Addicted to phones. Short attention spans. Entitled.
There’s been a lot said about Generation Z, the cohort after the millennials who have grown up with iPods and smartphones as a normal part of their lives, and not all of it is very nice. But this digital-native generation has shown that it’s perfectly capable of staying focused, understands how to use personal technology better than any generation before and has a powerful, independent voice that is echoing across the country.
Not only is Generation Z making their voices heard, they will soon become a major market force, accounting for 40 percent of all consumers in the U.S. by 2020. The generation that has already sparked national discussion around issues that were previously taboo will bring the same sense of fierce independence and technological know-how as they enter the workforce and become market trendsetters.
Here’s a look at some of the key ways Generation Z will change consumption in the near future:
The trend has been moving to mobile for a while, whether shopping, banking, accessing social media or any of the other digital habits we have today. But Generation Z is taking this a step further: it’s not a move to mobile, everything is already mobile.
97 percent of Generation Z own smartphones, they spend more time online using mobile devices compared to any other device, watch twice as many videos on mobile than any other demographic, get their first smartphone at an average age of 12 and over half of them use their phones mostly to buy things.
Mobile-first is a good strategy to adopt, meaning creating a stellar customer experience on mobile is your primary focus. We can expect companies to continue this trend. Whether you’re trying to get Gen Zers to watch a video, buy a product or book travel, it’s all through the lens of mobile experiences.
But Generation Z doesn’t think in terms of mobile first — they are mobile native. They were the first generation that could carry around an entire music collection in their pockets for as long as they can remember. There is no novelty around mobile, it’s just the way things are.
Mobile consumer experiences in the near future will not just be tailored to mobile but developed with mobile nativity in mind. It won’t be enough to simply have an app, the app must feel intuitive and natural for users that are intimate with the technology. Shopping on your phone won’t just be a convenience, it will be the primary method of purchasing, and Generation Z will be driving that shift.
Social groups are the best advertisers
According to a recent study, 80 percent of Gen Z purchases are influenced by social media, more than any other generation.
It’s a big number, but not that surprising, considering Generation Z has grown up with social media as a major part of their lives. It stands to reason that social peers have become major influencers in their purchasing decisions.
Think With Google also found that the number one aspect that makes a product cool in the eyes of Gen Z is if friends are talking about it.
Reaching Generation Z shoppers means getting their social groups talking. Traditional ads, like the ones we see on TV, are unlikely to get teens today interested in a product. They’re probably watching video on a mobile device to start with, and they’re keenly aware of advertisers’ efforts to seem cool or appeal to their age group.
Generation Z will likely not only push consumer brands and retailers to focus more on creating grass-roots marketing campaigns, but fully integrate the shopping experience with social media. In the coming years shoppers may never have to leave Facebook or Instagram to purchase an item their friends are recommending. Seamless integration between shopping and social platforms will likely net big rewards for those that invest in the technology.
It’s often said that kids today simply have shorter attention spans. Recent research is fighting that notion: It’s not an 8-second attention span, it’s an 8-second filter.
Generation Z has an overwhelming amount of options and data at their fingertips, vastly more than any previous generation, and they’ve become amazingly adept at sorting through and filtering that data. As Jeremy Finch writes for Fast Company, “Once something has demonstrated attention-worthiness, Gen Z can become intensely committed and focused.”
Retailers and consumer-oriented products will have to find ways to get their message across quickly and succinctly. It’s not that Gen Z doesn’t have the attention, they don’t have the time. Think about all the things and media competing for their attention.
And for them, this is simply the way the world works. It’s a wealth of information and the choices are nearly limitless, so they’ve had to come up with methods to quickly make choices around how they will spend their money and time.
This might mean more investment in video channels: Gen Z spends more time on YouTube than any other social media platform. Video offers the ability to fit in a lot of messaging in a shorter amount of time.
It’s very likely that we’ll see the integration of purchasing functionality directly within videos, to a level we haven’t quite seen yet. As with social media, seamless integration of purchasing tools with other modes of consumption will likely proliferate as brands seek to make the buying process as easy as possible for Generation Z.
Don’t be surprised…
…when Gen Z completely bucks expectations and does something totally different than we all predicted.
Generation Z is still extremely young — a significant portion haven’t even finished middle school yet. It’s very possible that as they enter the workforce and mature, their habits will shift.
And Gen Z, if anything, is fiercely independent. Over 70 percent of them want to start their own businesses, they largely identify as independents politically and are making it clear they’re definitely not the same as millennials.
While it’s likely today’s habits will continue to drive consumption habits and models in the future, retailers and consumer brands will have to be nimble and ready to shift strategies at a moment’s notice. Investing in technology which is mobile-first, flexible and easy to use will set brands up for continued success as Generation Z takes the economic reins.