Millennial vs. Gen Z Consumers: Key Comparisons

Jennifer Herrity

Updated June 6, 2022

Published October 27, 2020

Jennifer Herrity is a seasoned career services professional with 12+ years of experience in career coaching, recruiting and leadership roles with the purpose of helping others to find their best-fit jobs. She helps people navigate the job search process through one-on-one career coaching, webinars, workshops, articles and career advice videos on Indeed's YouTube channel.

If you are targeting young adults with your products or services, it's important to understand the differences between millennials and Gen Z. While both of these generations grew up with technology and the internet, they typically have different preferences when it comes to buying and spending habits or how they respond to marketing strategies. Understanding the key differences between these two generations can help you target these audiences more effectively.

In this article, we discuss differences and similarities between millennial and Generation Z consumers and effective marketing strategies for each demographic.

Basic definitions of millennials and Gen Z

The age range and birth years are the main factors that define demographic terms for a generation. Here are the basic snapshots of millennials and Gen Z:

  • Millennials: Also known as Generation Y, a millennial is someone born between 1981 and 1996. This generation follows Gen X and precedes Gen Z.

  • Gen Z: Individuals in Generation Z were born between 1997 and 2012. This generation follows Gen Y and precedes the next generation, Gen Alpha.

Related: Defining Your Target Audience: What It Is and Why It’s Important

Similarities between millennial and Gen Z consumers

Here are some similarities between millennials and Gen Z to consider when developing a marketing campaign:

Perception of email marketing

Millennials and Gen Z have similar perceptions of email marketing. Both groups prefer marketing emails that provide a direct benefit or are informative. They also prefer emails that are interesting and fun. Also, if you're marketing to Gen Z, it's important to know they check their emails less frequently than millennials.

Focus on storytelling

Both millennial and Gen Z consumers connect more with stories than they do with products and material things, so it's a good idea to make storytelling a major component of your marketing efforts. All consumers, regardless of generation, want to better understand the people who work in a company and build personal connections. You can better connect with both generations by promoting the people who are responsible for making your products and services.

Related: A Guide To Effective Marketing Techniques

Differences between millennial and Gen Z consumers

Here are some differences between the buyer personas of millennials and Generation Z:

Expectation for innovation

While both millennials and Gen Z agree that companies should have innovative products and services to better meet the needs of their customers, Gen Z has a higher expectation of innovation from companies. Most likely, the reason behind this perspective is that they have grown up during a period of rapid innovation.

Trust in companies

Millennials trust companies more than those in Gen Z. Research shows that a greater percentage of millennials than Gen Zers are comfortable with the ways companies use their personal information. That said, companies that demonstrate social responsibility can strengthen the trust that Gen Z has in them.

Spending habits

Generation Z has more conservative spending habits and is more focused on saving money than millennials were at their age. Gen Z tends to be interested in purchases that provide the maximum amount of value for their money, while millennials are more focused on the buying experience. For this reason, bonus offers, generous deals and high-quality investments appeal to them.

Focus on authenticity

While both Gen Z and millennials appreciate brands that are authentic and transparent, it tends to be a higher priority for those in Generation Z. Brands who want to target people in this generation should use real “before” and “after” photographs. Lower-quality images that haven't been edited also resonate with this audience as they prefer content that feels real and attainable.

Shopping habits

Shopping habits are another major differentiating factor between these two generations. Millennials prefer to shop online. In contrast, Generation Z prefers to shop in physical stores despite being digital natives—they like to see products in person to feel confident in the quality. If you're targeting Gen Z, consider ways you can bring more people this age into your stores with social media-worthy experiences.

Mobile purchasing habits

While millennials may be more likely to shop online, it's Generation Z that's more likely to make a mobile purchase. Millennials grew up with large personal computers, small cell phones and dial-up internet. Gen Z grew up with smartphones, tablets and instant access to Wi-Fi and streaming services. Because they grew up with technology as opposed to watching it develop, Gen Z is more likely to use mobile devices to make purchases.

That said, both generations use their mobile devices to browse the internet and watch videos. If you are targeting young adults in general, you might focus on creating a positive experience with mobile videos and ecommerce sites. You also may want to focus your marketing resources on mobile platforms like social media apps.

Interest in brands

When millennials were young, wearing brand-name products was popular. As adults, millennials still have a strong interest in brands and are willing to pay more to purchase from well-known brands. In contrast, Gen Zers want to celebrate their independence and prefer not to be defined by a specific brand.

Social media platforms

Both millennials and Gen Zers spend a lot of time on social media. However, while millennials spend most of their time on social networks, Gen Z prefers video-based platforms.

Related: Marketing Plan vs. Marketing Strategy: What’s the Difference?

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