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Gen-Z vs. Millennials: What DTC Brands Need to Know

Last Modified: February 27, 2023

This is a guest post from our friends at electrIQ marketing.

We hear a lot about the differences between Gen-Z and millennials, but one of the most important aspects to note is how they interact with brands, specifically online. With our tips, you will be able to understand the demographic nuances in their online interactions, what types of strategies resonate well with one group versus another, and some of our favorite tools you can use to get their attention. Technology is changing every day, but there are tried and true methods to engage with Gen-Z and millennials online.

The Difference Between Gen-Z and Millennials

Gen-Z and millennials are two different generations that grew up in close proximity to each other, but react to the world around them very differently, which includes your DTC brand. The cutoff dates for these generations is anyone born between 1981 and 1996 — they are considered a millennial, while anyone born after 1997 to the mid-2000s is considered part of the next generation (Gen-Z).

Beyond historical factors that shape how these two generations act, they have grown up in two different eras of the internet, although both have grown up in an “always-on” state. As computers advance and the integration of social media into our everyday lives continues, both generations have grown to be massive digital consumers.

Not only do their age differences set them apart, but there are stark contrasts in how they approach brands as online consumers. For example, millennials are able to consume longer-form content than Gen-Z. By understanding the facts, you can use the data to cater to each unique audience and see the results you want. It can reveal the way your marketing efforts should cater to each consumer in a fast-paced digital landscape.

At electrIQ marketing, as digital natives and Gen-Z’ers ourselves, we’re uniquely positioned to help you ideate and execute marketing strategies that resonate with the younger generations. Our firsthand knowledge allows us to create strategic campaigns that produce serious results.


Millennials tend to spend their money on education, clothing, food, services, socializing, transportation, and restaurants. The American millennial does a lot of their shopping online, in fact, 53 percent of them make their purchases online from smartphones, PC, or tablets. Since 85 percent of American millennials own a smartphone, marketing to mobile shoppers is key. The usability of your website on a smartphone needs to be fast and seamless.

Research shows that 87 percent of millennials choose to make purchases that have an environmental or social benefit. Ask yourself- what does my business offer to my audience and the environment?

While we know that mobile devices are one of the best ways to reach millennials, you should take into account that having a multi-platform marketing strategy should come into play because many people own multiple devices. Since 55 percent of millennials watch video content on multiple devices, a customized marketing strategy with personalized goods or services should be used as part of your marketing strategy.

It is shown that millennials will pay longer attention to an advertisement than Gen-Z. Consider this when catering to millennials in your advertising. Millennials don’t want a “cheesy” advertisement that doesn’t involve them, many find it deceptive and contain no authentic information. They expect a lot from companies for their interest and “likes”, expecting something in exchange for their interest. This could be an opportunity to receive updates on new products, promotions, or potential savings they could have. You can take advantage of their interest in longer-form content via podcasting, longer videos, traditional ads or even social media marketing.

Generation Z

Gen-Z is now on the rise as a new type of consumer. The fact is that 79 percent of them own a smartphone, 81 percent own a PC or laptop, and 57 percent own a tablet (That’s a lot of mobile device usage that you should take into account!).

In addition, they spend their money on entertainment, food, and personal insurance. This is the first generation of digital natives. They are expected to account for 40 percent of all customers in the market.

This information can inform exactly how you should target your marketing efforts toward this generation. It can show you how the expectations of millennials and Gen-Z reveal changes in the ways that all consumers approach marketing amidst an ever-changing digital marketing landscape. Gen-Z has put trust into the internet and online companies since birth, but due to growing up during a recession, they value their dollars and want to spend money on things that give them value. As Gen-Z gets older, they will diversify their spending habits. As a company, it’s important to know that this demographic will mature but still expect brands to be authentic.

The Gen-Z generation takes content in “bite sizes’’. For example, the rise of Tik Tok and Snapchat showcasing ephemeral content is trending. This means that Gen-Z can process more information at faster rates than previous generations. Take this to mean that video content is now king- you should utilize multimedia (like video) to demonstrate how your company will provide value. Make sure it’s to-the-point and quick.

When Gen-Z wants to “like” a company on social media, they use it as a way of self-expression and endorsement. They are more likely to expect something of value in exchange and are less interested in the company “chit-chat”. They value their relationship with a company more, are incredibly loyal, and quick to tout you around to their friends. Ambassador programs are incredibly impactful for Gen-z’ers because of how much they resonate with particular brands. But, they are also quick to unlike, unfollow, or stop buying from your brand if your messaging stops resonating with them. They favor experience and doing things over regular endorsements. Companies who implement these facts while marketing to this generation will succeed.

In Conclusion

Although millennials and Gen-Zers are massive digital consumers, they interact differently online. Not to say that this won’t change over time, but for now video content will be one of the best approaches to reach both of these generations. However, for millennials, they are interested in companies that have a definitive mission or purpose and don’t have a “cheesy” ad technique. They can consume longer-form content which you can use to your advantage with podcasting and social media marketing. Millennials will spend more time researching a brand before purchasing. On the other hand, Gen-Z takes in “bite-sized” and ephemeral content. They value relationships with businesses and mostly use mobile devices.

Take into account the emerging digital landscape and craft cross-platform marketing strategies that value building meaningful relationships with your audience over blasting advertisements to them. By doing this, it will pay off in the long run!

The Best Ways to Reach Millennials

Although it’s easy to group these two generations together, marketing to millennials versus Gen-Z takes different strategies.

Here are our best tips for marketing to millennials:

  • Desktop isn’t dead — Despite more and more traffic moving towards mobile, it’s still important to create a seamless experience and easy-to-use interface for your audience across both desktop and mobile. Make sure to analyze your website analytics to see what your business’s desktop/tablet/mobile split is.
  • Personalize it — Your goods and services should be personalized to your audience. Authenticity is critical because you want to create a relationship with your audience on a personal level. Some ways you can do this include personalized products, newsletters, discounts, or services. For example, this personalization should inform your email marketing strategies. By segmenting your audience based on certain characteristics, you can make sure you’re communicating with them appropriately and on their terms.
  • Environment or social benefit — Millennials prefer to purchase products that have a positive environment or social impact. If you can, create a campaign that has social benefits, you’ll not only see a boost in your revenue but you’ll be helping out a greater cause.
  • Video content is king — This generation tends to favor video content over other types of content (still photos, infographics, etc.). Take this opportunity to introduce webisodes, more videos, or GIFS in your marketing strategies.
  • Longer-form content — Millenials consume longer-form content, meaning you can hold their attention for a longer period of time and also disseminate more information. Take this into account when you are posting on your social media platforms.
  • Expecting something in exchange for their interest — This could be an opportunity to receive updates on new products, promotions, or potential savings they could have. You can take advantage of their interest in longer-form content via podcasting, longer videos, traditional ads or even social media marketing.

The Best Ways to Reach Gen-Z

Despite both generations growing up with technology, Gen-Z differentiates from millennials in some of their online tendencies, here’s the best breakdown:

  • Personal interests are important—Gen-Z spends its money on entertainment and personal interests, things that bring value to their life. Cater your brand to bring value to their lives- be authentic and real.
  • Mobile devices — Cater your usability and marketing techniques specifically to mobile devices and social media. Use swipe-up links, special discount codes on social media, or other authentic strategies that are specific to mobile devices.
  • “Bite-sized” content — Gen-Z prefers information to be quick, meaning you only have a few seconds to get your point across. They process information at a faster rate than their millennial counterparts. Ephemeral content is a great way to grab their attention. Utilize multimedia to demonstrate how your brand provides value.
  • Ambassador programs — These programs have a huge impact on Gen-Z. It shows that they can create a real relationship with your brand, and it will help you turn your most loyal customers into your biggest supporters.
  • Quick to “unlike”—If Gen-Z loses interest in a brand, they are quick to unlike, unfollow, or stop buying from the brand, if the messaging stops resonating with them.
  • They favor experiences — Do not over advertise. Gen-Z favors doing activities or creating memorable experiences over regular endorsements. Companies who implement this into their marketing techniques will rise over their competitors as Gen-Z gets older.

Special Thanks to ElectrIQ Marketing

ElectrIQ’s team of Gen-Z’ers can help you craft demographically targeted marketing strategies and campaigns that resonate with your audience, whether it’s millennial or Gen-Z focused while driving revenue results. Communication, visibility, and results that back out to revenue are the driving tenets behind electrIQ. If you’re going to invest in marketing, you deserve bottom-line results. If you’re ready to take your DTC Brand to the next level, set up a free consultation today. or explore our in-depth array of digital marketing services here.

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Written by

Ruthie Carey
Ruthie Carey