Two of my children are part of Generation Z. I wrote my first blog about Gen Z six years ago when my kids were ages 14 and 12. Now, they are 20 and 18. As the last one prepares to leave home this fall, I ponder my life as an empty nester (tearfully or joyfully, depending on the day). As I see them maturing and becoming increasingly independent, I also often wonder about the impact this generation will make on the world – society, our political system, the economy, the environment, and, of course, marketing. I wanted to see what people are saying about Generation Z now and how that compares to what was believed in 2012 when this group was younger.
The information I found was pretty consistent, other than a slight shifting of the birth date ranges that define this group. However, there is one thing that became very clear; now is the time for marketers to start thinking about how to reach Generation Z. Gen Z (also known as the iGeneration, Post-Millennials, or the Homeland Generation) are people who were born in the late 1990’s to mid-2000’s and they are coming of age.
Gen Z makes up 25.9% of the United States population (the largest percentage) and contribute $44 billion to the American economy. By 2020, they will account for one-third of the U.S. population. College graduations + full-time jobs + increased consumption = buying power. If they are not already on your radar, they should be.
Don’t fear marketers, the Millennials aren’t going anywhere. All that time you invested in researching and analyzing their every move and fine-tuning your marketing strategy is still valuable. But, now there is a new market and they behave differently from their predecessors. While there is much to be said on the subject, I came across an interesting article from the Huffington Post that summarized 8 key differences between Gen Z and Millennials that will get you started.
How Generation Z Differs from Millennials
- Less Focused
Gen Z lives in a world of continuous updates. Staying relevant is harder than ever. Gen Z processes information faster than other generations and their attention spans might be significantly lower than Millennials.
- Better Multi-Taskers
Though Gen Z can be less focused than their Millennial counterparts, they are better multi-taskers. The following example the writer provided illustrates this point. In school, they will create a document on their school computer, do research on their phone or tablet, while taking notes on a notepad, then finish in front of the TV with a laptop, while face-timing a friend. Gen Z can quickly and efficiently shift between work and play, with multiple distractions going on in the background…working on multiple tasks at once. In the words of the author, they are “multi-multi-taskers”.
Millennials care more about prices than Gen Z does. This is likely because they came of age during the recession. Gen Z uses fewer coupons; 67% of millennials surveyed said that they would go to the website to get a coupon, whereas only 46% of Gen Z polled said they would do the same. Millennials also tend to click on more ads; 71% of Millennials said they followed an advertisement online before making a purchase, however only 59% of Gen Z said the same. However, this does not mean that Gen Z spends freely. In fact, they may be more frugal.
- Gen Z is Full of Early Starters
Gen Z views work and education differently than Millennials. Many employers are predicting that more teens between the ages of 16 and 18 will go straight into the workforce. Instead of taking the traditional route of higher education, they may finish school online, if at all. Here is a peek into the way they think: Why would you make a major investment, possibly leading to years of debt—knowing there are new, more affordable and convenient online alternatives? This might not be true of my own two Gen Z’rs, who chose the traditional college path. But, think of the impact this could have. Gen Z knows the value of independence and approaches learning from this perspective. If they know they are capable of learning something themselves, or through a more efficient, non-traditional route, they’ll likely take the opportunity.
- Gen Z is More Entrepreneurial
Generation Z desires more independent work environments and 72% of teens say they want to start a business someday. According to Gen Z marketing strategist Deep Patel, “the newly developing high tech and highly networked world has resulted in an entire generation thinking and acting more entrepreneurially.”
- Gen Z has Higher Expectations than Millennials
Generation Z was born into a world overrun with technology. What was previously taken as amazing and inspiring inventions, are now taken as a given for teens. “When it doesn’t get there that fast they think something’s wrong,” said Marcie Merriman, executive director of growth strategy at Ernst & Young. “They expect businesses, brands and retailers to be loyal to them. If they don’t feel appreciated, they’re going to move on. It’s not about them being loyal to the business.”
- Gen Z is Big on Individuality
Gen Z was born social. Nearly 92% of Gen Z has a digital footprint. Arguably as a result of the celebrities and media they follow, Gen Z seeks uniqueness in all walks of life primarily through the brands they do business with, future employers, etc.
- Gen Z is More Global
Millennials were considered the first “global” generation with the development of the internet, but as more of the world comes online — Generation Z will become more global in their thinking, interactions, and relatability. Fifty-eight percent of adults worldwide ages 35+ agree that “kids today have more in common with their global peers than they do with adults in their own country.” Diversity will be an expectation of Generation Z.
Figuring out how to reach this audience will be key for marketers. These digital natives are never far from their devices – a fact I witness daily. However, their consumption patterns are different from previous generations. They watch less TV, which has a big impact on advertising. They are less likely to use coupons or click on ads, so this poses more challenges for digital marketers. And, they have high expectations of the companies they choose to do business with. Brand perception will be more important than ever with this demographic.
My take on Generation Z is that they are smart, caring, unique and motivated to effect change to make the world a better place. I’m biased, I know. But, understanding and appreciating this generation is in all our best interest.