How to Successfully Market to Gen Z: Insights from Forever 21, e.l.f. Beauty and Coach

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Gen Z is the first generation to grow up entirely in the digital age. Born between the late 1990s and early 2010s, they have experienced widespread access to the internet, smartphones and social media starting from a young age. As a result, they function differently as consumers with unique traits and behaviors. 

Our 2023 CommerceNext Ecommerce Summit featured multiple sessions on how to market to Gen Z. We’ve gathered the three best tips shared from Forever21, e.l.f Beauty and COACH who all spoke at the annual conference.

  1. Meet Gen Z Where They Are
  2. Show up Authentically & Naturally 
  3. Resonate with them on a Personal Level 

Explore these essential tips for connecting with Gen Z and check out the CommerceNext YouTube channel to learn even more industry insights. 

TIP #1: Meet Gen Z Where They Are 

COACH understands that the best way to understand Gen Z is to spend time with them. Sandeep Seth, Global SMO and North American President at Coach, explained how they went shopping with Gen Z, had meals with them and spent time observing how they shop and the emotions behind their purchasing decisions. By investing quality time with Gen Z, the brand gains insights into the individual and distinctive roles fashion plays in their lives, enabling them to create campaigns that resonate with them on a personal level. 

Forever21 strives to meet Gen Z where they are, engage with them and co-exist. Through their partnership with Roblox, they are able to exist simultaneously in the metaverse and real life by allowing users to twin with their avatars, resulting in remarkable success. They have also collaborated with Barbie and Rolling Loud, proving their commitment to placing themselves at the forefront of the relevant Gen Z cultural zeitgeist. 

TIP #2: Show up Authentically & Naturally 

Ekta Chopra, Chief Digital Officer at e.l.f. Beauty, explained how the secret to connecting to Gen Z is being present. It is crucial for brands to ensure that their content resonates with their audience and remains true to their brand identity. Chopra emphasized the importance of platforms like TikTok where brands can produce raw, unfiltered content that Gen Z can easily interact with and actively engage. 

Gen Z is notorious for hating being “marketed to”. They have the ability to see through corporate marketing/partnerships which is why Winne Park, CEO of Forever21, and her team have focused on connecting with consumers through genuine and influencer-driven marketing with TikTok being a crucial platform. Some of their most successful content has emerged from videos created by their own in-store associates.

TIP #3: Resonate with them on a Personal Level 

Ekta Chopra at e.l.f. Beauty explains how Gen Z has increasingly become more aware of the lack of sustainability in fashion and is willing to change their shopping habits in order to become more eco-friendly. They are eager to invest in products from brands that prioritize sustainability and ethical practice and have even turned to the resale business because it is affordable and eco-friendly. Brands that share these priorities will resonate better with their consumers and create better long-lasting relationships with Gen Z. 

For more on e.l.f. Beauty, check out our previous blog detailing how they continue to nail Gen Z marketing.

COACH collaborated with Lil Nas X, a fashion icon and rapper, to endorse the brand’s core principles. Surprisingly, the campaign did not showcase any Coach clothing but instead emphasized Lil Nas X’s individual values of self-expression and reinvention. Coach highlighted the importance for brands to shift their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) towards measuring brand love and consumer engagement. This partnership resonated with the values of Gen Z thus cultivating a loyal customer base in the long run.