What can marketers expect from the arrival of Generation Z?

The marketing industry at large has obsessed over the Millennials enigma and the significant behavioural changes the generational demographic has displayed versus those before it. The first real out and out internet generation (born 1985-2000) barely remembers dial up broadband and has lived in an age where innovative technology including smartphones and tablets is widely available and affordable.

It’s no surprise that this web raised generation is quick to adapt to new technology and new platforms with ease and that social media dominates the vast majority of their lives. The Millennials clocked up an average 2.5 hours of combined social media usage per day in 2017. It’s no surprise then that with all this exposure to the lives of others including celebrity and the rise of the ‘digital ambassador’, that this generation is also widely classed as the most overall narcissistic to date.

Looks, success and lifestyle are flaunted and sought after more intensely and publicly than the more reserved generations before them. Add to this the fact that the Generation X parents that proceeded these are also widely considered to be less strict and over supportive. Millennials may be self-centred by nature and less responsible than their parents and grandparents, but they are also intelligent and able to access required information easily while navigating new technology and interfaces seamlessly.

So, what did this mean for us marketers? We’ve moved to a mobile first approach as Millennials tipped web browsing figures in favour of mobile devices from desktop. They also embraced online shopping and mobile financial transactions and purchasing. As marketers, we have flocked to social media as the greatest overall influencer channel with the greatest capacity for brand exposure and discovery. To deal with this cluttered space we have learned to target niche consumer groups for more effective campaigns. These have required us to be more in touch with our audience and who they are than ever before. And we have learned that influence cannot always be direct and that utilising third party referrals and brand advocacy is key.

So, we adapted to suit the rise of the Millennials. What do we need to consider with the now dawning arrival of Generation Z? Generation Z is essentially those born post 2000. This means that while Millennials witnessed rapid change and improvements in tech during their youth, Generation Z have all the progress we have witnessed at their fingertips, refined and entirely taken for granted. Their parents are essentially the start of the digital narcissist society and rabid social media over users, so the chances are most Generation Z demographics will never be able to escape the step-by- step, year-by-year images of their childhood which now belong to Facebook. Social media is second nature and not to have a Facebook and Instagram account is as good as not existing at all. Life changing tech is affordable for everyone and there is no hesitancy in connecting your life and personal data to the web for some kind of experiential gain.

While this may all sound a little scary, from a marketing perspective my view is that we really don’t need to panic at all. Generation Z does not differ greatly from our current primary demographic. In a way, the Millennials were the warm up act.

What we’re due to see from Generation Z in a behavioural sense is essentially an exaggerated Millennial. Expect even greater social media usage which will lead to marketers battling it out for the same audience. Mobile first will become even more essential although I’d argue you are a long way behind if you’re not employing this philosophy already. Online spending will continue to rise, closing the gap in the consumer journey between discovery, research and purchase.

And all consumers will expect a personalised service and interaction with any and every brand they use on a regular basis.

Here’s some stats and small info bites about Gen Z:

  1. 1

    Social media

    While social media overall is a synonymous with the Gen Z demographic, they are branching out to more privacy conscious platforms like Snapchat, Whisper & KIK over Facebook

  2. 2


    By 2020, Generation Z will account for almost 40% of modern market online consumers

  3. 3


    Their thinking is dominated by imagery. Emoji’s, GIF’s and streaming video. Rich media is a must to catch their attention

  4. 4


    The average Gen Z will spend over 9 hours per day directly interfacing with screen-based technology

  5. 5


    It has been heavily suggested that unless hooked, the average Gen Z has an attention span of just eight seconds before they’ll disengage

Marketing strategies will look similar to what they do now but with the requirement for brands to really have their audience profiles fleshed out to allow for the most tactical targeting and economic spending possible. Search and social media will continue to battle for which channel demands the greater budget. Flawless digital communications will be essential as will any transition between digital and physical brand experiences. To maintain visibility and economy, content marketing will continue to soar in popularity and be one of the most cost-effective pillars of your strategy across owned assets, third party outreach and of course social media discovery. Though there will be a shift away from purely the written and spoken word and a greater need for rich highly visual media in order to grab attention and convey your message quickly and effectively.

So, fear not fellow marketers, we’re not in for another round of substance change, instead we’re going to need to look at the trends we’ve seem emerge in the last 5-10 years and continue to exaggerate them. Continue to be as present as possible to your target audience and look for new ways to create rich, personal and engaging digital experiences for them.

Chris Woods – Dakota Digital
Director & Head of Digital


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