As Gen Z consumers continue to shape the future of consumerism, brands seek new and innovative ways to connect with this demographic.
One growing approach is cultivating a dedicated online brand community, which can be a powerful marketing tool for engaging and activating Gen Z consumers – driving brand advocacy, long-term loyalty, and agile insights.
However, to succeed, marketers must create an authentic and inclusive community that aligns with the values and interests of Gen Z consumers.
Gen Z is known for its unique characteristics and digital-native mindset, and marketing to them requires a deep understanding of their values, preferences, and behaviors.
We piloted a landmark study, the Big Online Brand Community Study, surveying over 4,900 consumers about their thoughts and opinions of online brand communities. We explored what makes brand communities flourish and flounder, and how online brand communities will shape consumer opinions and purchase decisions in the upcoming years.
In our study, we found significant contrast in Gen Z’s preferences and behaviors compared to other generations.
Here are five things you should know if you’re thinking about Community Powered Marketing with Gen Z consumers.
1. Gen Z Considers Community More Important than Any Other Generation
As digital natives, Gen Z is known to utilize online connections to foster a sense of belonging and to develop digital relationships with like-minded individuals. How does this translate to their relationship with brands?
Our study found:
- A whopping 92% of Gen Z consumers agree the community surrounding a brand impacts how they feel about the brand, demonstrating the power of communities to shape brand opinion.
- When we look at Gen Z consumers, there is a 13 percentage point increase above the average for those who consider community “very important.” (43% vs. 30%)
The message is clear for marketers; if brands want to attract and retain Gen Z consumers, investing in a brand-owned community is paramount. And now is the moment to strike before other brands or competitors will.
2. Online Brand Communities Move the Needle on Increased Purchase Frequency and Brand Trust for Gen Z
Community Powered Marketing through online brand communities drives numerous business results for your brand. It is a platform to directly engage with your target audience, gather valuable insights and feedback, build brand advocacy, and ultimately increase sales and customer retention.
Our study found that online brand communities make consumers more likely to try new products, recommend your brand to others, and purchase your brand more frequently.
Regarding how online brand communities influence purchase frequency, there is a sharp increase in Gen Z consumers compared to other generations.
- 81% of Gen Z consumers say being a part of an online brand community makes them more likely to purchase the brand more often, 13 percentage points higher than other generations (68%)
- 83% of Gen Z consumers say being a part of an online brand community makes them more likely to trust the brand, 19 percentage points higher than other generations (64%)
An online brand community is a huge asset for marketers looking to drive repeat purchases among young consumers. While an online brand community is often regarded as a “soft” marketing practice, it delivers tangible results to your brand’s bottom line.
3. Gen Z is Less Focused on Rewards Than Other Generations and More On Knowledge Exchange
With a platform like Vesta, an online brand community can offer a lot to your consumers. From completing surveys and polls to participating in discussions, earning rewards, and engaging in personalized brand activities. Which aspects of an online brand community are most important to Gen Z consumers?
When we asked consumers what they consider the top benefits of being a part of an online brand community, we found that younger consumers deviate from the average when it comes to rewards and knowledge exchange.
- 50% of Gen Z consumers consider rewards for their participation a top benefit of an online brand community. This is notably 12 percentage points lower than other generations (62%), highlighting a critical insight into where Gen Z finds value in online brand communities.
- 53% of Gen Z consumers say a top benefit of an online brand community is “learning information about my special interest.” In a swap with what we found regarding rewards, information exchange is 12 percentage points higher than other generations (41%).
While earning rewards is a strong value exchange for consumers in most marketing strategies, marketers looking to establish themselves with the Gen Z crowd should also focus on creating value through information.
An online brand community is a perfect destination for consumers to trade tips, seek support, and hear stories from others like them. This will help them feel more knowledgeable about things they care about.
4. Gen Z is Turned Off if Your Online Brand Community Lacks Identity
Sometimes, the best lessons in marketing are learning what consumers don’t want from brands.
Younger generations like Gen Z and Millennials have high standards for brands. Gen Z has a reputation for being consumers who prioritize authenticity, social responsibility, and personalized experiences when making purchasing decisions.
Overall, our study found that consumers are tired of brands using “community” as a buzzword. Across the board, 78% of consumers think the term “community” is being overused by brands that aren’t providing a real community experience.
- 48% of Gen Z and Millennials say they have already been let down by an online brand community where expectations fell short, an 11 percentage point increase from the average (37%)
- Notably, 41% of Gen Z consumers cited a “lack of identity” as a reason to leave an online brand community, compared to an average of 30%
Community should be a core channel to enhance your overall digital footprint. With online community software like Vesta, an online brand community can seamlessly integrate into your overall online ecosystem. It can bring your brand values to life through real stories and personal experiences.
5. Gen Z is Especially Motivated to Create Video Content Through Online Brand Communities
User-generated content (UGC) is often considered the holy grail for brands. Studies show 93% of consumers find UGC to be helpful when making a purchasing decision. And the authenticity of the content is invaluable – 87% of brands use UGC to share ‘authentic content,’ and another 72% believe it increases engagement with audiences.
While UGC of the previous decade often concentrated on photo filters, UGC of this decade will be heavily centered on videos. This is highlighted by the fact that over 60% of Gen Z consumers are on sites like TikTok.
- 61% of Gen Z consumers say being a part of an online brand community makes them more likely to create video content for a brand, a staggering 22 percentage point increase from the average (39%)
- 72% of Gen Z consumers say they are more likely to take photos with a brand as part of being in an online brand community, roughly 13 percentage points higher than average (59%)
- Gen Z consumers who participate in an online brand community are also more likely than other generations to write a product review for the brand (85% vs. 74%)
Despite all the new tools and channels in marketing, the power of brand advocacy and word-of-mouth will always stand true. Any brand looking to sustain long-term growth needs a dedicated strategy for brand advocacy. Online brand communities can be an essential channel for generating ongoing product reviews and driving new UGC.
Consumer trends change quickly with new generations, and brands must stay on top of each cohort’s most effective marketing tools. This latest study demonstrated how valuable online brand communities can be for fostering new sales and retention among Gen Z consumers. You can read the study’s full results if you want to learn more.