Considering Gen Z: Best Practices to Reach a Younger Generation (Part 3)

W5 takes special interest in crafting research approaches that meet the needs of specific consumer groups of interest. In this three-part blog series we will examine how best target and understand Gen Z in research studies, a consumer group considered the future of the global economy. In today’s post we identify best practices and key considerations for designing effective, engaging market research studies with Gen Z consumers.

When designing research for Gen Z, it is important to take all the aforementioned factors into account. Missteps can create a disconnect that is hard to overcome and may result in less engaged respondents, or worse, respondents who abandon the study altogether. So how can we design effective research that makes it easier to connect with this generation? What should we pursue and what should we avoid when interacting with Gen Z?

Here is a play-by-play of how to design research studies for this dynamic generation. Note, these research approaches are mentioned with Gen Z in mind but can apply to almost any type of consumer. The expectation among Gen Z for online connectivity may be stronger than other generations, but the practices below make research easier to conduct among any group of people and fulfill their expectations for fast, smart, and adept research projects.

  1. Be authentic and transparent. Gen Z values honesty and straightforwardness. Do not obscure why the research is being done, share false promises of what the research experience will be like, or create any false impressions. Alert participants to the amount of time they will spend on the project, what is required of them, how their information will be used, and if possible offer both a cash incentive and smaller interactive rewards such as emoticons, virtual coins, or skins they can use to modify their online presence (if you are conducting research online).
  2. Meet them where they live online. Find ways to target consumers where they spend their time and capture their interest immediately. Use social media-inspired recruiting efforts to find your target on social platforms (TikTok, Snapchat, etc.), gaming platforms, or online chat threads (Reddit, for example) and invite them to take part in your research through an online invitation and screening process.
  3. Make the smartphone your research ally. Consider employing smartphones more liberally in your research design. Gen Z is comfortable expressing themselves online and through written communication. Design research studies that use text, video chat, or quick smartphone-friendly mobile surveys to tap into consumers’ lives quickly and capture their real-time thinking, attitudes, and decision making.
  4. Embrace their desire to create content. While members of Gen Z view video as a promotional tool they can manipulate to promote or present themselves in a certain way, sometimes a highly produced piece can be misleading as it fails to present who the subject really is and how they really think. However, video is an extremely useful tool for sharing consumers’ lives. It also allows Gen Z to create content (something they love doing). To avoid overproduced video production and find that authentic voice include assignments in your research that require short bursts of video that encourage participants to complete a quick activity or answer a short question on video they can upload on the spot.
  5. Gamify the research. Make the research a fun and rewarding challenge by creating a game-like atmosphere. Gamifying an online survey, online discussion, or video journal can create more engagement and encourage completion. Some examples include offering bonus points to those who answer a certain number of questions within a specific timeframe or allowing your participants to create teams and work together to solve a problem.
  6. Be as inclusive as possible. When conducting research with Gen Z ensure a diverse group of consumers are invited to join. This could include a mix of ethnic/racial backgrounds, gender identity, political leanings, or spiritual affiliations. Ensure a variety of perspectives and experiences are included so no one is underrepresented.
  7. Rely on more than words to communicate. Avoid relying on language alone as a mode of expression. Bring in other tools to share attitudes, emotions, and expressions such as avatars, emoticons, stickers, etc.
  8. Do not repeat yourself. Be as concise as possible with the research and keep the length of the research in mind. As a rule ask short and direct questions and do not ask multiple versions of the same question. If more detail is needed, send a private follow up or ask for some one-on-one time with your research respondent.
  9. Do not forget—build in extra time for younger audiences. With younger audiences, particularly age 13 and under, parent approval and guidance may be required. When parents are involved, it is important to build extra time into the recruiting process to onboard parents and their kids. Additionally, it is important to consider the best time to engage with the audience; for example, after school might be filled with snacks and homework so early in the day might be the best opportunity. Set appropriate rules for the engagement including time requirements and be sure to over-recruit to cover those who need to back out of the study last minute.

Gen Z is a new and challenging group of consumers to understand. They are defined by their life online, their vast access to knowledge, and unlimited choice. Research approaches should adapt to embrace these aspects of their experience so we can begin a journey of discovering who Gen Z truly is and how they make decisions, both big and small.

Should you have any questions about Gen Z as a research audience or how to design your research to best fit their needs and expectations, please reach out to W5 for additional information, resources, and custom research design.

This is our final entry in the three (3) part series on Gen Z. You can find the first and second installments here and here.

This thought-piece was developed from conversations with key vendors and web and book-based research from the following resources:

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