One in four Americans is younger than 18 (US Census Bureau), and that demographic is growing. Barring an unforeseen zombie outbreak, the world will be theirs to run one day, so continuing our Generation series this post will explore characteristics of Gen-Z and how they might rule the world.
Gen Y’s younger counterparts, Generation Z (loosely defined as people born between 1995 and today) is smaller in numbers than the Millennials, but as the world’s first true “digital natives”, they might be the most challenging generation yet for marketers. And like the Y’s, they’ll strongly consider whether college is worth the cost. On the flip side, most college professors and bosses are “digital immigrants” – they might very well be perfectly adapted in the digital world (with preference for e-mail, Google, and buying tickets online) but they’ll always speak “with an accent.”
Gen Z Characteristics
At home, Gen Z is being raised by statistically older parents (Generation X) who are more likely to be divorced and work outside the home. In addition there are other factors influencing Gen Z:
- In a recent Cassandra Report 43% of 7 to 13-year-olds feel that school violence/shootings will have the biggest impact on their generation, overriding the invention of social networking and the election of the first Black President.
- They may be experiencing an early loss of innocence so brands should feature marketing messages that speak to Zs’ desire to feel safe and secure, and partner with the right causes to remind them that you’re working to make the world a better and safer place.
- According to a 2012 Forrester Research study, Generation Z is the second largest demographic owning an iPhone (24%), with Millennials ranking highest at 29%. This would seem to indicate that Generation Z will be highly mobile and will demand learning and development opportunities that can support their free and nomadic nature. It might not be out of the question to see the standard 9 to 5 desk job fade into an era defined by mobile work and supported by mobile corporate learning and development.
- Surprisingly, a study by the Research Initiative for Teaching Effectiveness at the University of Central Florida found that older students, “digital immigrants”, are far more likely to be satisfied by online courses than younger, “digital natives”, students.
- Gen-Z’s role models are young, everyday characters like The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen, who face seemingly inescapable scenarios but rise above them to create a better society. In these stories, relatable characters are empowered to defeat their circumstances—just like Z’s, who feel a responsibility to change the status quo.
- They’ll be looking for a value-driven approach to doing business, where focus on profit is balanced with a focus on the planet and people. They’ll relish the chance to make a difference.
Companies targeting Generation Z will want to…
- Adopt technology-based marketing and sales channels (Gen Z constantly adapts to the newest technologies and companies need to stay focused on “what’s next” in order to keep pace)
- Aim to “catch them young” (especially relevant for technology companies)
- Enhance their virtual world presence with online product information and purchase facility (Gen Z spends a significant amount of time online)
- Develop high value-for-money products that are multifunctional with simple and interactive designs (being adept media multitaskers Generation Z has a desire for multifunctional devices)
- Provide “green” products and services or take a proactive stance toward the environment (born into an environmentally conscious world they are expected to be more socially responsible)
So what is next? Generation Alpha… likely to also be called “Google Kids” and is expected to be the largest generation to date, adopt technology faster, have increased health concerns, start earlier and stay longer in school, more technology focused, and have better career opportunities due to a skills shortage, created by the present population leaving the workforce.