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How brands can use technology to engage Gen Z: Ameen Khwaja

Just when the ‘puppy’ and ‘wreath’ filters began losing their charm, Snapchat launched its geo-targeted filters. No surprise that the first brand to buy into the idea was McDonald’s – encouraging its customers at 14,000 of its US locations to ‘Snapchat’ the McDonald’s themed digital stickers while enjoying their order of burgers and fries. This new world marketing initiative, which achieved 2 million total filter uses/ snaps, 308 million total filter views and 400 million total filter impressions, quickly spawned similar initiatives by Starbucks, Disneyland, GE, Target, Toys R Us, Reebok, Dunkin’ Donuts, and several other large brands. 

With 45 per cent of Snapchat’s 166 million daily active users falling in the 18-24 age groups, it’s clear why brands are flocking to Snapchat as their favoured social media medium to reach this generation. Technology is without doubt the best way into the heart of Gen Z. 

Technology is what excites the purest of digital natives 

Born when the digital revolution was already underway, Gen Z has never known a world without smartphones or social media. An IBM Institute for Business Value 2017 study of more than 15,000 respondents, aged 13-21, from 16 countries, found that 74 per cent of Gen Z spend their free time online, with 25 per cent spending at least five hours online each day. 

Technology being imbibed in their DNA, Gen Z’ers thrive on it and are deeply entrenched in their online personalities. This is clearly seen in how Gen Z multitasks across a minimum of five screens daily with 41 per cent spending their time outside of school with computers or mobile devices. Such a deep relationship with technology has changed the entire process of how Gen Z relates to brands. 

‘MyLuxury’ – a new brand definition crafted by Gen Z 

This unabashed exposure to technology, the extreme individuality of character and the seamless comfort with online shopping has led to Gen Z crafting their own idea of ‘MyLuxury’ – where supposed brand value is trumped by quality, value and personal excitement based on individual choices and what brands mean to them personally. A recent Google survey saw Gen Z rate international fashion brand Chanel on the same level as food major Nestle. 

This evolution gives alternate or smaller brands an opportunity to step into mainframe marketing by offering products on online platforms that resonate fluently with the personal satisfaction needs of this up-to-date and technologically savvy generation. The niche beauty brand Lush, for example, seems to have found the technology pulse on which Gen Z operates. Most popular amongst its offerings are its colourful, fizzy bath bombs that fit right into the concept of ‘MyLuxury’. They are natural, customizable, made in small batches on-site and come with sharable reviews. Moreover, Lush’s product range is not promoted by a celebrity, but by YouTube vlogger Zoella, who is followed by more than 10 million subscribers. Lush, which now has 940 stores in 50 countries around the world, generated a turnover of £574 million ($800 million) in 2015 – a clear indication that technology is the ecosystem that Gen Z is comfortable with and the best way to market ‘MyLuxury’ to them. 

Gen Z plays an important role as influencers 

The unique triangular equation between Gen Z, technology and ‘MyLuxury’, should make brands sit up and take notice even before this generation attains purchasing power, given that it has taken on the important role of influencers. Over 70 per cent of Gen Z’ers surveyed in the IBM Institute of Business Value’s global study, say that they influence family decisions on buying furniture, household goods, and food and beverages. To cater to the Gen Z, brands that leverage technology to combine the corner store, marketing, logistics and online shopping into to one seamless experience will be the ones that survive. 

(Ameen Khwaja is CEO & Founder of LatestOne.com, a tech and mobile accessories e-tailer.)

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