What is Generation Z and how can businesses be ready to for them?


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Millennials, or Generation Y, generally defined as those born between the early 1980s to mid-1990s, are the main fixation of the business industry in recent years. Most businesses today are thinking of ways to approach millennials, crafting their products, services, and marketing strategies to attract this population of people.

However, many businesses are shifting their attention towards a new generation of target audiences – the millennials’ successors, Generation Z. This is not surprising as Gen Z are generally the future of retail. Born after 1996, this emerging generation has a new worldview and different expectations as customers compared to generations prior.

Marcie Merrimen, executive director of growth strategy and retail innovation at Ernst & Young mentioned to Business Insider that “if you see it from a spending perspective, teens or Gen Z are millennials on steroids.”

Important Generation Z Characteristics that Businesses Should Know About

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Although the business world generally agrees that some degree of focus should be shifted towards Generation Z, businesses are less familiar with them compared to their predecessors, the millennials or also known as Generation Y. Gen Z’s non-traditional mindsets and different communication styles pose challenges to these corporate leaders to reach out to this population effectively.

Also coined iGen, Gen Z are the most influential group of technology trendsetters, offering a prequel to predict upcoming trends in the aspects of retail patterns, technology usage, and consumer behaviour. Unfortunately, they are also associated with terms such as “fickle” and “disloyal” to describe how their decisions and preferences seem to change often. Hence, it is important for businesses to understand key characteristics that make them stand out from the past generation of consumers to better identify effective ways to approach this generation of consumers.

Despite sharing many similarities with millennials, there are also key distinctions that define Gen Z audiences, as highlighted below:

Generation Z are More Technological-Savvy

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As the earliest batch of Gen Z’s were born in the late-1990s, they have never known a world without smartphones and social media, being exposed to them at a very young age. This means that they are more well-versed in the latest technology as compared to millennials. They are able to receive and absorb information almost instantaneously, which makes them ever-ready to move on to other things. Hence, when it comes to disseminating information to this generation, seconds matter.

As Dan Schwabel, managing partner of Millennial Branding puts it, “we tell our advertising partners that if their messages are not communicated within five words and a big picture, they will be unable to reach this generation effectively.”

Generation Z Tend to Express Themselves Through Brands

To Gen Z users, a brand should be more than just a logo and a tagline; the brand should have a story and persona that they can relate to. Gen Z users like to use brands to express themselves – their beliefs, outlook on life, their values, et cetera. In fact, they are willing to pay relatively more just to own a product that reflects their personality; an essential statistic that all businesses should always keep in mind.

Gen Z Appreciate Privacy

According to Ryan Scott’s article on Forbes, although Gen Z are exposed to a variety of social media platforms for them to share their lives to the world, they have less interested to share their lives in the public sphere unlike millennials. Social media platforms such as Snapchat are much preferred compared to Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites that leave permanent records. That is probably the reason why you will notice that many social networks today have followed in the footsteps of Snapchat by introducing temporary timelines which automatically deletes themselves after a certain period such as Facebook Stories and Instagram Stories.

Generation Z has Higher Expectations

Being born right into the heart of technology’s rapid advancement processes means that Generation Z have a pre-set list of expectations in their minds for a certain product or service. One case in point: millennials were born in the era of dial-up Internet and 3G Internet speed was considered a luxury afforded by the affluent.

Whereas millennials are immediately introduced to wireless connectivity capabilities and 4G LTE internet are available commonplace. Hence, as Merriman explains it, “when something is not working as fast as they expect, then they will think that something is wrong. If they do not feel loyalty from businesses and brands, they will move on in search of others that will meet their expectations. To them, loyalty is a two-way process; businesses need to earn their loyalty by first being able to promise what they preach and meeting Gen Z’s expectations”.

Preparing for the Gen Z Wave

With all that said, how can companies and brands prepare themselves for the impending influx of Generation Z that will enter their circle of clientele in the not-so-distant future? Generation Z are like the barometer, having the highest level of expectation amongst all the consumer generations. Hence, companies should take the necessary measures to accommodate to the needs of Gen Z for their products and services to appealing to all generations of users. Here are some ways for businesses to cater to the Gen Z consumers:

Keep It Short and Simple

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Researchers have concluded that Gen Z has an average attention span of 8 seconds. This challenges businesses to keep their messages concise. Keeping information compact and easily understandable ensures clear communication between businesses and their target consumers, improves customer engagement, and utilise creative approaches to deliver the value that they offer.

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Potentially viral multimedia content such as videos, memes, and infographics provide simplistic yet detailed insights to a brand’s offerings. This means that businesses should place higher emphasis on these alternative marketing tools instead of relying on advertisements and traditional promotional methods. The ability to represent data in a succinct manner and for the information to be shared easily across multiple digital platforms will appeal to the technologically-reliant Gen Z.

Walking the Talk

When it comes to engaging Gen Z audiences, honesty is the best policy. As aforementioned, Gen Z naturally have heightened expectations, hence they will not hesitate to be vocal and question a corporation on its promises if they are not impressed on what is being offered to them!

Gen Z’s demand for corporations to fulfil their civic responsibility and uphold their values means that businesses must be prepared to be accountable and transparent. From encouraging sustainable production and improved quality, Gen Z’s demands disallows corporations from resting on their laurels and to constantly improve what they offer to their customers.

Giving Back for What You Have Been Given

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Another aspect that businesses should keep in mind of is to focus on giving back to the community. A recent study found that 87% of Generation Z believe that corporations should play a larger part in contributing to the development of their community. This means that businesses should channel more finances towards their corporate social responsibility efforts. Gen Z’s demand for businesses to have a greater purpose than just gaining profit motivates businesses to trace back on their founding beliefs and values, which in turn, allows companies to gain trust and a solid reputation amongst the Generation Z population.

Generation Z provides a whole new paradigm for businesses to adapt to, but these challenges also pose new windows of opportunities. If businesses are able to meet the expectations of Gen Z, then they can rest assured that they will be sustainable in the long run.

Jeremy Chew
Content Marketer for iPrice Group, experienced in Public Relations and Marketing, volunteers regularly at Kingdomcity as a singer & musician (guitarist and vocalist) an avid Formula 1 fan. Graduating with a Bachelors in Mass Communications, I have gained a wealth of knowledge in the areas of public relations, marketing and ecommerce.


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