For the last decade Millennial has been the word on every marketer's tongue. The most studied generation in history, they have been prodded and dissected, widely discussed and harangued for navel gazing tendencies and pursuit of dreams.
But not anymore! The hot seat is ready and waiting for Gen Z, the group born 1995 to present, which currently outnumbers Millennials by about 1 million in the United States. Hardly a carbon copy of what came before, in many ways Gen-Zers are the opposites or extreme versions of Millennials. They grew up during Occupy Wall Street, the Recession, and have had tech at their fingertips since birth.
Here are some of the current most important #facts about the Gen Z.
THEY ARE FRUGAL
Raised during the Recession by parents who felt the pressure of a weak economy, Gen Z is on top of where and how they are spending money.
Currently they are spending less than Millennials and are less concerned with buying labels.
BUT THEY LIKE GOOD VALUE
They may not be spending as much, but they are spending smart. The average Gen-Zer gets a weekly allowance of about $16, so they have some buying power.
It's also why brands like Spirit Airlines are preparing for Gen Z to become the dominant group of travelers by rebranding itself as an ultra-low-cost carrier. The airline is offering bargain basement fares with zero frills. Gen Z is willing to accept less, but they want to know exactly what they are getting.
Especially if it means flying from NY to SF for less than 200 bucks.
THEY DON'T TRUST BRANDS
Gen Z has grown up in an age where all information is available. Blogs that take apart brands and online reviews that don't skimp of the dirty details of products.
What they've seen, from the latest Wells Fargo scandal to the VW emissions issue is that big brands are not to be trusted and brands will have to work hard to earn Gen Z's affection and loyalty.
THEY DO THEIR OWN RESEARCH
No information is secret. If a brand thinks they can pull the wool over Gen Z, they should think again. This is the generation that grew up with technology. They know how to price compare, they know how to sniff out a deal, a rat, or a scam, and they are more comfortable in front of a computer than any previous generation.
That means if you're offering "the lowest fare" you better be able to back it up or Gen Z will take their business elsewhere.
THEY DO TRUST PEOPLE
While they are wary of brands, they are less wary of individuals. Gen-Zers are more likely to convert when they see one of their favorite social media influencers partnering with a brand.
Steven Lammertink, the founder and CEO of the Cirqle, told Fast Company, "Generation Z is more willing to hear a brand's story when it is part of a narrative their peer is already telling."
Loud, in-your-face marketing is a thing of the past too. They like more subtle messaging. It's why brands are banking on major social media influencer deals.
Bloggers like Aimee Song who landed an unprecedented paycheck for being the face of Laura Mercier.
AUTHENTICITY IS KEY
Even though they understand that these are paid opportunities, they believe that social media influencers are making conscious decisions about who they partner with.
Influencers like Ingrid Nilsen who has said that "You have to know where you stand and what you feel comfortable with. Sometimes what I’m comfortable with is being uncomfortable," she says, "especially if it means that I’m moving in the direction of emotional bravery."
It's sentiments like this that make Gen Zers trust people over brands.
THEY DON'T WANT TO BE WALKING ADVERTISEMENTS
Logo mania is over, for now.
It's why fashion brands like American Eagle Outfitters have seen sales and profits rise, where other major retailers are struggling. Gone are the eagle logos and they are promoting their new look on street-wear Instagram's like hypebeast.
That's not to say it doesn't come with pushback. Commenters were quick to point out that the pic was paid for. (See: they do they own research.)
SELFIES ASIDE, THEY AREN'T NAVEL GAZERS
They've heard the stats, the know the realities. 2015's graduating class was the most indebted in history and 2016's is primed to follow in its path. For Gen Z, college is less a time about self discovery and more the time to really hone in on their future. They don't have time to pussy foot around.
"For Gen Z, college is less a time about self discovery and more the time to really hone in on their future."
That means, internships during college and working to make sure they land jobs after college. If Millennials were the generation to take a semester off, Gen-Zers might be the one to graduate a semester early.
They are highly competitive and know that the job market is still rough. They also have major concerns about higher education. Sixty-six percent of Gen-Zers say their number one concern is drowning in college debt, and 75% say there are ways of getting a good education besides going to college.
THEY AREN'T LURED BY "NEW" TECH
That line around the block for the new iPhone 7? Maybe don't except Gen Zers to be in it. For Gen Z, tech is more of a tool and less of an obsession. They aren't quite of the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" squad, but they also don't JUMP on a new, very expensive new tech toy simply because it's new. They grew up with this stuff and aren't WOW'd by tech that works pretty much like old tech.
They're more savvy and they shop smarter.
YOU CAN'T JUST MAKE STUFF, YOU HAVE TO STAND FOR SOMETHING
They don't need brands to build communities, they can do that themselves. And they don't need brands to create their identify, they've got that on lock. But they do want brands that align with their modern values and ethics.
What research has shown is that Gen Z is the least judgmental and most open-minded of all generations. They were born into Obama's Presidency. Gay marriage will be the norm over their lifetime and they've seen more women in power than any previous generation. They are less concerned with putting people in boxes and diversity matters.
They want the freedom to be themselves and will support brands that get that.
What are some ways you're incorporating Gen Z into your business plans? Share in the comments below!
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