In a nutshell: Generation Z will be a massive economic force. Here’s how to get them to notice your products and services.

Much of the discussion about business strategy over the past 15 years has been about how to reach Millennials, the generation that came to prominence after Generation X and quickly established their own methods for living, learning, working, shopping and parenting.

Today, the business world must pay attention to the successors of Millennials, Generation Z, who have started to emerge from high school and are at the stage when they are making many decisions about what they consume, where they shop, how they manage their money and what they want to learn.

This generational changeover is critical for business professionals. As marketers have learned, a message that reverberates with Generation X may not necessarily work for Millennials. With another tectonic shift underway, people unprepared may find themselves unable to catch the eyes, ears — and wallets — of young consumers.

Generation Z Characteristics

Experts argue about where these generations begin and end, but most will agree that the Millennials were generally born in the early 1980s through the middle of the 1990s, while Generation Z was born starting in the mid-to-latter part of the 1990s. That means the oldest members of that generation are just now reaching their early 20s, with many more right behind them in high school and college.

Some generally accepted traits of Generation Z:

  • Ease with technology – Generation Z grew up with technology, including widespread use of social media
  • More diverse – The number of non-white Hispanics is much larger in Generation Z. They also are more comfortable than previous generations with diverse sexual orientations and gender identification.
  • Less focused – Because of the familiarity with technology, Generation Z is accustomed to a world of continuous updates and constant change.
  • Multitaskers – Members of Generation Z are better multitaskers in the sense they are adept at interacting with computers, mobile devices and television, often all at once or within short time frames. They also shift quickly between work and play, and are comfortable with distractions in the background while they work on a task.

All of this can inform businesses on how to reach out to Generation Z as consumers. Here’s a look at some issues directly related to Generation Z and the marketplace.

Low Price Sensitivity

Perhaps because they moved into their adult years during the Great Recession, Millennials care more about prices than those in Generation Z. For example, 67 percent of Millennials said they would visit a website to get a coupon, while only 46 percent of Generation Z said they would do the same, according to a Huffington Post article. Also, 71 percent of Millennials said they followed an advertisement online before making a purchase, while only 59 percent of Generation Z did the same.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Rather than view companies as monolithic and faceless, Generation Z tends to see them as made up of people. As such, they expect companies to put as much effort into social responsibility as would an individual. They prefer businesses that put time and money into social causes, and they can detect an inauthentic marketing campaign straightaway.

Genuine campaigns to help others go a long way with this generation. For example, SUAVS Shoes in Austin, Texas, donates slightly imperfect shoes to charity rather than throw them away, according to a Forbes article. The shoemaker has given more than 1,300 pairs of shoes to Soles4Souls, a nonprofit that provides free footwear to people in developing countries.

Information Quickly, Please

Generation Z has grown up in a world where the options for ways to spend time seem almost limitless, but obviously time itself is not. That means they are quick at deciding if something is interesting to them.

While some may see this as an attention-deficit issue, others argue that really Generation Z just has a very strong filter, according to a Fast Company article. They know within seconds if something is of value to them. If it isn’t, they quickly move on.  If it is, they may spend hours on it, because the wealth of information on the internet provides them the opportunity to take deep dives into specific topics.

For businesses, this means they need to provide content that is immediately engaging and shows a benefit to consumers.

Gen Z Buys Online

The struggles of traditional retailers are expected to continue with Generation Z – and probably accelerate. This new generation is completely comfortable buying online, and it also typically takes far less time than driving to a store and shopping with crowds. That’s something they value.

Digital First

As can be inferred from everything above, Generation Z thinks digital first. How far does this extend? One media company study found that young people put more value in a gift that looks really good on Instagram, according to an article in Adweek. The study also found that more Generation Z girls would rather receive a digital product (a laptop is high on many holiday gift lists) rather than a beauty product.

Taken together, it’s easy to see how Generation Z will impact business strategy. And given its size and unique characteristics, that impact may prove bigger than any generation that’s come before.







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