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Connecting with Gen Z

The recent controversy over the Fyre Festival, which promised more than it delivered, highlights the findings of research that proves that Gen Z is the most likely generation to purchase from a company that provides consistent, relevant content. Emma Herrod reports on the findings.

The fast emerging, Generation Z (born between 1996 and 2015) have been stealing the limelight from the so called ‘entitled’ millennials. But aside from their nascent economic might, this born-digital generation point us toward trends that may well have a profound effect on how brands connect with all future generations that only know life after the onset of the internet.

Gen Z have never known a world without the internet and see no distinction between their physical and digital lives. For them, the web should become a human experience, believe the authors of a study by The Center for Generation Kinetics and WP Engine.

According the study, Gen Z continues to be the most Internet-dependent generation – 61% of Gen Z can’t comfortably go more than four hours without the internet, while 13% of Baby Boomers can go a week or more. Gen Z, which has never known a world without the internet, not only expects 24/7 digital access but expects that within five years everything – clocks, refrigerators, vacuums, dishwashers and other appliances – will be connected online.

Gen Z has grown up in the hyper-personalised world of targeted advertisements and social platforms. As a result, they are willing to trade privacy for personalised experiences – 38% will provide their personal data to enable a more personalised experience over an anonymous one. Additionally, 40% of Gen Z would stop visiting a website if it didn’t anticipate what they needed, liked, or wanted.

Given Gen Z’s dependence on the internet, it’s fitting that merely being online is no barrier when it comes to earning their trust as consumers. When asked if an online-only company was less trustworthy than a solely brick-and-mortar business, 61% of Gen Z say no. As shoppers, Gen Z demands that brands be both socially accountable and imbued with a sense of authenticity in their interactions.

Some 65% of Gen Z are more likely to buy from a company that contributes to social causes, while 30% have stopped buying from a company that contributes to a social cause with which they disagree. This is similar to Baby Boomers, 28% of whom would stop buying from a company if they disagreed with their stance on social issues, while 60% are more likely to buy from companies that contribute to causes with which they agree.

Another interesting digital note: despite Gen Z’s eagerness to access the web using new methods and different devices, they still show a clear preference for a company’s website over a mobile app when making purchases. This fact held true across all generations, with Baby Boomers leading the pack at 93%, followed by Gen X (89%), Millennials (71%), and Gen Z (69%).

And when it comes to technology, Gen Z has a powerful tech-centric view of the future. When thinking about how websites will function five years from now: 78% believe that with biometrics (fingerprint and face recognition, voice and speech recognition), internet authentication will be done without keyboards; 77% think that through augmented reality or virtual reality, the internet will impact our view of the world constantly, wherever we are; 63% believe that everyone will have their own personalised virtual digital assistant (Siri, Alexa, etc.) to help them do everything they need to do online; 78% think all software and websites/digital experiences will have digital learning/AI capabilities.

“Gen Z is empowered, connected, practical, empathetic self-starters who want to stand out and make a difference in the world,” says Jason Dorsey, President, The Center for Generational Kinetics. “They merge the human and digital experiences – it is all one combined reality for them. They are fuelled by technology engagement and value uniqueness, authenticity, creativity, shareability and purpose. And they look for that from the world around them.”

Gen Z is the first generation to intrinsically combine the digital and the physical worlds. From now on, the digital experience will be synonymous with our human experience.

But, assuming that this holds true, the question for retailers is how to reach this key audience in a meaningful way by understanding that for, for this generation, the digital experience will be synonymous with their human experience.

  1. You’ll only find information useful if it engages your emotions: 29% of Gen Z prefer to be entertained by a company’s online content compared with 6% for baby boomers;
  2. Honesty and openness are increasingly the currency of brands: 79% of Gen Z will trust a company more if the images that brand uses are not photoshopped; 84% of Gen Z trust a company more if they use actual customers in their ads;
  3. Relationship success will be determined by how good a catch everyone else thinks you are: 47% of Gen Z believe their online reputation will determine their dating options; 
  4. Politicians will no longer be your only political leaders: 46% of Gen Z believe that people who build/manage the internet are more important than political leaders around the world;
  5. Economic access will not depend on you having a formal education: 62% of Gen Z would rather have unlimited access to the internet and no college degree than a college degree and no access to the internet;
  6. Your career choices will be increasingly defined by economic independence: 63% of Gen Z said they would or possibly would start their own business.

“Gen Z is well on its way to becoming the largest generation of consumers by the year 2020,” said Fabio Torlini, EMEA Managing Director at WP Engine. “For marketers and brands to effectively engage Gen Z, they must embrace new technologies, experiment with new forms of communication, and internalise the nuances in how Gen Z blends the analogue and digital worlds.”

Download the full infographic here.

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