Where are we going?
Trying to understand Generation Z, technology development and how to succeed in the future.
While we’ve been busy talking about the pandemic, hybrid work and going digital, a whole new generation of people, aka Gen Z, has entered the workforce. Generation Z will soon become the most pivotal generation to the future of retail, and many will have huge spending power by 2026. To capture a slice, retailers and brands need to start establishing relationships with Gen Zers now. But what do we need to know?
These people, born approximately between 1996-2012, grew up with technology, the internet, and social media, which sometimes causes them to be stereotyped as tech-addicted, anti-social, or “social justice warriors.” If you don’t have a Gen Z representative as your family member, it won’t take long until you have one as your colleague, your partner, your competitor, or your customer. While stereotyping and boxing people is dangerous, it’s good to keep in mind that people are shaped by the life around them.
Let’s talk about stereotypes
Gen Z was raised at a time of global economic stress, terrorism threats, climate change and a pandemic, just to mention a few. As a result, many Gen Zers are very aware of the need to save for the future, and they see job stability as more important than a high salary. They already show a high preference for regular employment rather than freelance or part-time work, which may come as a surprise compared to the attitude of millennials, for example. And let’s not forget the investing trend, something that young people have adopted much better than any of the previous generations. Gen Z members are also less willing to pay with credit cards.
In contrast, the previous generation – the millennials, sometimes called the “me generation” – got its start in an era of economic prosperity and focuses on the self. Its members are more idealistic, more confrontational, and less willing to accept diverse points of view. Again, we are stereotyping here, but maybe for the fur industry, this is a good thing. Just think about this.
While late Baby Boomers and Gen X were behaving in a competitive way and looking for status, brands and luxury, Millennials were enjoying globalization and economic stability, focusing on themselves and looking for experiences and travels. These people are now in their thirties and forties, in a manager position and making decisions about “going fur-free”, for example. Luckily the new Generation Z is looking for the truth and, well, seems to be more down to earth?
Gen Z – This generation is searching for the truth
According to some research, Generation Z considers itself more accepting and open-minded than any generation before it. While almost half of Gen Zs are minorities (compared to 22% of Baby Boomers), it’s no surprise that the majority of Gen Zs support social movements such as Black Lives Matter, transgender rights, and feminism.
Gen Zers value individual expression and avoid labels. They are also described as more open to discussing mental health issues; they are looking for a purpose in life and work and acting entrepreneurial. Gen Zers, with huge amounts of information at their disposal, are more pragmatic and analytical about their decisions than the previous generations were. And while environmental issues and climate change seem to be a major concern for Gen Z, they hate greenwashing!
This more pragmatic and realistic generation of consumers expects to access and evaluate a broad range of information before purchases. Consumption has also got a new meaning – having access to products or services, not necessarily owning them. Just think about Spotify, Netflix, car rental, garment rental and tool rental services.
According to different research, Gen Z is willing to pay more for personalized offerings or brands that embrace causes which those consumers identify with. They value brands that don’t classify items as male or female. They try to learn the origins of anything they buy – where it is made, what it is made from, and how it is made.
Following the last decade’s trend of influencers, who are considered more trustworthy than traditional ads and marketing, also Gen Z says that recommendations from friends are their most trusted source for learning about products and brands. This, in turn, supports the trend of companies turning to micro-level influencers. And last but not least, Gen Z believes that major brands are less ethical than small ones and the majority refuse to buy goods from companies involved in scandals.
Social media still has a very important role in decision-making and inspiration.
Tech native and mobile-first
Gen Zers are the first consumers to have grown up wholly in the digital era. They’re tech native and mobile-first – and they have high standards for how they spend their time online. This generation of self-learners is also more comfortable absorbing knowledge online than in traditional institutions of learning. This said, it’s also no surprise that Gen Z embraces mobile payments like mobile apps and mobile wallets, which has resulted in the apps’ increasing popularity.
Social media still has a very important role in decision-making and inspiration. While Instagram is still widely used, Gen Z doesn’t use Facebook, and they are more likely to use TikTok and Snapchat. With trends popping up fast from social media, brands and eCommerce need to learn how to react faster. And here we come to the term AI, aka Artificial Intelligence.
The world of Avatars
Another thing to know is the Metaverse and Avatars, something that half of the adult people know little or nothing about. The Metaverse is an imaginary virtual world currently popular among young gamers. An Avatar is a cartoon-like character that represents the player in this world.
For now, the Metaverse seems to be the playground of Gen Z and, behind it, Gen Alpha (born in 2012 or later), but despite still being quite expensive, the trend is growing. We have seen the first-ever Metaverse Fashion weeks, and the beauty industry is leading the way in digital innovations. For example, beauty brand Charlotte Tilbury has developed a virtual store where customers can try on products, learn about them and just enjoy the world of Charlotte Tilbury. According to Forbes, a third of Gen Zers say they would like to see brands develop virtual stores, so it remains to be seen how this will develop.
While this article was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of understanding Gen Z, technology, and the future, we hope to spark interest in digging deeper. While the future might seem odd, hard to predict and scary, it might also have a silver lining. However, the changes are happening fast, and after ignoring the digital revolution and millennial buyers for too long, brands just must get ahead of Gen Z’s tendency to be online at all times and make sure to meet this generation’s digital expectations. And now we can only wonder what Generation Alpha will bring with them.
What is Generation Alpha?
While some Gen Alphas (born in the early 2010s) can barely walk or talk, it’s already set to be the most transformative generation yet. Alphas haven’t just grown up with technology – they’ve been completely immersed in it since birth. Early in their formative years, these children are comfortable speaking to voice assistants and swiping on smartphones. For them, technologies are not the tools to help achieve tasks but rather deeply integrated parts of everyday life.
Jahkini Bisselink, Keynote & Gen Z Expert
Interviewing some of the Gen Z members