Ready or not, it’s happening: Generation Z is coming of age, entering the workforce, and gearing up to be the next consumer powerhouse. But what do we really know about this generation that currently comprises 32 percent of the world’s population? While there has been much discussion about Millennials, the world is just now understanding the thinking and trends of Gen Z — those born between 1995 and 2010:
- According to Adweek, Generation Z will make up 40 percent of all US consumers by 2020.
- Business Insider found that Instagram and YouTube are the most popular social media platforms for Gen Z.
- Gen Z consumers are two times more likely to shop on mobile than Millennials according to Forbes.
- Almost 50 percent of Gen Zers are connected to the Internet for 10 or more hours a day.
- Generation Z influences $600 billion in family spending.
As businesses continue to grow their brands, these statistics make one thing very clear. If you don’t prepare for the next generation of consumers, your company could lose relevance and get left behind. It’s critical, therefore, to understand the characteristics that make Generation Z different than any generation before and learn how you can use it to your business’s competitive advantage.
1. You’ve Got 8 Seconds to Leave an Impression
Those in Generation Z are digital natives: They were born and have grown up in a time where the Internet, advanced technology and social media have always existed. They are accustomed to having options thrown at them from a variety of different outlets. According to Fast Company, it is believed this has helped them create a highly evolved “eight-second filter” in order to sort through information and enormous amounts of clutter. They often notice what’s trending and rely on social media influencers to make decisions. However, this is not to say they lack focus. On the contrary, Gen Zers, unlike Millennials, can become extremely focused once they make a decision. The Internet has allowed them to gather more information on topics than ever before, and therefore they have intense passion and awareness for ideas they find important.
2. They Want You to Know They’re NOT Millennials
While some may be quick to judge Generation Z as online addicts, out of touch with reality, the truth is they are more in touch with reality than many generations before. Consulting firm McKinsey & Company found that they are aware of the stigma surrounding Millennials (lack of focus, entitlement, blaming others for their position in life), and make sure they work hard offline to avoid the same criticism. They also make it a point to communicate clearly with adults and prove themselves to the world. While they seek validation through social media, they don’t like to be defined by it. Additionally, they have learned the importance of financial stability by observing the mistakes made by Millennials and are big on having financial contingency plans.
3. They Value Authenticity
According to data reported by CNBC, 67 percent of Generation Z agree that being true to their values and beliefs makes a person “cool.” As it relates to them as consumers, they are incredibly skeptical of brands they feel are only out for their money or have no values. 89 percent of Generation Z has reported that they would prefer buying from a company that supports social and environmental issues over one that does not. A big part of this is thanks to social media, which has allowed brands to interact with consumers on a much more personal level than ever before. There is no longer a safe cloud of mystery for brands to hide behind. Today, not only can consumers interact with brand personnel directly, but they also can conduct behind-the-scenes research to discover what a company is really about.
What does all of this mean for your business? First, it’s crucial to not equate youth with naiveté. This latest generation of consumers will automatically sense inauthenticity. They prefer real people to celebrities, and brands that stand for important issues. Make sure your brand has a strong social media strategy that is real and relevant. Practicing what you preach has never been more important. You will find that if you treat Generation Z with respect, you could potentially have a loyal customer for life.