Gen Y and Gen Z shoppers have changed the way companies market. Stock photo

It’s your business: Y does not equal Z when it comes to generations

Joe Smith

Joe Smith

Special to The Record

While millennials, generation Y, are still an important market segment, their rise to the top of the marketing hierarchy is beginning to wane as the next generation, Z, beginning to come of age as a force in the marketplace.

I recently did an analysis for a client comparing the two generations and thought this would be an opportune time to highlight some of their differences.

Let’s start off with something positive for local merchants. According to some research studies Gen Z prefers in-store shopping while Millennials are more prone to use online shopping. Apparently, Gen Z likes to be able to feel and see products to ensure they are buying quality … perhaps one of the reasons why Amazon and other online companies are moving towards opening bricks-and-mortar stores.

Millennials defined themselves by buying brands which appealed to their sense of self-worth. On the other hand, Gen Z wants to be known for their individuality and independence. This can be seen in the campaigns developed by astute marketers who are emphasizing that their customers can be anything they want to be and are not trying to slot them into narrowly defined segments.

Classified as digital pioneers, Millennials grew with technological developments and were able to adapt to the application of digital solutions in everyday life. They were there when the first iMac came out. Gen Z has grown up in an age that has been totally reliant on the digital world and takes new development in stride as an everyday occurrence. They are the ones who will be better equipped to adapt to the internet of things.

One interesting research finding was the difference between their methods of communication. Millennials have primarily relied on digital tools and platforms while it appears Gen Z is leaning more towards face-to-face discussions becoming a more important component of their networking and socializing. And by-the-way you will only have less than 8 seconds to capture a Gen Z’s attention vs 12 for a Gen Y.

Millennials have been labeled as optimistic whereas Gen Zs have a more pragmatic outlook towards life. This, for the most part, is because Gen Z has been shaped by tough economic times when their parents and the world around them were struggling with financial pressures and insecure employment opportunities.

When it comes to comparing the teenage segments of both generations the big differences occur in their use of social media. Focus groups found that today’s teens, while they may be annoyed with many aspects of Facebook, they still use it to keep up with friends. However what is gaining popularity is their use of Twitter, Snapchat and mobile technology to help them get through the day.

These differences only touch the tip of the proverbial iceberg. If you are looking to reach out to these key market segments you will need to be able to deal with them on their own terms. What has worked for appealing to Millennials will not necessarily resonate with Gen Z. The same way marketing to Baby Boomers was very different from reaching the Silent Generation.

What’s next? Get set to start all over as the generation starting from 2019 on will be known as Alpha.

Joe Smith is a communications consultant and an accomplished fine artist. He can be reached via email at

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