Have you seen the current list of things that Millennials have ruined? Before I even filled in the Google search bar, it suggested that they had ruined not only brunch and America, but everything. We’ve ruined wine corks, hotels, movies, the retail industry, handshakes, the European Union, American democracy, professional sports, both the Democratic and Republican parties, and the Internet. For as many prattling articles as there are describing the ways in which society as we know it is being reshaped in the hands of Millennials for the worse, there are just as many extoling their virtues and countering claims made against them.
While Millennials are the target generation du jour for marketers, politicians, corporations, and Baby Boomers, they are quickly becoming replaced in conversation by Generation Z. This young cohort of individuals born after Millennials. While the cutoff dates are hazy among any generational definition, Gen Z typically refers to those born 1996 and after. As of 2017, Gen Z’ers are 21 and younger. In the United States, they make up roughly 25% of the population.
Who is Generation Z?
Called the digital generation, Gen Z is often defined by their relationships with technology. By 2019, millions of Gen Z’ers will enter the workforce, and will hold roughly $3 trillion in purchasing power by the next year. They are digital natives, meaning that there has never been in a time in their lives when they weren’t in contact with some form of Internet technology. They rely on mobile more than Millennials, and are four times more likely than Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers to say that 13 is the right age to get your first smart phone.
How do they engage with brands and companies?
The media habits of Gen Z are similar to Millennials, but differ in a few important ways. They are major consumers of media, spending hours each day consuming both branded and user generated content. 86% of Gen Z’ers say that they check their smart phones periodically throughout the day. This is incredibly important for startups and small business to take into account. Your mobile presence is the most likely platform on which Gen Z will engage with your brand. As the popularity of mobile purchasing and use increases, your site needs to be compatible with mobile. Test your site on a variety of different mobile devices to ensure that your design is optimized for mobile viewing.
Mobile ads are also rising in popularity. The traditional celebrity influencer is being replaced with real people, as 63% of Gen Z’ers say that they’d rather see regular people in ads than celebrities. Visual content is still king, and relevant images and videos appeal to Gen Z, who are accustomed to digesting information quickly and have little patience for long winded spiels. According to Hubspot, social media posts that have a relevant image garner 94% more engagement than the same post sans photo. 94% more engagement reflects patterns among all generations, and it may be safe to assume that the engagement rate for Gen Z is even higher.
Determining how much of your marketing budget should be allocated to social media ad buys should reflect engagement on these platforms and whether you are reaching your target audience. If you are looking to target Gen Z, the platform you choose is critical. Gen Z is less likely to use Facebook, and more likely to use Instagram and YouTube. Linking posts to your website will drive traffic. Gen Z are twice more likely to want to shop on their mobile devices than even Millennials, and make purchases accordingly.
Gen Z as a pluralist group
In the United States, Gen Z is the most ethnically diverse generation in history. Reflecting changing patterns in American demographics, nearly 50% of Gen Z are ethnic minorities. Social norms have been flipped, and Gen Z is more likely to challenge stereotypes and characterize themselves as inclusive than other generations. They are challenging tradition, and they’re not afraid to speak their minds and to share their thoughts with others online.
They watched as Millennials helped to legalize gay marriage and elect the first African American president. They also have seen the nasty side of politics, racial inequality, and social divisiveness and how it can affect their communities both at home and elsewhere. Gen Z’ers see themselves as individuals, but also as a part of a collective society that can work together for good. This reflects their purchasing habits as well. 60% expect brands to align with and support causes that they agree with, and want brands to be transparent about their beliefs.
The new entrepreneurs
Gen Z is perhaps the most entrepreneurial generation yet. According to a study of Gen Z’ers done by Millennium Branding, 72% of high school students and 64% of college students want to start their own businesses. As they consume massive amounts of media, they see Gen Z and Millennial influencers who have built a following out of social media platforms, startups, and by generally disrupting the corporate world.
They have access to resources to help them along the way to becoming their own bosses, and they take advantage of them. Gen Z will likely be the most educated generation in history, and their high levels of engagement open them up to networking and finding freelance clients more easily.
They grew up during the Great Recession, and are keenly aware of the struggles their parents faced in the face of economic uncertainty. Rather than shrinking back, they are more individualistic than older generations and see themselves as the influencers of their fate. Highly ambitious and motivated, even though Gen Z is still coming of age, they cannot be counted out.