The Women’s Jewelry Association hosted its annual Women’s Executive Leadership Forum in New York City yesterday, and during the half-day program, Citizen Watch America presented the findings of the first known study of Gen Z’s relationship to jewelry and watches.
The research study, called What Makes Gen Z Tick, was commissioned by Citizen Watch America and was informed by over 9,500 conversations conducted with Gen-Zers. The findings cover the behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes that motivate the demographic group when considering jewelry and watch purchases.
Here are 10 key takeaways about Gen-Z from the event and study:
“The really good news is that they are already engaged in our category,” said Carla Wilke, chief marketing officer at Citizen Watch America, who presented the study. “They are already are buying and investing….We found a number of Gen-Z consumers who are already earning $250,000. So there’s no reason why you cannot command a really, really good price for your product.”
She later added, “For Gen-Z, accessories are a critical component of self expression.” And they love and wear a diverse array of jewelry. “We noticed a big pool beyond diamonds and colored stones,” said Wilke. And while they may not be making collector-level watch purchases right now, “they certainly will be in the future.”
Seventy-one percent of Gen-Zers polled said they already own fine jewelry and 56% intend to buy fine jewelry in the next years. Gen-Z women wear necklaces and earrings the most, while men wear necklaces and rings the most.
Forty-two percent of those polled already own a traditional (non-smart) watch, and 29% said they intend to purchase one within the next year, according to the study. “Watches hold a unique place in the minds and hearts of Gen-Z because of what they represent: productivity, professionalism, and the success that they aspire to achieve. They respect watches as a universal status symbol in culture—offering a sense of recognition that they crave.”
Gen-Zers were born into a world where shopping online was already the norm, so they expect everything around them to work seamlessly. The idea of utility is big with the demographic, and they gravitate toward “brands with products that offer shortcuts that can help them work smarter, not harder,” according to the study.
Being open and real with Gen-Zers is the key to earning their trust. “With Millennials you could kind of show you’re trying to do the right thing, and that was enough,” said Wilke. “With Gen-Z, they take you down to the mat and hold you accountable.”
“Authenticity goes a long way with Gen-Z,” she noted. “They really value connections with brands…As much as they want to connect, they want to feel unique.”
Gen-Z consumers’ keen eye for fakes and phoneys extends to brands. “Trying to speak their lingo is perhaps one of the fastest ways to die a painful death in this demographic,” Wilke said, inciting laughter in the audience. Later, during a panel on the same subject, a Gen-Z panelist cringed at the memory of a company using the word “cheugy” (meaning not in style, and dorky) on Instagram. “It was just…no,” she said.
The study found that adopting a voice that’s “mature but not boring” and “passionate but not pushy” is the way to go for established brands.
“Music is a really great way to connect to Gen-Z overall,” said Wilke, who also cited the generation’s love of participating with brands, including Nike and Converse, in creating artwork, fashion ensembles, and more as a way to delight younger consumers. “Lean into Gen-Z,” she advised. “Create a platform for them to let them use their creativity.”
“Gen-Z doesn’t want to buy your brand, they want to join your brand,” asserted keynote speaker Mark Beal, author of new book Gen-Z Graduates to Adulthood. Wilke concurred, saying, “This is a generation that you can’t casually date. Pick a course and commit.”
Forty-nine percent of those polled for the study said they’re most influenced by their fellow Gen-Z friends online, followed by celebrities and online celebrities. Only 21% said they were influenced by media outlets. Micro-influencers, including those with less than 2,000 followers, can be the most persuasive with Gen-Z consumers.
“I would consider Gen Z to be a generation of activists,” said Wilke. “We see more and more that they have concerns about the world they will inherit.” Speak to their desire to stabilize and better their world, and they will respond.
Photo: A panel discussion at WJA’s 2022 Women’s Executive Leadership Forum (Emili Vesiliind)