livestreaming event called “Holiday Stream and Shop.” According to BNN Bloomberg, select social media stars sold their own merchandise and brand-name products directly on the platform. In the weeks that followed, YouTubers could hawk goods from their videos, a concept known as “shoppable video.” The publication says this is all part of the company’s “biggest push yet to become a shopping destination.” This will likely be a game changer for 2022 and beyond, seeing that purchases made on social media exceeded $36 billion in 2021. We can’t wait to watch the continued convergence of video and social media—an opportunity that will be open to both emerging and established brands over the coming year (and beyond).

As we usher in 2022, brands will continue to need to meet consumers’ growing needs with the discussed payment method expansion and reaching them across streaming and social media platform. The types of brands that can stay flexible with the current environment while delivering products and services consumers are looking for to enhance their lives will always come out ahead and succeed.

Hold On, We’ve Entered a Digital Marketing Time Warp

How performance marketers can leverage accelerated industry trends

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Digital channels were well on their way to becoming an advertising delivery mode of choice for performance marketers when the pandemic emerged in March 2020.

In the months that followed, the global crisis pushed digital marketing forward anywhere from five to 10 years (depending on whom you ask). This disrupted the normal timeline of marketing, throwing the industry into warp speed—and it’s unlikely to slow down.

These changes cut across generational lines. With millennials and Gen Z having grown up with mobile technology at their fingertips, they became the first logical targets for companies moving their advertising to the digital space in the last two years. But the pandemic-driven shutdowns and restrictions also impacted Gen X, baby boomer and silent generation consumers, who turned to the virtual world for their content and entertainment.

Moving the needle quickly
Digital marketing matured to a point that it wasn’t expected to reach until at least 2026, creating opportunities and challenges for performance marketers to meet consumers in their new customer journey and timeline. Favorite engagement points included online video, pay-per-click advertising, social, CTV/OTT, sponsored content, mobile and email.

Consumer product good giant Unilever is honing and optimizing its marketing plans while also setting its sights on reaching consumers at multiple touch points. Performance marketers can borrow a page from this playbook as they lay out their plans for 2022 and beyond.

“We have to change with our consumers, engage with them differently than before on digital,” Unilever’s Min Kang stated in Marketing After Covid: Brands & Marketers on Their Biggest Learnings. “Digital allows us to be agile and flexible, with a strategic approach to promotions that balances scale, efficiency and effectiveness.

“The key is to understand all these different dynamics and consumer preferences and deliver a rich consumer engagement that brings value at scale,” Kang added.

Social takes off
With face-to-face experiences replaced with virtual interactions, social media became a shining star for performance marketers working to reach younger generations of buyers. From TikTok to Facebook and Snapchat, the number of advertising opportunities proliferated as more brands turned to social media platforms to spread awareness about their products and services.

“With concerns about brand safety, supply chain distribution, daily changes in shopping behavior and more, advertisers learned the importance of needing to be able to adapt quickly within their social campaign strategies,” Quotient’s Drew Hall states in the same white paper. “This included cross-platform designs and changes in media targeting and creative messaging.”

Be ready for anything
With the upcoming year promising new opportunities and challenges for performance marketers, it’s time to start honing those plans with a ready-for-anything mindset. Be prepared to make quick pivots, pay attention to consumer trends—including any generational-specific developments—and come to terms with the fact that this digital marketing time warp that we’re all experiencing may carry into the new year.

As Janet Balis wrote in the Harvard Business Review, getting to know your customer segment better is the perfect starting point for marketers trying to adjust to this new normal. She advises brands to communicate in “very local and precise” terms, understand the situation on the ground (by country, state, zip code, etc.), and create personally relevant messaging for the target audience.

Using a blend of art and science, performance marketers can effectively reach, engage with and sell to consumers in any business environment. Balis added, “Creating a personal, human connection within any commercial message requires defining consumer segments that describe people according to multiple dimensions that influence their purchasing behavior, from their psychographics to attitudinal characteristics.”

Understanding Why TikTok Appeals to Young People Is Key to Brands Reaching Them

It’s no secret that young people gravitate to the newest things, the latest trends and the hottest styles as they grow and establish their individual identities. For many teens and college-age students right now, social media newcomer TikTok stands out as the preferred conduit for watching, creating and sharing short videos.

TikTok AdWeekSolen Feyissa, Shingi Rice/Unsplash

In July, TikTok upped its video length limit from 1 minute to 3 minutes with the goal of supporting even richer storytelling and entertainment. “With all the ways our community has redefined expression in under 60 seconds, we’re excited to see how people continue to entertain and inspire with a few more seconds and a world of creative possibilities,” the company said.

“A lot of times you don’t even have to search for what you’re looking for on TikTok. It’s just there.”

A prime target
With a longer video format to work with and a young user base to tap into, TikTok is a prime target for performance marketers looking to rise above the digital clutter and reach new audiences. Offering a continuous stream of content that users can scroll through, the platform curates the videos for each person based on their viewing history.

“A lot of times you don’t even have to search for what you’re looking for on TikTok,” said one college student. “It’s just there.” She especially likes content such as fashion videos that provide information about where to buy the clothing and accessories, and clips about what to bring to college, where to buy your books and how to manage your time.
TikTok also helps to break down some of the social anxieties that younger consumers may have naturally developed as part of the social media generation. That’s because it’s more helpful and collaborative than other social media platforms. It encourages questions and collaboration, for example, and is known for its supportive, less-judgmental tones.

Finally, TikTok promotes individuality and helps users cope with the stress of the global pandemic and isolation by helping to connect people.

Types of TikTok advertising
Similar to the early days of digital advertising, TikTok creators may display “I’m not being paid for this” disclaimers on their clips, while influencers who create ads label them as such at the bottom of their videos. I would estimate that most of endorsements fall into the first bucket, and are seen as genuine, organic recommendations. And while these may not be official, paid advertising relationships, it’s likely that the creators are getting free products and/or teeing themselves up to become influencers.

Many of these influencers have millions of followers and have previously signed brand deals on platforms like YouTube and Instagram to promote products and services to their audience. “TikTok is no different, and the power of followers can be harnessed the same way,” Ruth Matthews writes in 6 Easy Ways to Use TikTok for Marketing in a Gen Z World.

Because successful content on TikTok isn’t overly curated and relies on user input, influencers can get creative with how they promote brands. “Some examples of this are wearing a piece of relevant clothing or filming themselves using one of your products as part of their day-to-day lifestyle,” Matthews writes.

Still, the balance between brands and influencers over creative license is delicate—and desire to go viral often comes up against a brand’s stricter standards of what it can get behind.

Another opportunity for brands on the platform is ecommerce. TikTok recently announced a partnership with Shopify, including the launch of TikTok Shopping, a partnership with select Shopify merchants. The introduction of new tools will allow Shopify merchants to create, run and optimize their TikTok marketing campaigns directly from the Shopify dashboard. Kylie Jenner is among the early adopters of the new service for her Kylie Cosmetics brand.

Taking that first step
For performance marketers, TikTok is a viable platform for reaching younger consumers and getting their products into the algorithm for recommendations (e.g., back to school, trends, clothing, electronics, etc.) The return on investment can be high because this is where younger audiences are spending their time right now. Meeting them where they are with relevant, useful content and product offerings can be well worth the effort.