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By Lauren H. Dowdle

Each generation is known for possessing certain general traits, preferences, and ways of doing things. To best reach a specific age group, you need to understand those characteristics—and that’s especially true for schools using email marketing with Generation Z.

Categorized as anyone 10 to 25 years old, Gen Z makes up the bulk of today’s students. Connecting with this age range will greatly impact the level of success educational institutions can achieve, both with increasing enrollment and overall loyalty and engagement. 

Email marketing can be an effective tool when used to specifically target this audience. But what worked with Millennials might not with this younger generation, so it’s important to understand what Gen Z wants in their inbox. While some in recent years have suggested younger generations aren’t as interested in email, it’s clear there is still a space for email marketing with them.

One poll showed that more than half of Gen Z likes receiving email marketing at least once a week. So the question isn’t if you should send them emails, but instead what type of campaigns will best resonate with this younger generation. Check out five ways schools can use email marketing to reach and engage with Gen Z.

Get to the point

With dozens of emails flooding their inboxes each day, this generation has plenty of content options and a limited amount of time to read them all. Make sure your email marketing campaigns catch their attention with clear messaging that won’t waste anymore of their time.

Inside of the email, include who the email is from (ex. logo at the top), a call to action (CTA), straight-forward header text, and an image/graphic above the fold (so they don’t have to scroll to see it). They should be able to understand the main point of the email right off the bat and decide if they want to read more below or click the CTA, like in this email from Texas Lutheran University.

Make a good first impression

Besides the “From” line, the subject line is one of the first chances you have to get this group to open your email. Use it to tell them what the content is about and why they should check it out.

Avoid generic and long subject lines, instead using ones that clearly state what it’s about. The majority of Gen Zers view their emails on a smartphone, giving you limited space for your subject line to show up. Here are a few examples of ones that are short and sweet:

  • Early registration window closes today
  • What to wear for homecoming week
  • Newsletter: See photos from field day ☀️

Adding an emoji also works great for this generation—as long as the practice isn’t overdone and you know what the emoji means. They use emojis every day in texts or on social media to communicate, so incorporating them into your subject lines shows you know what they like and want to connect with them. However, they use emojis slightly differently than older generations, tending to opt for ones with a more ironic meaning than using emojis to express emotions like with Millennials.

Don’t forget: Your preview text will also show up below the subject line in their inbox if there’s room. Use this space to convey more information about the email content.

Build loyalty

Gen Z cares more about who the school is and what they stand for than previous generations. Instead of only focusing on the curriculum and educational programs, use your email campaigns to highlight how your education institution is involved with the community, which organizations it partners with, and how it supports students. 

For example, if the school runs an annual event to help a local nonprofit, here are types of emails you could send that will resonate with this younger audience:

  • Event Announcement: Tell students about the upcoming event and why the school is hosting it/participating. This will show them the school’s values, which allows them to see how those line up with their own.
  • Get Involved: Next, send them an email with a clear CTA for how they can get involved with the upcoming event.
  • Follow Up: After the event, send a wrap-up message that includes photos and quotes from those who participated. 

They want to know the educational institution shares their values, so use your email marketing efforts to build that connection. This example from Arizona State University not only encourages students to go green, the email also highlights the school’s sustainable efforts—showing they practice what they preach.

Get personal

This generation is accustomed to receiving personalized experiences—and expects them—so your educational institutions’ email marketing needs to be as targeted as possible. Make the email feel like it was crafted specifically for each subscriber.

That means going beyond just adding a name tag to the subject line and/or the email text (though that is a great technique to use, too). Segmenting your email list is a great way to ensure the content is not only personalized, but it will also be relevant to them.

For example, you could segment by age/grade, clubs, interests, and other data or metrics you’ve collected. Segmentation allows you to send highly targeted information, which will improve email engagement.

Stay positive

Whether they’re tired of the serious messages that resulted from COVID or it’s simply another trait of this group, Gen Z prefers email content that’s positive and includes thoughtful humor. 

That could include sending photos from a dress-up day at school, an encouraging note from a faculty member, updates on student achievements or an uplifting Q&A with a student or staff member. This generation will especially connect with interviews from their peers, so include quotes and photos from other students.

Connect with Gen Z

Knowing your audience is a vital part to providing content they will relate to and value. From the subject line to the content and images, each component should be crafted to target this younger audience.

They’ll know if your campaigns are genuine—or if you’re only trying to come across that way. So, get to know your Gen Z audience so you can show you care by sending what they’re looking for.

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