It might be easy to think of Gen Z as kids, but this powerful generation is growing up. Pew Research marks those born after 1996 as Gen Z, meaning the oldest members of the generation are now in their mid-twenties. As Pew Research reports, “Unlike the Millennials—who came of age during the Great Recession—this new generation was in line to inherit a strong economy with record-low unemployment. That has all changed now, as COVID-19 has reshaped the country’s social, political and economic landscape. Instead of looking ahead to a world of opportunities, Gen Z now peers into an uncertain future.”

Gen Z were the ones moving out of their college dorms in March 2020, and the ones who spent most of their collegiate experience on Zoom in their childhood bedrooms. They are the powerhouse on social media (mainly TikTok), making careers out of their presence online and setting the standard for what products “go viral” and sell out instantly. Insider Intelligence eMarketer reports that Gen Z “spends as much time on their phones as older generations do watching television,” highlighting just how important it is for retailers to have an online presence if they want to meet their customers where they already are.

Like their younger counterparts in Generation Alpha, Gen Z tends to be a progressive group with concerns about social justice and the environment. Pew Research reports, “Members of Gen Z are more racially and ethnically diverse than any previous generation, and they are on track to be the most well-educated generation yet… Pew Research Center surveys conducted in the fall of 2018 (more than a year before the coronavirus outbreak) among Americans ages 13 and older found that, similar to Millennials, Gen Zers are progressive and pro-government, most see the country’s growing racial and ethnic diversity as a good thing, and they’re less likely than older generations to see the United States as superior to other nations.”

In 2021, Rolling Stone reported that Gen Z represented over $140 billion of spending power, making them one of the most powerful consumer groups. Because they spend so much time online, Gen Z “can select from a wider variety of content at the swipe of a finger, much of it created by their own peer group… In order to establish meaningful connections, brands need to have an even deeper understanding of how their target audience uses each platform than ever before. Ads should be both attention-grabbing and seamlessly fit into the type of content Gen Z is trying to consume on each app or site,” Rolling Stone reported.

This is why influencers have so much power for members of Gen Z. Generally, they are considered to be more relatable and trustworthy, operating “more like a friend giving you a recommendation than a hard sell,” said Rolling Stone. The magazine reports that Gen Z is nearly twice as likely as Millennials to buy something based on influencer recommendation.

And when it comes to shopping, Gen Z prioritizes trust, relatability and, of course, social and environmental causes. Keeping these foundations at the center of what you do is the best way to appeal to the Gen Z consumer.