Generation Z is the first generation to be raised entirely in the internet age — a childhood where smartphones are practically omnipresent and dedicating 23 hours per week to streaming video content is commonplace. They're tech-savvy, skeptical, and — like any new generation to those that came before it — difficult to reach and understand.

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Older generations sometimes bemoan how cushy life is for kids these days, criticize them for enjoying the comforts of the age they live in, or insist they never would have lasted in decades prior.

It's easy to dismiss Generation Z, the world they're growing up in, and the future they'll have to deal with. But you really shouldn't — especially if you're in sales.

You can feel however you want to feel about the lives Generation Zers are leading, but you can't ignore their impact on the landscape of business as we know it — both currently and down the line.

In 2018, it was estimated that Generation Z might have as much as $143 billion in direct spending power — a figure that could increase as more of them leave their parents' homes and enter the workforce.

No matter what you make of their habits, interests, sensitivities, and world-views, you still have to consider putting together a sales strategy that caters to Generation Z.

Here are some strides you can take to do just that.

Take Digital Steps to Support In-Store Sales

Generation Zers are digital natives. Their perception of the world around them has been shaped by social media, immediate access to information, mobile devices, and other aspects of the internet age more than any generation preceding them. Naturally, that perspective impacts how they interact with brands.

74% of Generation Zers say they spend their free time online, so that's probably the best place to reach them. It's easy to look at that figure and assume that prioritizing ecommerce is the best way to sell to them, but it's not that straightforward.

According to a study by IBM and the National Retail Federation, Generation Z still prefers shopping at brick-and-mortar stores. But like I said, the best touch-point between you and them is still over the internet.

While they might prefer to purchase products in person, they still rely on online resources like consumer reviews and social media to influence their decisions.

If you're a retail business with physical storefronts, make a conscious effort to engage with Generation Zers online to drive them to those locations. Promote in-store discounts and flash sales online.

Leveraging personalized ads for your Generation Z buyer personas can also be an effective means of getting them into physical retail outlets.

Evidence also suggests that Generation Zers place a lot of value on in-store aesthetics and unique products, so be sure your store design is appealing and the products you carry are hard to find elsewhere.

Understand They're Not Millennials

This new generation is just that — a new generation. With that shift comes new priorities, values, and financial habits. Generation Z, on the whole, is more frugal and pragmatic than the generation that came before it. In some ways, it's looking like they've learned from Millennials' mistakes.

Almost 40% of Millennials have overspent or gone into debt to keep up their social lives on par with their friends'. Generation Z'ers, on the other hand, tend to prioritize thriftiness.

A study by Swift Prepaid found that 80% of Generation Z considers cost the most important factor when making a purchase, and 51% of them are worried about not having enough money to do what they enjoy later in life.

These figures bring a crucial distinction to light. Millennials prioritize experience more than Generation Zers, and Generation Zers prioritize financial stability more than Millennials.

That's not to say experience doesn't matter when trying to reach Generation Z, but their frugalness is something to bear in mind when pricing a product or service designed to appeal to them.

Bolster Your Social Selling Efforts

As per HubSpot's own definition, "Social selling is the process of researching, connecting, and interacting with prospects and customers on social media networks." Generation Z is growing up in an age where social media is ubiquitous. Most of them literally can't remember a time where it didn't exist.

Like virtually any generation that came before it, Generation Z often relies on recommendations from friends and influencers when it comes to their buying habits.

In this day and age, those recommendations generally come over social media. 45% of Generation Zers say they typically use social media to discover new brands and products. If you want to sell to Generation Z, you're going to need to engage with them over those platforms.

To do that, you have to know where to find them. A survey by Business Insider found that Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat were the three most popular platforms among Generation Z — by a sizable margin. If you don't have a presence on those applications, you should consider establishing one.

Once you're on there, make your marketing efforts more realistic than idealistic. Gen Zers want to see real life in advertising. They're less receptive to obviously embellished, polished marketing material than legitimate portrayals of how your product or service could play into their lives.

Once you have their attention, engage with them. Make your sales efforts a two-way conversation. Be mindful of their comments and respond accordingly.

One way or another, find a way to let them know you value them as people more than customers. Be human, and you'll put yourself in a good position to register with Generation Z.

Have Values and Stick to Them

Gen Zers value companies with morals and convictions. 68% of them expect brands to contribute to society, and 61% say they'd pay more for products or services produced humanely, ethically, and sustainably.

Generation Z is skeptical, pragmatic, and growing up with unprecedented access to information. They're also the most diverse generation in history — perhaps the most socially conscious one as well.

Take all those factors together, and pair them with their constant inundation with advertising and digital media, and you get a consumer base that cares about brand values with the resources and desire to make sure those values are real.

If you want to sell to Generation Z as effectively as possible, take some strides to make your business operations more sustainable and find a way to demonstrate how you contribute to society. Have values, operate according to those values, and let Generation Zers know without coming off as inauthentic.

Generation Z is already a major mover in terms of economic impact — one you shouldn't ignore. And their influence is only going to expand as they leave their parents' homes and make their own money. If there's one lesson to take away from Generation Z's financial presence and preferences it's this — take these consumers seriously.

Whether you like their habits, values, and interests or not, they're poised to impact how you do business in a big way. I don't completely understand Generation Z, and I won't pretend to.

What I do understand is that the future is ultimately theirs — no matter how you might feel about them. As a salesperson, you have to keep that in mind when planning your efforts going forward.

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Originally published Mar 2, 2020 8:00:00 AM, updated March 02 2020

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Selling to Different Buyer Personas