A lot has already been said about the importance of satisfying millennials, but to achieve lasting success in the coming years and decades, you need to focus on the needs and interests of the subsequent generation: Gen Z.
Generally defined as anyone born between the mid-1990s and the 2010s, Gen Z will prove increasingly influential and important for any brand that wants to stay relevant throughout the 2020s and beyond.
But what exactly is this generation looking for, and what can you do to meet their expectations?
The power of Gen Z
Brands can't afford not to engage with Gen Z, for the simple reason that this generation represents the future of commerce and consumer trends.
A 2019 report on world population prospects from the United Nations estimated that people under the age of 25 would make up 41% of the global population by 2020. As members of this age group reach adulthood and become consumers in their own right, businesses that truly understand Gen Z customers and have the ability to build meaningful, lasting relationships with them will be the most successful.
This generation is "ready to spend", with more than $143 billion in buying power, according to Gartner. They’re also "foundationally distinct" from millennials, meaning you need to be familiar with the unique concepts and principles that really matter to them.
Truth and authenticity
A study by McKinsey characterized people born between 1995 and 2010 as 'True Gen', partly because they're the first generation of true digital natives, but also because they're driven by a desire for truth and authenticity.
The report noted that generations are defined by context, which shapes their consumer interests. Where Gen Xers (born between 1960 and 1979) were interested in status and millennials (born between 1980 and 1994) chased experiences, Gen Z are interested in uniqueness and ethical consumption.
This has various implications for businesses as far as branding and marketing are concerned. Since many Gen Z consumers are open to the idea that people shouldn't be defined in just one way, you might need to reconsider strategies like marketing products to certain genders.
Nearly half (48%) of Gen Z respondents to the McKinsey survey said they value brands that don't classify items as male or female, compared to 38% of consumers in other generations. This was described as "truly new territory" for most brands.
Technology as a source of genuine value
Gen Z is the first generation to be fully comprised of digital natives - people who were born into a society shaped and defined by instant access to a world of online information.
Smartphones and social media have always been a part of life for a large portion of this age group. While this provides many opportunities to engage with potential customers, it also means you have to think carefully about the sort of experiences you're providing to the most tech-savvy generation there has ever been.
According to IBM, it comes down to using technology to deliver real value. That might mean facilitating a frictionless ecommerce experience, offering maximum value for money or connecting shoppers to the products they want as quickly as possible.
When Gen Z consumers were asked what was most important to them when shopping across different channels, the most common responses were:
- Being able to find what they want quickly (49%)
- Having the option to decide how and where to shop (44%)
- Access to the best deals (41%)
- Fast shopping and checkout (36%)
When it comes to social media, Gartner recommends pursuing a strategy that gives Gen Z users an opportunity to "boost their own online brand". The research and advisory firm said members of this age group are more likely to follow companies that post in a way that reflects positively on their fans and provides value to their audience.
According to the biggest social network of all, any company that hopes to build a loyal following among this generation needs to respect and celebrate its rich, complex and multifaceted nature.
If you're able to deliver a high-quality, value-based experience through technology that reflects the priorities and principles of Gen Z, it could be one of the most important steps you take towards long-term success.