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Generation Z: The Disrupters of Tomorrow

By: Humphrey Chan

Last modified: 22. January 2018


Today’s brands are vying for the attention of Millennials, and for good reason. There are 80 million of them in America alone, representing about a quarter of the population. They have $200 billion of annual buying power and are highly influential as the trendsetters across all industries. Millennials have pioneered the internet and the way businesses operate, but their Generation Z followers are making way and are here to stay.

Generation Z or Centennials

Born between roughly 1996 and 2010—the digital natives are expected to make up 40% of all consumers by 2020. Generation Z, or also known as Centennials–people born around the turn of the century–are practical and value conscious. They love experiences, stuff, and have an enormous amount of information at their fingertips. However, they are much more simplistic than their Millennial forerunners. The births of Gen Z outpaced Millennials by 3 million births and they are already contributing $44 billion to the American economy each year.

What you need to know about Gen Z:

They’re digital natives

Born in the 21st century, they do not remember a time without social media or smartphones, being the first group born into the digital era. If you want to reach them, your brand must do it digitally.

Be social—but not like you think

Millennials are active on social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Gen Z, however, prefers private anonymous social networks such as Snapchat, Secret, Periscope, Whisper and WhatsApp. These private messaging platforms facilitate a way Centennials can communicate with one another in a more personal manor. Larger social platforms such as Instagram have introduced new capabilities to appeal to this cohort such as Insta-stories and direct messaging via the photo app. Facebook too has recently introduced stories, repeating Snapchat’s capabilities. Nevertheless, if you want to catch Gen Z’s attention on social media, adapt your social content to appear on Snapchat!

You only have 8 seconds to catch their attention

They have very short attention spans—and it only lasts eight seconds. Being tech savvy at such a young age, their attention is spread between multiple different screens and windows at one time. Whole conversations can even be replaced by single images or emojis. Keep messages short and visual to convey your message faster.

Video marketing

Video platforms such as Snapchat and Periscope are Centennials’ favorite brands, allowing them to tune in and see unedited daily routines of how people live their lives. Gen Z loves digital video and 79% are interested in virtual reality (VR). Virtual reality could thrive in a Gen Z economy when everything is digital!

They are more frugal than millennials

They look for the better value beyond just the price. Of Gen Z-ers, 63% said they shopped online because it saves them time. They want the most for their time and the most for their money. They care less about price and more about value. Value of the product must outweigh or be equal to the cost. A major difference between Millennials and Gen Z is that Millennials prioritize access over ownership, but Gen Z values ownership. It looks like a paradigm shift is on the horizon for ecommerce–switching away from a subscriptions only model.

Millennials came of age during economic expansion. Centennials, though, were shaped by the recession and prepared to fight hard to earn a stable and practical future for themselves. Some researchers parallel Centennials with the Silent Generation. Both generations grew up in a recession where jobs were hard to come by and taking risks caused more harm than good. Don’t get risks mixed up with entrepreneurship though, the Sparks and Honey report argued, “Entrepreneurship is in Gen Z’s DNA.” They are hard workers like the Silent Generation and prepared to fight for a stable lifestyle.

 

Millennials and Gen Z-ers have many commonalities, but their outlooks on the world are very distinct with a starkly different historical context. Millennials were internet pioneers–inventing Facebook and Snapchat, transitioning from satellite and cable TV to video streaming, and shopping on their smartphones. While Gen Z doesn’t remember a time without these 21st century basics, Gen Z chooses pragmatism over millennial optimism.

Generation Z is influential

Brands are already adapting their marketing to the future consumers. Millennials soon will no longer hold the power with brands. Millennials pioneered internet living, whereas Gen Z will be its innovator. Centennials are driving the future of ecommerce and have great influence. Even 70% parents of Gen Z children say their kids have the power to influence family buying decisions. If you thought Millennials were disruptors; Generation Z will take that disruption to the next level.

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