Right now, it seems like everyone is talking about Millennials. After all, they are currently the largest generation in the U.S. and are entering the workplace faster than we can keep up with. They are an influential group and have huge buying power in the market, which is why so many companies are right to focus time and energy on understanding this demographic.
However, it’s time to start preparing for the next generation, Generation Z. Gen Z is the group of people born after Millennials, roughly between 1996 – 2010, but there is no agreed upon range at this time. This generation is very different from Millennials when it comes to their beliefs, behaviors, and perceptions. There is still a lot to learn about Gen Z, which we will see firsthand as they continue to grow older, but cultural observers are starting to gain an understanding of what shaped and impacted their upbringing.
As marketers, it is important to understand and follow generational trends as they emerge. There is no such thing as an “18 to 65 year old consumer.” As Generation Z continues to mature, it will be imperative to understand their buying trends and habits. Here are some of the defining traits of Generation Z that we already know:
Tech-savvy & reliant
Yes, this is also considered a trait of Millennials, however, this is the first generation that grew up entirely with modern technology. Most Gen Z’s do not remember a time before smartphones and social media! Because of this, they are incredibly tech-savvy and in tune with what is going on in the digital sphere. Because they are our first true “digital natives,” as you probably guessed, they are heavily reliant on technology in their daily lives. They use smartphones and technology as integration in their lives to be more efficient and stay connected to others in their lives. In fact, my daughter is a Gen Z and we had a conversation the other day about dictionaries. I was emphatic about her learning to look something up in a dictionary. Her argument to me was that she will never need a book dictionary, she will just “Google” it or go to dictionary.com. This is difficult to comprehend and combat, however, she may be right.
Because of their tech-savvy nature, this generation is constantly connected to people – even others around the globe. In fact, many members of Gen Z say they have close friendships around the world that they have cultivated online through social media, blogs and websites. They have access to global audiences and enjoy sharing ideas and gaining insight from people of other cultures and backgrounds. They are true global citizens who understand at a young age that people are inherently the same, regardless of location. This allows them to foster close relationships and connect with others on a personal level through social media platforms that are organic and authentic.
This is the first generation in the U.S. that will see a majority population that is nonwhite. Generation Z is also more culturally diverse than any previous generation. Most Gen Z’s see diversity as their “new normal.” Between 2000 and 2010, the country’s Hispanic population grew at four times the rate of the total population. According to the Census Bureau, the number of Americans self-identifying as bi-racial also rose 134%. This has been a major influence in the lives of Generation Z. Because of all of this profound cultural blending, Gen Z is generally more mindful and accepting of other cultures and beliefs.
This demographic is much more private than their Millennial counterparts when it comes to online activity. They have largely rejected the idea of Facebook, where every move and thought is documented for the world to see. They tend to prefer social networking sites such as Tumblr and Snapchat, where they can show their daily routines through pictures and videos that disappear after 24 hours. Video is a big deal to this generation – they prefer an authentic, unedited view of how other people live their lives. Sure, they still enjoy taking selfies from time to time, but that doesn’t define Gen Z.
Generation Z has the entrepreneurial spirit. Whereas Gen Y is considered the generation of “side gigs” and freelance jobs, Gen Z is more focused on working for themselves. In a recent study, 72% of high school students reported a desire to start their own business someday. This is much higher than findings from other generations. This may be due to the fact that most Gen Z’s were raised by members of Gen X, a generation known for being entrepreneurial. This generation came after the economic recession, and they are already focused on creating their own companies and living life on their own terms.
What other traits would you use to describe Generation Z? What have your experiences been with this generation? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.