Look Out Millennials, Gen Z is Coming

The news, blogs, and research articles all talk about Millennials. Everyone is worried about how to manage them, how to reach them, and how to market to Millennials. We here at initiate-it have spent a good deal of time researching and learning about Millennials. We’ve applied our learnings to help many businesses reach this generation.

But look out world, because I think it’s time we all start paying attention to the next group who is about to seriously rock our planet: Gen Z or iGen as they are often referred to. This is the group of young people who were born in 1996 and beyond. An important demarcation from millennials is that they were too young to have seen or known about 9-11 when it happened. Gen Z are primarily children of Gen X and some older Millennials. They are a whole different ball-game from Millennials.

This new generation that is coming of age knows they are influencing purchasing decisions, even as children.  Parents ask for their opinion and consult them on purchases.

In general, these kids are more self-sufficient than the prior Millennial generation. Their Gen X parents haven’t helicoptered, they’ve gone back to giving freedom and age appropriate autonomy. Devices have been around long enough we now know that too much ‘screen time’ isn’t great and kids still need to get outside, but their gen x parents also handed them a “device” at the restaurant or on the airplane to keep them occupied.

Gen Z is attached to devices and technology at a young age

Generation X is the first generation to not do as well as their parents; and really, still struggling with finding its financial footing. Because of this, Gen Z has seen their parents laid off from big corporate jobs and struggle a bit financially. They are concerned about making money and will likely be the most entrepreneurial generation yet. These guys are industrious, they’ll be out looking for work before they hit college and figuring out how to use the internet to make money.

Ways Teens/Young Adults Acquire Money

They are true digital natives. iGen have been given an iphone or ipad to entertain themselves since they’ve been babies. These digitally savvy kids and young adults have only known the ability to watch a “their show” when they want, thanks to DVRs. They’ve always known the smartphone. They’ve always known social media. Because of this, they tend toward social media platforms that are one-to-one conversation. They are more concerned with online security and more conservative in what they share. They are avid users of snapchat, Instagram, musically and surprisingly they really like twitter.

Young Gen Z boy with iPad Young Gen Z girl with iPhone playing Pokemon Go

5 insights and predictions on the iGeneration

What does all this mean? Here are my insights and predictions about how this generation is going to push the boundaries.

1. The biggest influence, in technology and how they use it, in my opinion, is YouTube. This is the YouTube generation. They turn to YouTube for everything. They are educating themselves through video. And sharing what they know. And they are figuring out how to monetize it. Want to really see this in action? Ask a 6-year-old to show you the apps they use on the phone or tablet. It’s You Tube Kids, and the show – it’s another child or adult opening toys and playing with them. Ask a 10-year-old, and its YouTube. The video is of someone else playing a video game and teaching you what to do. Or its someone showing you how to code.

According to Goldman Sachs research report, this group is going to be the most highly educated via college degrees, but many of them are teaching themselves what they want to know as well. Video is going to be the way to reach this group. You must think in video. They consume video more than any other medium.

2. When they are ready to purchase, they want to do it now (mobile) and get it today (hello, Amazon). From a marketing perspective, this group is going to need very personalized marketing. They are a diverse group and they are keenly aware of how targeting works. If you are going to target them, they expect you know who they are. They are going to expect technology to keep up their need it now mentality.

3. Influencer marketing is going to become even more important. They want to hear about a product or service from someone who has used it. Even if they know its paid, they want to know what people they respect think of it. Think product reviews by popular YouTubers or Bloggers.

4. Cause marketing is going to get even bigger. We’ve seen a shift in organizations in terms of supporting causes. Most companies have and still do some form of philanthropic giving, ie, stroking a check or organizing an employee outing to support a worthy cause. Those who are resonating with Millennials are being transparent about the causes they support, check out Penzey’s Spices, for example. Gen Z, cares deeply about changing the world. They see the Millennials as being arm chair activists who click and like, but don’t really ‘get involved’. Gen Z gets involved and wants to support organizations and companies that are willing to stand up for what they believe in.

5. Lastly, I think while being without a phone will be incomprehensible for this group as they age into professional careers, so forget about not allowing them to have their phone, they will totally ‘turn off’ as a means of relaxing. Vacation will truly mean, turn off the email and disconnect. They have seen their parents have trouble with this. They will want to focus on the present and be in the moment more than generations before.

If you are starting to think about your business plans for the next 5 or 10 years, start thinking now about Gen Z so you aren’t behind the curve. They are coming along fast! They are going to bring passion, ingenuity and an entrepreneurial spirit that will surely push us all forward in many exciting ways.

Posted by, Lisa Rogerson, VP of Digital at initiate-it, a digital first, full-service agency located in Richmond, VA who is a proud Gen X’er with two Gen Z boys who are ready to rock the planet.