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All You Need to Know about Marketing to Gen Z [with Free Designs]

By Reading Time: 7 minutes

A lot of ecommerce store owners think that marketing to Gen Z is a skill that will only need to be mastered by their future selves. But the truth is, Generation Z is predicted to become the largest consumer group in the US already in 2020, so it’s time to turn your eyes to this target audience!

Finding new customers takes time and requires insights about the people you want to attract to your store. To help you navigate the road to Gen Zers, I’ll talk about who they are, what products and designs they’re looking for (with some freebie samples for you to use), and how to market to Gen Z.

Who is Gen Z

Gen Z, iGen, Generation Snowflake, Gen Tech, Net Gen, Digital Natives, Zoomers… The list of names used to describe what’s most commonly known as Gen Z is quite extensive. But who are they?

Generation Z are people born between 1995 and 2015, so everyone who’s between ages 5 and 25 is considered part of the Gen Z age range.

Source: Kasasa

Gen Z is the first generation that grew up surrounded by smartphones, tablets, and laptops. They’re well versed in all things tech and internet, including scouting for the best online deals and consulting product reviews.

Because Gen Z has been exposed to marketing campaigns from an early age, they see through the BS. If you want to communicate with Gen Zers, you have to be transparent and honest.

Another factor that has shaped the way Gen Z thinks and shops is their exposure to the well-publicized struggles of the older generations. Gen Zers have witnessed the world dealing with student loan debt, the global financial crisis, and climate change, which means that their financial decisions are cautious.

As a store owner you’re tasked with attracting a complex customer—someone price-sensitive, well-oriented in ecommerce, and less impulsive with their buying decisions. Let’s talk about why you should invest your time and resources to target Gen Z.

Why marketing to Gen Z matters

With Gen Zers becoming the largest retail population, retailers can’t afford to ignore them. Even now, 9 out of 10 parents admit that their purchasing decisions are influenced by their Gen Z children and grandchildren, which might explain why my parents’ house is filled with tech only their 15-year old grandson knows how to use.

The way people shop is changing, and retailers are adapting their marketing strategies. Gen Z is moving away from big department stores towards small businesses that don’t believe in bulk selling and are more conscious of the waste they produce.

That’s why Gen Z is the perfect target audience for on-demand drop shippers who offer custom one-offs. The items only get made when an order is placed, so there’s no excess stock that needs to be destroyed. And since anyone can start their ecommerce store, there are a lot of design options offered by small businesses with limited print runs.

So the circumstances are perfect for small ecommerce stores to become the go-to shopping sites of Gen Z. Let’s make sure that your product catalog sports the products that will sell.

Which products Gen Z buys

Gen Z treasures feeling comfortable. The definition of “comfortable”, however, varies from person to person, which means that store owners have a lot of room to experiment with. Still, there are a couple of trends that have emerged with Gen Z entering the market.

Streetwear products

Streetwear mixes punk, skate, surf, hip hop, and many other subcultures into an ever-changing and fluid style. Its fans appreciate the casual approach urban fashion has towards life.

Product-wise, think jeans, baseball hats, elements of sportswear, and most importantly—t-shirts. A tee with a graphic design is a staple of any streetwear collection because it epitomizes the casual and sporty aesthetic urban fashion is associated with.

When it comes to designs, minimalistic graphics and typography take the cake. Since Japanese youth culture is one of the inspirations behind streetwear, we suggest experimenting with foreign languages in your designs.

Athleisure products

Coming straight out of gyms, tennis courts, and soccer fields, athleisure brought elements of sportswear into everyday fashion. Gen Zers are attracted to the trend because it aims to make the wearer feel unrestricted. The more sports apparel products in their wardrobes, the better.

The athleisure trend has given us the “Are leggings pants?” debate (leggings won), beautifully designed sports bras under sheer tank tops, and the victorious comeback of the trendy sportswear brand Champion. Your athleisure collection also needs to focus on products that feel right both in the gym and at a hang-out sesh with your friends.

Source: Printful

As for athleisure designs, Gen Z shoppers go for glitter-like effects and bright colors. The sports + glam combination creates a striking contrast with the laid-back vibe of athleisure products.

Oversized apparel

Whether your store rocks the streetwear or athleisure aesthetic, it’s the way you style and present the products to your target audience that makes or breaks your brand. Gen Z is all about oversized apparel with bulky silhouettes and exaggerated proportions.

Forget about fitted hoodies, jackets, and t-shirts, and make sure your products come in XXL and larger. It’s even worth getting rid of separate men’s and women’s sections in favor of a unisex apparel collection.

Oversized apparel designs are big, bold, and unapologetic. 90’s fashion is slowly coming back—experiment with large photo-realistic images (e.g. life-sized florals) that further exaggerate the oversized proportions.

Our Design Services team has prepared some downloadable designs that experiment with the graphic trends Gen Z appreciates. You can use these direct-to-garment print, all-over print, and embroidery graphics for your store, or adapt into new designs. The download button is at the bottom of the article.

How to market to Gen Z

For Generation Z, a targeted Facebook ad every once in a while isn’t going to cut it. There are several little things you’re going to have to do, and they’re going to shape up your long-term marketing strategy.

Read through our suggestions on how to get the Gen Z crowd to notice your brand, and experiment with turning your online store in a Gen Z shopping paradise.

Define your brand values

I think that 20th century Latvian poet Imants Ziedonis said it best—with so many truths out there, you’ll go insane if you don’t find yours. Generation Z agrees, and they appreciate brands who know what they stand for and reflect these values in their business decisions.

Gen Zers stand for sustainability, charitable work, and political awareness more than any other generation before it. A brand that also genuinely cares about these aspects is more likely to get their business.

I want to emphasize that brand values can’t be faked or hacked.

Unless you put your money where your mouth is, Gen Zers will find your marketing buzzwords inauthentic. Always be honest with yourself, your brand, and your customers.

Case in point, in 2019 H&M terminated its brand Nyden only after 2 years of existence. The brand’s aim was to engage with young consumers, but it lacked shared values. For example, Nyden came under criticism for not sporting large sizes, even though its target audience values inclusivity and body positivity.

Engage on an emotional level

Most retail giants such as Amazon offer a transactional shopping experience that’s high on value deals, range of choices, and speed. Small business owners can’t compete with the type of service large online stores provide, but there are other ways to attract the attention of Gen Z customers.

By sharing the unique stories behind their brand and products, online shops can make sure they’re noticed in the ecommerce market. In itself, this is not a new notion, but it’s especially important in the context of Gen Z which is known for appreciating authenticity and openness more than anything else.

The shopping process still needs to be sleek and quick just like with the retail giants, but your marketing strategy, with everything from product descriptions to Facebook ads, has to reflect the uniqueness of your brand. This way you’ll build lasting bonds with your Gen Z customers.

Focus on mobile

Creating designs and marketing campaigns takes time. You might feel a pang of pain remembering that your average customer will browse your product catalog on their phone and move on in about five seconds.

I was one of those customers in my last shopping experience for a party dress. A lot of the online stores I visited had a promising catalog, but a browsing experience simply unsuitable or just plain unappealing on the small screen. There was a moment where I thought that it’s easier to just cancel the party.

Saved by the Dress product page takes a long time to load and features too much details and colors for customers to enjoy their shopping experience.

Make sure that the mobile version of your store is intuitive and easy-to-use. If you realize your site layout needs a redesign, focus on the mobile version first. There are tons of great-looking responsive storefront themes out there you can use.

Step up your email and social media game

It’s been at least 5 years since digital marketing specialists started advocating for businesses to send out fewer emails, and focus more on engaging social media content. Left unchecked for three days, my inbox lights up like Times Square, meaning that online business are still tweaking their promo strategies.

But with Gen Z, this is going to be the standard. Gen Zers use emails as a designated place for business promos, and their inbox is where they expect to hear from you regularly, but not too often. Think of your email as a reader’s digest that informs your customers about topical news once in a while.

Social media, however, can be dedicated to more fun behind-the-scenes content and daily updates.

Just note that trying to engage with customers on every single channel is impossible unless you have a whole social media team at your disposal. So focus your efforts on platforms where Gen Zers spend their time.

Young adults and kids are shifting away from Facebook towards more visual, mobile-friendly and less scandal-ridden media, like Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Your best chance to succeed is to invest in strong visuals, test engagement data on a variety of platforms over time, and decide which channels make sense for your brand.

Create content that matters

Gen Z is abandoning  the “filtered reality” concept and prefers seeing messy, seemingly uncurated feeds (even if they’re actually curated), which tie in with their love for authenticity. So don’t be afraid to experiment with your feed.

Mix your own content with user-generated visuals from people who use your products. Include a branded hashtag on the packing slip of all your orders, letting people share their love for your brand, and making it easy for you to find and use their posts.

Another content trend to make a note of is video. It’s a rich medium that Gen Z likes to engage with and share, so it’s great if you can give them the opportunity to do so.

Keep in mind to focus on video materials that make sense with the sound on or off. Most users scroll their feeds with the sound turned off—both a keyword they’re interested in or an eye-catching shot can make Gen Zers stop and pay attention to your video.

Collaborate with Gen Z

Collaborations raise awareness about your brand and get customers to your store, while the marketing tips I mentioned make sure Gen Z shoppers buy your products and come back for more.

Once your ecommerce shop is ready, it’s time to involve Gen Zers in your promotional campaigns. You can work together with Gen Zers in different ways, for example, by designing a product line together, or involving micro-influencers in your social media platforms. 

Where to start

If you’re on board with the Gen Z mentality, it’s time to take the first step towards creating a marketing strategy for this audience. I suggest starting with updating your store’s product catalog with oversized athleisure and streetwear products that sport bold and bright designs Gen Z loves so much.

Go ahead and download the free Gen Z inspired designs our Graphic Design Services team created. Work them into a unique design of your own, or put them on the products as they are—the choice is yours!

And let us know in the comments if you have your own tips on how to attract Gen Zers to your store.

Ilze is the Communications Manager at Printful. Together with her team, she’s dedicated to creating great content, be it a blog, social media post, or video, that allows customers to bring their stores to the next level.


  1. usvintagewood

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share your ideas. You are right that Gen Z or young people played that social role by creating and interpreting trends. Marketing for Gen Z is not that hard, Especially they are much focused on social media and you really don’t have to approach them in person. You must be stay updated to your content and trends so they will like you. Because these people love to stay updated on trends and they interpret it immediately.

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