Never before has a generation been so connected, well informed and open to personal and socio-political developments across all borders and forms of media. Members of Generation Z – or Gen Z – were born roughly between 1995 and 2015, live in a “global village”, are very similar in many ways and, above all, are the customers of tomorrow. We look at this target group as a whole to highlight similarities and differences in various markets.
In industrialised countries, the first generation is growing up that has been virtually born with mobile phones, the Internet and social media. Accordingly, the young people are alike in many ways: for them, the ability to access information quickly is a matter of course and they have remarkable expertise when it comes to researching and combining many forms of media and content. The difference lies in the way they experience life, with many in Europe and America viewing the present time as a period of uncertainty.
These experiences make Generation Z more pragmatic in almost every respect, more willing to focus on job security and savings than the two generations before them, who – having grown up in security and prosperity – have concentrated on fulfilling their dreams. Today, it’s only young people in China who still do that. So far, the financial crisis has not hit them as hard, and their parents have become increasingly wealthy and willing to indulge their children, most of whom have grown up without siblings. China’s youth thus spends around three times as much as young people in Germany, Great Britain, France or the USA.
The figures referred to above can be found in “A generation without borders”, a global consumer behaviour survey of 15,500 people from four generations conducted by OC&C. The researchers concluded that the up-and-coming generation places more value on style, product presentation and issues relating to sustainability than on price and quality when making purchasing decisions. Information received via social media and friends plays a major role in this.
The same applies in Brazil. According to a study by McKinsey, members of Gen Z are always connected with each other, process unprecedented amounts of information and network with people from different backgrounds. They are more interested than previous generations in human rights, diversity and equal opportunities.
This latter point is also true of young people in the USA. A study by marketing firm Ypulse revealed that companies that give out a positive message on issues such as social justice, environmental protection and tolerance are particularly popular amongst young people. These businesses reach out to their young market via Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, and – if they are well executed – their stories spread at an incredible speed and lead the young adults straight to the shops: almost two-thirds of the young people surveyed by Ypulse preferred to make purchases in-store.
Values are valued more highly: Review your ethical standards – and those of your suppliers. If Generation Z finds a weak spot, they will broadcast it, unfiltered, across all forms of media and national borders. For example, 83 per cent of those questioned by McKinsey said that they don’t buy any brands and that they name and shame companies online if they are sexist, racist or homophobic.
Be transparent and authentic: A study by the Macromedia University of Applied Sciences, which focused on Germany, shows that Gen Z is just as happy to learn as it is to be entertained, with the truthfulness of the information being more important to them than to older participants in the study. When members of Generation Z come across contradictory behaviour by companies, they broadcast this quickly through their networks. The good news is that, however strictly they may judge mistakes, they are equally generous in forgiving them – provided that companies resolve any problems openly and behave better afterwards.
Spread the word: According to a study by the marketing firm Criteo, members of Generation Z “navigate the world with their phones and wouldn’t think of buying without consulting their online and offline network of friends.” They also put their trust in famous people, with celebrity and influencer marketing as well as social media stories thus becoming increasingly important.
How you can reach out to Generation Z: Via mobile phone – according to Criteo, 59 per cent of young people around the world use Facebook, 49 per cent use Instagram and 43 per cent use Snapchat – and via your website and your own apps. All of the studies come to the conclusion that Gen Z obtains its information directly from providers’ websites and that these sources have more influence on them than television or online advertising, and almost the same amount as social media.
Shopping as an experience: Attract Gen Z via ads and apps using discounts, limited edition products, unusual offers or events. As Criteo explains: “While the smartphone is their remote control for life, they desire a world beyond the screen. They are more tactile than older generations and personal experience of the world and products is their aim.”
The effort is worthwhile: viewed from a global perspective, Gen Z will become the largest consumer generation very soon. According to Criteo, their annual spend amounts to between 29 and 143 billion US Dollars, they are open to new ideas, look for inspiration online and seek local shopping experiences – making them your ideal customers.