Marketing To Gen Z In The Hospitality Industry


The Importance of Marketing to Gen Z

The future of any business relies on reaching the younger generations. Serving older consumers is fine, but what happens when they grow too old to engage with your brand? Instead of dealing with constant customer turnover, it can be beneficial to start forming lifelong loyalties at a younger age. 

Right now, Gen Z are in the prime time for forming these loyalties. Born between roughly 1995 and 2010, members of Gen Z are in the process of earning independence, and they’re ready to break away from what they knew growing up. This generation may not have full-force consumer power yet, but they’re blank slates open to new brands and routines, which is invaluable when it comes to marketing.

But what if Gen Z isn’t your target consumer? What if you offer a luxury experience that most can’t afford yet, or simply have no interest in serving teens and young adults? Don’t think you’re off the hook. In a study conducted by the National Retail Federation, 87% of parents reported that their purchases were influenced by a member of Gen Z, meaning Gen Z could still be the path to your target consumer. 

And the best part? Reaching Gen Z carries little to no risk for your business. While targeting older generations may not appeal to Gen Z, effectively tailoring your marketing to Gen Z won’t drive away your current audience. But how do you do it?

How to Market to Gen Z in the Hospitality Industry

Gen Z may seem a bit alien due to their non-traditional tastes, but marketing to them is much easier than you think. Gen Z has a built in sense of “wanderlust” and adventure that works really well with hospitality, and your marketing strategy may only need slight tweaks to reach its full potential in marketing to Gen Z. 

Understand Your Business’ Competitive Advantages

Here at GCommerce Solutions, we focus on something called LTSCAs, or Long-Term Sustainable Competitive Advantages. These are the difficult-to-replicate features that make your business stand out, and they’re a great jumping off point for your marketing.

It’s always a good idea to know what makes your business special, but LTSCAs take this a step further. Things like high-value packages and a convenient location are great advantages, but what happens when a new business undercuts you from across the street? LTSCAs will help your business rise above the competition not only now, but for years to come, which is why understanding them is so important.

They’re particularly important when marketing to Gen Z though. This is a generation of individualists with their whole life in front of them, and it’s crucial that your business makes a long-term impression. Marketing to Gen Z is technically possible without a clear strategy, but understanding your LTSCAs makes it far easier to reach this generation successfully.

Focus on Unique Experiences

Traditionally, hospitality marketing focuses on atmosphere and credibility. Older generations are happy to visit any business as long as it’s in a great location and seems trustworthy. However, Gen Z is looking for a little something more, so AAA Diamond ratings and PR spots on the local news simply won’t cut it. Gen Z wants unique experiences and compelling adventures, and things like cost and convenience aren’t as important as an “X factor.” 

Let’s look at The Lenox Hotel as an example. Some of their LTSCAs include a convenient location near some of Boston’s best attractions, a historical presence in the community, wood-burning fireplaces in every room, and a signature hotel scent. All of these features would be fairly difficult to replicate in the local market, making them great LTSCAs to call out. But which ones would be best suited for marketing to Gen Z?

Keep unique experiences in mind. Things like fireplaces and a rich history are great, but they’re not exactly one of a kind. Even if these experiences aren’t available down the street, they’re not entirely unique and therefore might not be the best choice for Gen Z. 

What about proximity to attractions? There are plenty of experiences in Boston that can’t be had anywhere else. Well, this is a bit of a tricky situation. Yes, attractions can be a great thing to focus on, but it’s a thin line to walk. If your LTSCA ultimately relies on businesses outside of your own, what’s stopping potential customers from going somewhere else for the same unique experiences? If you’re going to build on the work of other businesses, you need to supplement their product with your own unique experiences. 

That leaves one LTSCA for The Lenox - their signature scent. You can’t smell this scent from anywhere in the world except their hotel, which would be the most appealing to Gen Z. A signature scent may not drive customers from across the country, but it’s certainly enough to convince Gen Z to spend a bit more and stay at The Lenox when they’re visiting Boston. “Unique experiences” are vital when marketing to Gen Z, but this doesn’t have to mean a spectacular, over-the-top adventure. Sometimes, getting an edge on your competition is all you need.

Be Authentic

Gen Z grew up in a far different world than older generations, and this shows in how they interact with marketing. The world has never been more saturated with brands trying to grow, and the rise of things like native advertising and influencers have made it that much harder to tell marketing from fact. Because of this, Gen Z has developed a natural sense of puffery-detection, and they can usually spot a fake from a mile away. If you want to reach this generation, it’s absolutely vital that your marketing is authentic and genuine.

It’s really tempting to make your business look its best, even if it means bending or exaggerating the truth a little. I mean, that’s what marketing is all about, right? When marketing to Gen Z though, this can be a catastrophic mistake. Gen Z doesn’t care if your business is the biggest or the best. If you really want to appeal to this generation, it’s important to stay humble and focus on what you can actually offer.

Take a look at Maingate Lakeside Resort. They’re located near Orlando, Florida, in one of the most popular tourist destinations on Earth. Statistically, there’s almost no chance they’re the best resort in the area, so it would be pointless to pretend they are. 

Traditionally, Maingate’s marketing would try to fluff up the resort, bragging about having the best on-site activities and most gorgeous and convenient location. However, these baseless claims are totally lost on Gen Z. They’ll see right through the noise, and you’re guaranteed to lose their business without some substance behind the fluff. 

Instead of pretending to be better than everyone else, Maingate should focus in on what makes them special - back to those unique LTSCAs. The resort is incredibly affordable compared to similar resorts in the area, they offer activities that aren’t standard for the price range, and they sit right on a lake with peaceful views. These may not be the most exciting or glamorous features, but they’re genuine, and that will get far more mileage with Gen Z than any inflated statements about the resort’s superiority.

There’s nothing wrong with dressing up your business, but it’s important to stay realistic. If Gen Z feels inauthenticity or sees a disconnect between your appearance and your service, they will take note. Don’t force potential customers to choose your business, and don’t pretend to be something you’re not. If you recognize and understand both the advantages and shortcomings of your business, customers will follow.

Get to the Point With Your Business’ Advertising

It’s no secret that the human attention span is shrinking, and Gen Z is supposedly the worst offender. However, this just means that quickly getting to the point is more important than ever. Time is a limited and valuable resource, and Gen Z hates to waste it. Their short attention spans act as a filter to decide what information is important, and burying the lede risks driving away Gen Z customers. So be clear and concise with your advertising, and call out why someone should engage with your business as soon as possible. 

Let’s make up a restaurant as another example. Their LTSCAs can include farm-to-table dining and a waterfront location right on the pier. 

A traditional ad would use an overwhelming amount of flowery language and over-the-top adjectives to draw in a reader before hitting them with the product. Something like “Overlooking the stunning Atlantic Ocean, our restaurant offers the most mouth-watering cuisine in the city, all served farm-to-table. Make your reservation now.”

This would be incredibly effective for members of older generations, who are drawn in by atmosphere and adjectives. Gen Z, though, would likely get irritated with the fluff and move on when they can’t find the point. Here’s something that might work a little bit better. “Our farm-to-table restaurant offers the most mouth-watering food in the city, all from a stunning location on the Atlantic Ocean. But don’t take our word for it.”

In this example, it’s very clear right away why the reader should pay attention. The ad is for a restaurant, and that restaurant has farm-to-table food. Easy. This will pass through the Gen Z attention span filter, leaving the door open for more traditional, flowery language about additional LTSCAs and features to really sell the business. Getting to the point when marketing to Gen Z doesn’t have to mean changing your content, just prioritizing the most effective draws of your business.

Know Your Business’ Best Visual Angles

Images have always been important for marketing, but they’re even more powerful when marketing to Gen Z. With the rise of social media in recent years, photos are more useful than ever. Many members of Gen Z will travel for miles just for the perfect shot, but even businesses without that trendy Instagram appeal can benefit from a good photo op. 

It’s pretty common knowledge now that social media is like free marketing, and we also know that word-of-mouth advertising is often the most effective. With that said, every public photo of your business is another opportunity to reach new customers. This is especially relevant when marketing to Gen Z, as this generation is most likely to both post and view photos online. 

So make your business photogenic. Fill your website and your own social media with photos that look both professional but attainable, inspiring others to visit and recreate the gorgeous shots. Put some effort into creating memorable photo ops at your physical location, creating an icon of your business that will grow your brand. 

Once again, this doesn’t mean your business has to be over-the-top. Even the most unassuming locations can be a great photo opportunity if you put in the effort, and Lorenzo Hotel is a great example of this. They’re just a plain-looking building in the middle of a city - No beaches, no crazy hotel architecture, a generic city view, nothing objectively eye-catching. However, they’ve still managed to create a semi-icon for themselves through their photos. 

The entirety of Lorenzo Hotel is filled with interesting art, but one piece really stands out. Search for the hotel on any platform, and you’ll find photos of their poolside Albert Einstein portrait. Enough people have posted about the art that it’s become an icon of the business, driving more people to post their own photos and strengthening the icon even more. 

Lorenzo Hotel also includes the portrait in their own promotional images, and it’s a brilliant strategy to get their name out there. When you see the same photo op enough times, it sticks, and I can only imagine how many people have come to Lorenzo Hotel after seeing Einstein. And if a concrete wall can be an iconic draw for Lorenzo Hotel, surely you can find something photogenic for your own business.

In Summary

Marketing to Gen Z requires stepping away from some of the traditions of the industry, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds. You don’t need to be the best in your field, and you don’t need to change much. Just focus on what makes your business special, and don’t try to be something you’re not. Create and highlight unique, authentic experiences that your Gen Z customers will be proud to share, and watch your business grow.
Looking for more? Contact GCommerce Solutions with questions about marketing to Gen Z or finding and using your LTSCAs.