Deliver engaging financial education on young adults' smartphones using gamification and embedded incentives.
Bolun Li, CEO/co-founder of Zogo

Three ways to reach Gen Z

Deliver engaging financial education on young adults' smartphones using gamification and embedded incentives.

March 11, 2021

Four years ago, I was forced to attend a one-hour workshop at my high school. The teacher walked in and started droning on: “Today, we’ll learn about budgeting, saving, and investing…”

Most of my friends dozed off or started talking to each other—some played on their phones under the table.

At the end, I was handed a flyer that said something like, “Open an account and get $20.” I don’t remember the name of the bank that provided the lesson, and I’m pretty sure I saw students using the flyers to build paper airplanes.

Needless to say, I didn’t walk out of that class interested in the world of finance.

Every year, credit unions invest millions of dollars sponsoring financial education in the classroom to build building brand awareness among younger generations. But are these efforts effective?

The way that financial concepts (401ks, IRAs, etc.) are being delivered is boring for young adults. Sitting in a classroom and paying attention to a lecture for hours is practically impossible. I know this because I was one of those students just a few years ago.

Credit unions want to connect with Generation Z (those born after 1996) and attract their next generation of members. But are they connecting with young adults in relevant and engaging ways?

While at Duke University, a couple of friends and I decided to tackle this problem with one of our university’s world-renowned behavioral scientists. The solution we found to engage with Gen Z: gamification.

Here’s why this approach should be a critical consideration for credit unions and their Gen Z members:

  • It’s mobile friendly. To reach Gen Z, you have to meet them where they want to be met—on their smartphones. They typically spend more than four hours per day on their phone.
  • It’s bite-sized. Like everyone else, Gen Zers have busy schedules and limited time to pay attention. Content delivered to this generation must be bite-sized.
  • It provides embedded incentivization. The gaming industry is projected to be a $94 billion industry in 2024, and 90% of Gen Zers classify themselves as “gamers.” Consider how to use incentives and gamification to reach this generation.

At Zogo, for example, we built our app so users earn points (in the form of pineapples) as they complete lessons. They can redeem those pineapples for rewards such as gift cards and deposits from a financial institution that sponsors their experience.

The oldest Gen Zers are approaching their mid-twenties this year. Gen Z will be an increasingly critical part of credit unions’ members base in the years to come, and credit unions must consider this generation in their marketing strategies.

Here are three ways to incorporate gamification principles and Gen Z preferences into your strategy:

  1. Evaluate your marketing plan. Does it include strategies or tactics to reach new and younger members? If not, set aside part of your marketing budget to tackle this opportunity. The return on investment will be well worth it.
  2. Examine your product offerings. Do your middle-aged members have a way to include their children in their family’s relationship with your credit union?
  3. Offer Gen Z value in their native digital environment. Ninety-five percent of Gen Zers own a smartphone. Are you reaching them on their phone or in the classroom? 

By connecting with young adults today, credit unions can build the next generation of members and ensure success for years to come—or they can risk aging along with their oldest members.

BOLUN LI is CEO and co-founder of Zogo, a CUNA Strategic Services alliance provider.