Marketing to Gen-N

There have been countless articles written about how to market to boomers, millennials, Gen X, Y, and Z but Gen-N? That’s the label coined recently by Brian Solis of CMO Network to identify consumers driven to digital platforms because of the pandemic. Why should it matter?

An analysis of Commerce Department data by research firm McKinsey earlier this year revealed that e-commerce for the first quarter of 2020 grew more in those three months than in the past ten years.

The reason was that millions of people had no choice but to browse and shop online. Also cited for the success were conveniences like curbside pick-up, contactless payment, and other benefits. Add to that past articles that discussed how experts expect most digital adoptees to continue their reliance on digital platforms even after the pandemic is over.

One of the big changes the quarantines affected was brand loyalty. More consumers were willing to leave their brand and try another. According to McKinsey, 75% tried different brands and stores, and 60% went so far as to say they expect to adopt new ones in the future.

For some consumers, particularly the younger ones, the change was linked to brand values in light of increased and accelerated calls for diversity and equality. For others, it was tied to choices like better prices and selections.

The pressure is already on for brands to step up their digital marketing and improve their platforms. The just-released results of a Salesforce study of 15,000 global consumers and business buyers showed that 88% expect brands to do just this. To punctuate that expectation, another 80% said the experience provided by a brand is as important as the product itself. As if to add more pressure on marketers, 69% want brands to offer new ways to get existing products. Another 54% said they wished to see brands expand their customer engagement methods as well as introduce new products and services.

As Gen-N gets more comfortable with digital, they’re also holding brands to higher standards. In fact, 71% told Salesforce that they’re paying more attention to a company’s values than ever before. 78% said they hoped the pandemic initiated improvements at the brands as well. The top three areas in order from the top down were trustworthiness, environmental practices, and service and support.

The next four in order were products, social practices, technology, and business models. Most revealing was that 84% or more of respondents said there was between a moderate to major need for improvement in all seven categories. The top three alone – trustworthiness, environmental practices, and service and support scored 50% or higher in major need.

What these findings indicate is that the societal role of brands is changing dramatically and rapidly. Trust today is paramount, and brands must only be transparent about their values but proactive if they strongly believe in diversity and equality. 90% not only told Salesforce that brands need to improve their trustworthiness, but another 90% also said the way a company acts during crises shapes their trustworthiness.

Now’s the time for brands wishing to cater to and satisfy Gen-N to reimagine a new world and new clients by transforming itself into being more adaptable, resilient, and responsive. CMOS should revisit the brand’s standards for communication, touchpoints, engagement, and standards with an eye toward how it might better convey its values, trustworthiness, and empathy to this new generation of consumers.