How to Engage Generation Z with Your Packaging

Reaching Generation Z early can help you cultivate a loyal following.

Generation Z, those born in 1997 and later, is poised to become one of the world's biggest consumer groups by next year. An MNI Targeted Media study found that by 2020, Gen Z will account for 40% of all consumers. 

Gen Zers are aged 16 to 21 already spend an estimated $143 billion a year, according to eMarketer. And despite the popularity of online shopping, a study of Gen Z shoppers across six continents found 67% prefer shopping in stores over other shopping channels.

This insight means that packaging may be a powerful way to reach Gen Z consumers. Packaging design that resonates with this generation can influence sales, sentiment and referrals for your organization. Reaching Gen Z early can help you cultivate a loyal following for what will be an enormous sector of the economy in the near future. Here is how to engage Gen Z with your packaging. 

Gen Z Wants Businesses to be Transparent and Accountable

A study on Gen Z by McKinsey & Company prompted the consulting firm to nickname Gen Z “True Gen”: a generation anchored in its search for truth. With access to more information than ever before, Gen Z members strive to have open dialogues with everything they deal with, including businesses.

That means businesses must be transparent and accountable in their operations, including packaging. Adding details to packaging that explain where packaging materials come from and what elements are considered sustainable is a way to illustrate your transparency to Gen Z consumers. 

The study defines Gen Z as being more pragmatic and analytical about decisions than other generations. Nearly two-thirds of Gen Z members say they value knowing what is going on around them and being in control. Transparency in packaging is a way to achieve this with Gen Z.

Gen Z Prefers Personalization

Gen Z takes personalization to a new level, often called individualization. While personalization tailors consumer shopping experiences based on known customer segment preferences, individualization is driven by consumers to provide customizable, singular shopping experiences.

Think about subscription boxes with labels featuring the user's name, or packaging printed with the name of the person who gifted the item. 

Zion Market Research predicts the global personalized packaging market will grow from $25.5 million in 2017 to $35.5 million by the end of 2024, a compound annual growth rate of 4.8%. Gen Z is one of the driving factors behind the growth.

Gen Z Wants Quality

Since much of Gen Z does not have full-time income yet, this generation places a high value on quality to make their purchases worth their spend. According to Forbes, 66% of Gen Z prefers to buy from businesses that sell high-quality products compared to mid- to lower-quality items. This way, they get more value out of the product and can save more time and money from having to buy replacements.

One way to make products seem higher-quality is to use sustainable packaging. A 2016 study published in Food Quality and Preference found food products with sustainable packaging were believed to be of higher quality than those in conventional plastic packaging. 

Luxury businesses are increasingly moving to sustainable packaging due to consumer demands and enhanced business perception as a result of social responsibility, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition reports

Gen Z Likes to Share Experiences

Gen Z is the most active generation on social media. Pew Research Center reports 88% of 18-to-29-year-olds use social media, including:

  • 94% on YouTube
  • 80% on Facebook
  • 78% on Snapchat
  • 71% on Instagram
  • 45% on Twitter 

Among teenagers, 45% say they're online almost constantly. Teens use social media to connect with friends and family, find news and information, meet others with the same interests and be entertained. Shopping and branding align with all these objectives, as Gen Z members share their own purchasing experiences, and looks to others for influence.

For example, the unboxing trend, where influencers film videos of themselves unboxing a product, has become one of the most popular genres on YouTube. Unboxing users spotlight what makes packaging unique and part of the product experience. 

Think about what makes your packaging shareable. It could be clever copy or a beautiful graphic. Or something interesting about your business about how your packaging is reusable.

Gen Z Values Sustainability

Compared to other generations, Gen Z is more likely to purchase from sustainable businesses. AdWeek reports Gen Z will spend as much as 15% more on sustainably produced clothing, while 75% of 15-to-20-year-olds would pay more for a sustainable product.

Sustainable packaging is a positive signal to Gen Z consumers. You can communicate sustainability through packaging by listing the materials or process used to produce the packaging and/or product, as well as communicate to the consumer how they can reuse, recycle or compost the packaging once they are finished with it. 

Making packaging sustainable speaks to Gen Z values. It can also make your product and packaging more shareable and make it seem more high-quality, while increasing the transparency and accountability of your business — wins all around.

Gen Z Prefers Minimalism

In an information-overload world, simplicity and minimalism stand out to Gen Z consumers. Your business needs to get to the point quickly to capture Gen Z’s attention. One way to do that is through minimalistic packaging. 

According to Chief Packaging Officer, minimalist packaging is a way to convey sustainability, honesty, and transparency, as well. It also helps to stand out on retail shelves. Minimalist packaging has grown in prominence over the past five years, and Gen Z shoppers will only continue to drive the trend.

Examples of Packaging That Speaks to Gen Z

Here are some innovative examples of reusable and recyclable packaging for diverse types of products:

Billerud Paper Bottle

BillerudKorsnäs Paper Bottle project.jpg

Billerud started the Paper Bottle Project in 2015, creating the world's first 100% recyclable and biodegradable paper bottle for carbonated beverages. Development work is currently in progress with plans to start pilot production in the near future. 

Lee Never Wasted Bag 

Lee Never Wasted Bag.jpg

The Lee Never Wasted Bag is a shopping bag that can be 100% reused in a variety of ways. The bag includes ways to convert it into a measuring stick, a Do Not Disturb sign, a pencil holder and more. 

Naturally Clicquot 2

Naturally Clicquot 2 packaging.jpg

The Veuve Clicquot champagne is packaged in biodegradable, recyclable and isotherm containers that are held together by Velcro and can be used to hold and transport other drinks.

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Webinar - Inbound Packaging: The Hero of Your Business

With more emphasis on end users, more touch points and longer freight distances, packaging is more important than ever. Find out how inbound packaging drives value.

Pay Attention to Gen Z with Your Packaging 

Gen Z already has tremendous market presence. As more of this generation enters the workforce, their buying power will increase. 

The elements Gen Z values, like transparency, individuality, sustainability, quality and minimalism, are characteristics that can help your business better serve all of your customers. At Billerud, our packaging experts can help you communicate those qualities via sustainable packaging that makes your business stand out to consumers. 

If you would like information on creating sustainable packaging solutions for your customers, we can help. Download our Designing a Sustainable Packaging Program eBook today.

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