5 Things You Need To Know About Gen Z And Brand Loyalty

March 29, 2024

When it comes to brand loyalty, Gen Z plays by new rules - the ones we set.  

Though winning over this generation of skeptics, internet detectives, and anti-influencers may seem like a perilous endeavor (one wrong move and you’ll end up on a TikTok flop list), it is essential to wrangling Gen Z’s massive consumer spending power, totaling a whopping 450 billion collectively. 

But unlike past generations, Gen Z does brand loyalty differently - and notably, we’re never afraid to switch it up. Competing for our loyalty in the social marketplace boils down to understanding what makes a brand worth bookmarking.

1. You’ll Need to Find Your Niche in our Digital Landscape

Okay, we’ll admit it - Gen Z has a major individuality complex. And maybe it has given one too many of us Main Character Syndrome, but our love of ‘different’ has transformed the internet into a diverse, hyper-segmented landscape of niche subcultures and online communities.  

But where do brands fit in? Well, while Gen Z doesn’t want to be put in a box, we do love to consume subcategorically - meaning that knowing your niche can give your brand an in. According to a 2020 survey conducted by Wunderman Thompson Intelligence, 60% of Gen Z says that the brands they shop are an expression of who they are. Thus, it’s key to find your place amongst these online micro-communities - catering to Gen Z’s identity-driven consumption habits can help you appeal to targeted audiences. 

2. You’ll Need to Come to Us 

Gen Z’s favorite search engine is social media - why Google when you can scroll your FYP?

The social commerce boom, projected to hit 1.2 trillion by 2025, underscores the significance of seamless omnichannel experiences. After all, the social marketplace is our storefront of choice, with 49% of Gen Z preferring to do our shopping on social media.

To get our attention (and sustain it), brands have to make shopping while scrolling seamless; shoppable ads/posts and dedicated social storefronts engage us where we’re spending the most time. 

3. You’ll Need to be Mission Over Product 

Gen Z buys into values over product - and we need to see you put the work in. To earn our respect, brands should have an understanding of their larger role in society; and to grow that respect into loyalty, they should leverage that understanding into positive action. 

According to a survey conducted by BBMG and GlobeScan, Gen Z is 3x more likely to expect companies to serve society rather than just push product. And 2022 data from Morning Consult reports that 56% prefer to buy from brands that align with their social values - to the point where their ethical values come before value pricing.

“SHEIN is a fast-fashion brand with cheap quality and cheap prices but [below average] standards on sustainability and ethical practices. [I’ve heard] talks of them using child labor, too. I will not support a brand that uses standards that are inhumane and bad for the environment — no matter how appealing the prices and the trendy apparel they carry could seem.” -Female student, 22, Maryland

So go beyond hashtag-activism and corporate responsibility statements - earning Gen Z’s loyalty requires intentionally integrating our values into your brand identity in tangible ways.  

4. You’ll Need to be Open to Notes

Gen Z isn't just critical; we’re collaborative. And while it’s true that we  may hold brands to high standards, we’re also down to get our hands dirty in creating the positive changes we want to see.  

So don’t take our shade too seriously - in reality, Gen Z wants to be called on to contribute ideas and solutions, seeking brands that are responsive to their feedback. Engaging these conversations - and putting our suggestions into action - instills a sense of collective ownership over the product, and gives your Gen Z audience a reason to come back.

5. You’ll Need to Create Community 

Gen Z's online shopping preference doesn't erase our craving for tangible experiences; above all, we want authenticity and relevance in advertising. By merging digital commerce tactics with targeted local marketing, brands can craft culturally tailored content to grow those personal connections into a community. Custom messaging, IRL activations, and collaborations with local influencers will make your brand feel real to Gen Z - and that tangibility can bridge the gap between a click and a loyal customer.