Next Generation: Make way for Gen Zers

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Move over Millennials. Generation Z is getting a lot of attention these days. Marketers are trying to figure out how to harness their future buying power.

Today’s teens are the first true digital natives. Looking at how they integrate technology into their lives can tell us a lot about the future. The ways they live and think will shape it.

Who is Generation Z?

Generation Z (loosely defined as anyone under 20) is the post-millennial generation who grew up in a world with online videos, smart phones and social media as an accepted part of life. They probably learned how to swipe on a screen before many other childhood milestones and laptops were seamlessly integrated into their classrooms in elementary school.

They were raised in a post-9/11 world and during a severe economic recession. Their childhoods were shaped by technology, the war on terror and changing social norms in regards to gender and diversity.

They are extreme multi-taskers, often using up to 5 screens, and they’re constantly connected to their peers through social media and texting.

Generation Z has developed a relationship with technology that other generations haven’t experienced. As blogger Ryan Jenkins notes, “Generation Zers were collaborating via Google Docs when Millennials were learning cursive.”

According to the Pew Research Center, Generation Z logs a lot of screen time:

  • Almost half spend more than 10 hours a day online
  • Before age 20 they will spend 30,000 hours gaming
  • 50 percent send 50+ text messages/day
  • 78 percent of teens now have a cell phone, and 47 percent of those own smartphones
  • 54 percent of Generation Zers visit YouTube multiple times a day

How technology is shaping them

One big impact we’ve already seen is just how different Gen Zers are in the classroom. They grew up with constant access to information, which makes research and learning easier and more accessible. But, according to the organization Getting Smart, today’s teens are wired for the fast delivery of content, and educators are struggling to keep them engaged, especially in light of a recent study from Microsoft Corporation which found that the average attention span is only 8 seconds. Many teachers are starting to utilize gaming type formats in their curriculum. Grades, feedback, goals and rewards are constantly updated online as a seamless part of the classroom.

Students work on group projects using Google Docs and other online platforms. They create YouTube videos and computers are part of the homework process. This type of learning is fostering more collaboration and interaction, as well as an emphasis on self-guided learning through educational games and apps.

Social Connection

Texting and social media are two mediums shaping how Gen Zers interact. With a constant stream of updates and information from their friends, they know what’s going on in their friends’ lives in real time. Texting and social sharing apps like Snapchat have replaced face-to-face interaction and phone conversations.

For many teens, texting is the most common way they communicate. The Pew Research Center found that 88 percent of teens text their friends at least occasionally, and 55 percent do so daily.

Bonnie Ellis, Ph.D., director of academic affairs for the University of Phoenix Detroit told the online publication, Global Post, that instead of talking to each other, teens are texting back and forth, even while sitting next to each other.

Identity

You’ve heard of cyber bullying, and that’s real, but having access to technology has also given teens a way to explore their identity in a positive way. Gen Zers have access to thousands of other teens who are interested in the things they are through online forums, Instagram and blogs.
They also curate their own social media outlets like a personal brand. Obsessing over selfies with friends, they make sure their social media photos and information paint a carefully crafted picture of themselves. Although for some, curating an online persona different from who they are in real life can have negative impacts.

Marketing to Gen Z

Most Gen Zers are still in high school, but with the average teen receiving an allowance of $16.90/week, that translates to $44 billion a year in total spending power. While the verdict is still out on the best ways to market to teens, we do know that most of their shopping happens online. A study by BI Intelligence found that Generation Z spends 9 percent of its income online — the highest percentage of all the generations

Because of teens’ constant interaction with social media, primarily as “mobile-only” users, brands are starting to create shorter marketing content for Snapchat and YouTube specifically targeting teens. They have also learned that Gen Z wants to engage and feel socially responsible when buying and interacting with a brand. Storytelling is one way brands are connecting with teens who are drawn toward authenticity and uniqueness. A recent ad campaign from Taco Bell called the “Breakfast Detector” is geared toward Generation Z’s desire to be different.

Future Forecast

Gen Z is shaking up the way we learn, buy, interact and market. Because they see the limitless potential of the digital age, they’re likely to be our future entrepreneurs and start-up founders. In fact, 72 percent of high school students say they want to start their own business. They are independent self-starters and they’ve never lived in a world without the Internet at their fingertips.


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About Author

Brittany

Brittany studied English at Grove City College. She loves a good short story collection and writing about how technology shapes the world around us. Also, French fries.

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