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Gen Z insights: How to engage Gen Z consumers for market research

Kelvin Claveria
Kelvin Claveria (@kcclaveria)..

Many brands are scrambling to connect with Gen Zs, and it’s not surprising why. Making up 40% of global consumers today and with a spending power of $140 billion, this cohort is becoming more powerful and influential every day.

In a recent episode of Outliers, our weekly live event series featuring market research experts and thought leaders, I spoke with Jennifer Reid, president and chief methodologist at Rival Technologies, and Dara St. Louis, SVP and founding partner at Reach3 Insights, about best practices on how to engage with Gen Zs for customer insights.

"Generation Z wants to share their feedback, but they won’t do it if they don’t trust you."

Watch the recording below or check out our recap below for some highlights. 

Don’t treat Gen Zs as one homogeneous group

When we’re talking about the youth, we’re not talking about one big, monolithic group. As Jennifer discussed in her ebook The Insight Pro’s Guide to Gen Z Engagement, the "youth" market is actually comprised of three distinct groups:  

  • Younger Gen Zs (14 to 18 years old)
  • Older Gen Zs (19 to 24 years old)
  • Young Millennials (25 to 35 years old)

These groups are at different life stages, each with unique living situations, needs, and earning power. For example, Young Gen Zs are still in high school and live with their parents, while Older Gen Zs are attending post-secondary education or at their first jobs. These groups also differ by the issues they care about, their preferred social channels and their approach to spending.

“When I work with brands that are trying to engage with Gen Zs, we always try to understand which of the groups we’re specifically talking about,” Jennifer said. Understanding these differences can help ensure that you’re using the market research tactics that best match your audience.

Master the 3 rules of Gen Z engagement

Connecting with Gen Zs requires playing by their rules. According to Jennifer, that means following these 3 principles:

  • Transparency: being clear about who you are, what the purpose is for the engagement, and what you stand for.
  • Authenticity: living up to what you stand for and avoiding being fake.
  • Trust: this is what you ultimately build when you have transparency and authenticity.

“What we found is that this cohort wants to share their feedback, but they won’t do it if they don’t trust you,” Jennifer explained. “We have to be willing to invest in building that trust with our participants in order to have the most successful research.”

Learn the 3 cardinal rules of Gen Z engagement

Don’t be clinical

Dara emphasized the need to implement conversational research design principles when talking to Gen Zs. A big part of this is about the tone that you use in your surveys, chats or questionnaires. A chat should feel more like a natural dialogue with a person rather than a back-and-forth with a robot.

Tone can vary from study to study; it needs to make sense based on your research and business objectives. But it’s important to avoid a clinical, too-formal approach—after all, a research engagement is NOT a test-taking exercise and it should be something people are happy to complete.

Dara’s recommendation? “Go with simple language.”

Use videos to build trust and get richer customer insights

Videos are a powerful tool in connecting with Gen Zs more authentically and in getting richer insights. Adding videos in your chats, for example, shows Gen Z participants that there’s a real person behind the research.

“It helps to build trust,” Dara emphasized. “It makes the Gen Z feel that they are connecting with a real company.”

Another way of using videos in your studies is to give the option to provide video feedback. “You’re essentially mimicking the digital style that Gen Zs are used to,” Dara explained. “This approach really helps to build a connection, and participants tend to leave deeper, more authentic answers.”

Rethink traditional market research approaches

When engaging with Gen Zs, the most widely accepted market research approaches may flop. For example, when recruiting new research participants, starting with demographic questions will result to lower completion rates.

Dara explained, “launching into their personal demo questions right up front may not be the best plan because Gen Zs have been encouraged by their parents not to share their personal information online. Let’s be careful about when and how we’re asking for personal information.”

Market researchers also need to rethink the use of long surveys. Consider how this cohort engages digitally with friends and family. When texting, posting on social media or using mobile messaging apps, Gen Zs tend to do them in short bursts. Dara said market researchers need to mimic these behaviors.

For this reason, one key feature of Rival’s mobile market research platform is the ability to re-contact consumers: it enables brands to continue the conversation through chats in the future to get richer, deeper insights over time. With mobile research technology, there’s really no need for 20-minute surveys.

Don’t try too hard

When doing market research with Gen Zs, be authentic in your language and your approach.

“Don’t try too hard or be too cute,” Dara shared. “Also, don’t pretend to be a Gen Zer when you’re not.”

Both Jennifer and Dara recommended getting a Gen Z to review or even to potentially write your chat or survey. This technique ensures that the way you’re asking the questions makes sense with the participants.

Use mobile research technology to reach Gen Zs

To reach Gen Zs, you need to go to where they are. That means rethinking email as a channel of reaching research participants. “Gen Zs under 24 are not using emails to communicate,” Dara concluded. “As much as possible, use insight platforms that allow you to connect with Gen Zs through text.”

More best practices on conducting Gen Z market research

At Rival Technologies, we proud to build the world’s best Gen Z market research platform. If you’d like to hear more tips on how to engage with this generation, download our ebook, The Insight Pro’s Guide to Gen Z Engagement.

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