How Marketers Must Evolve to Remain Relevant in a 'Post-Millennial' World Gen Z has arrived on the heels of the millennials as the first "digital native" generation that has never known an analog existence.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Generation Z -- generally identified as those born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s -- is anticipated to make up almost 40 percent of the U.S. consumer base by 2020. For this reason, marketers are already tuning in to the way this demographic engages with the world and makes -- or is likely to make -- decisions as consumers.
Gen Z is the first generation to live their entire lives in the technology-driven world ushered in by its millennial predecessors. With more than 50 percent of Gen Z connected online for up to 10 hours a day, compared to an average of just under four hours for millennials, it is difficult to overstate how deeply and broadly technology touches their lives.
They are products of an evolved world: influenced by the omnipresence of technology, splitting their attention across an average of five screens (smartphone, tablet, laptop, TV, desktop) at any given time. As the first true "digital natives," Gen Z regularly capitalizes on this technological revolution to advance their quest for meaningful experiences fueled by a desire to live (and share) their best lives.
Alternative styles of living and homeownership are becoming increasingly possible for the post-millennial generation, enabled by the proliferation and ever-increasing sophistication of technology that make flexible work environments possible. In fact, nearly half of Gen Z claims they would prioritize a job offer that provides the mobility, freedom and flexibility to work remotely from anywhere. Marketers looking to reach Gen Z need to do so early -- and on their go-to channels -- to engage them in the most impactful way.
The unique Gen Z mindset
Gen Z is not only influenced by their baby boomer and Gen X predecessors' learnings, but also actively involved in their forebears' conversations and decision-making processes from an early age. Abundant technology influences their lifestyle, engagement and decision-making. They are steadfastly mobile-first; they have an unprecedented amount of information at their fingertips, and they are able to digest and synthesize a tremendous amount of information with ease and speed.
The bar for personalization of service and speed of delivery is consequently higher for Gen Z than for even its millennial counterparts. While accustomed to speedy and tech-savvy delivery, a thoughtful approach that contributes to building a deeper relationship is key.
Engaging Gen Z
Gen Z's relationship with technology is unprecedented. While millennials pioneered this on-demand world of instantaneous information and perpetual interactions, Gen Z takes it a step further: It is the only world they've ever known. But at the same time, an unrelenting barrage of communication since birth has enabled Gen Z to develop incredibly effective filters. While their options are limitless, their time isn't, and Gen Z possesses a firm understanding of which ideas are worth their attention and energy.
Passive marketing doesn't get very far with Gen Z. According to a recent Data & Targeting survey, 82 percent of Gen Z skip video advertisements "as fast as possible." For a message to connect, marketers must cater to what this demographic cares about most. Amid the barrage, they crave authenticity and content that mirrors their daily lives, which is reflected in their propensity for favoring the opinions of social media influencers over traditional celebrities. In a study commissioned by Deep Focus, 63 percent of Gen Z admitted relating better to "real" people and stories in advertisements. The success of online personalities has been built upon their ability to craft intimate and genuine experiences, while confidently tackling important social issues as the voices of a generation.
A strong digital presence is essential for marketers to engage Gen Z and develop organic connections. Regular interactions with Gen Z are the only way to stay abreast of rapidly shifting trends and provide the compelling and buzzworthy content they desire. They want to be involved in shaping the message. In fact, a Vision Critical study found that 72 percent of Gen Z appreciates brands that seek their feedback.
Gen Z's social values
Gen Z is also one of the most outspoken and socially active generations in history, with 76 percent voicing concern about humanity's impact on the future of the world. To influence Gen Z, marketers must promote interactions through messaging that is instantly recognizable as aligning with their values. Engaging Gen Z is a battle for attention split across as many as six screens (phone, wearables, tablet, laptop, TV, desktop) in quick-touch, micro-interactions barely lasting seconds at a time. If you don't hook them immediately, you lose them fast.
As Generation Z continues to grow and engage with the world, their go-to channels will likely evolve as well. Marketers will have the most long-term impact if they remain savvy to such changes, and reconnect at every authentic opportunity. By always understanding where "home" is, the conversation with Gen Z will naturally grow in mutually beneficial ways.