While market researchers are just beginning to gain a firm understanding of Millennials, the next generation has arrived: Generation Z. This cohort was born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s, and market researchers have barely scratched the surface when it comes to discovering what attitudes, beliefs, and values are important to Generation Z. Fortunately, MARU/VCR&C, a research consulting company, fielded two surveys in March of 2016 to help shed light on the emerging generation.
Let’s start with the obvious: Generation Z is even more plugged into technology than Millennials. The surveys found that over one-third of Generation Z members said they use technology as much as they can. This is in comparison to 27% of Millennials who said the same thing. While most Millennials probably didn’t use a computer until elementary or middle school, Generation Z members had technology in their hands at a much younger age. This generation was born into the world of smartphones, tablets and wearable technology. Consequently, they are often referred to as the “iGen” generation.
As a result of being surrounded by technology since toddlerhood, Generation Z has developed different views towards technology than one might expect. They are less likely to view it as a saving grace for the world, and instead more focused on the pragmatic uses of it. In other words, the iGen generation has never known a world without smartphones and tablets, so they don’t perceive these things as anything special. The surveys also found that 28% of Millennials are excited about self-driving cars while 19% of Generation Z feels the same. When asked if they believe science and technology can solve many of the world’s problems, 36% of Millennials strongly agreed while 30% of Generation Z strongly agreed.
There are also considerable differences with how each generation engages with technology. Generation Z is the first true mobile-first generation, meaning smartphones, not laptops or desktop computers, are their primary source of information. By now, retailers should be well aware of the importance of having a smartphone optimized website, complete with mobile-friendly checkout options. If they don’t, they stand to lose even more ground with Generation Z than they have with Millennials. In fact, 53% of Generation Z said they have made a mobile purchase in the last six months, while only 37% of Millennials said the same thing. Since it appears Generation Z will use their smartphones for every aspect of the shopping process, retailers should look to add mobile payment options, such as Apple Pay, to ensure they don’t miss out on sales opportunities with the younger generation.
I know what you might be thinking: “I just got used to Millennials and now I’m supposed to change my business again?”. The answer is a resounding yes, as frustrating as that may be. The latest data shows Generation Z outnumbers Millennials by about 3 million. The good news is that the oldest of Generation Z are just now finishing college, so there is still ample time to adjust your business to ensure you aren’t left in the dust when Generation Z enters the workforce and leverages its $44 billion dollar purchasing power.