Just when you thought you’d got to grips with the demands of Generation Y, there are some new kids in town. Yes, Generation Z has already arrived, those born between the mid 1990s and 2010. And small businesses should learn what makes this group tick, since the oldest are already among companies’ new recruits, and all are set to become the next wave of customers. By 2020, it is estimated Gen Z will make up more than a third of the world’s workforce, and will be the largest group of consumers worldwide.
Understanding Generation Z
This new cohort of youngsters has never known a world without the internet, social media, and mobile technology. Another term being used for this group is ‘digital natives’, and tech flows through their veins. Most of this generation believe that they’re more worldly-wise than previous age groups, according to a new study by Lucozade Energy, and seven out of ten think that social media is the reason.
Certainly, for businesses that want to engage with Gen Z – both as potential employees and customers – getting your technology use and social media message right is essential. This is the most technologically literate generation ever, and they will expect a lot from the companies with which they engage. On the simplest of levels, businesses that have no online presence will simply not exist for this age group – and, don’t forget, a stunning one in three SMEs in the UK still doesn’t have a website, according to the Go ON digital skills campaign.
- Absolutely all of Generation Z is connected to the internet for at least one hour a day, according to data from web hosting service Wikia.
- One in four connects to check emails and messages within five minutes of waking up.
- Three-quarters of this age group is online within the first hour of the day.
- Just 43 per cent say they value the time when they’re unplugged from the web.
In other words, being online is everything to this generation – it’s where they socialise, where they shop, and where they get information. And, if you want to be relevant to them, your business needs to be there, too.
Marketing to post-millennials
As customers, this wired-up existence means that young consumers will want to browse a company’s goods and services on the move, most probably using their tablet or smartphone, and are likely to want to make purchases and bookings virtually, too. Physical environment isn’t as important to them as how they engage online. As a result, brands with a strong youth focus are already driving much of their marketing through social media channels. This is an inexpensive approach that small firms can easily follow, as we’ve discussed here before. Fundamentally, Gen Z trusts social media recommendations and peer group endorsement more than traditional advertising efforts. So, SMEs wanting to win over younger customers should think about imaginative ways to attract and interact with followers via social media platforms, getting them to spread the word about a business themselves.
Again, technology is at the heart of this. Firms that think and behave like young consumers – giving instant access to their goods and services online, allowing customers to interact with the company and other social media users, making virtual payment easy, even facilitating cashless payments within their physical stores – could have the edge on more traditional businesses when trying to win the Gen Z pound.
Hiring Generation Z
Many business owners’ first contact with this new generation will be the school leavers they’re hiring into their organisation now. On the positive side, it would seem Generation Z may be more realistic than the age group preceding it, according to a global study by consulting firm Millennial Branding and HR group Randstad. Gen Z appears to have learned from its immediate elders’ struggle to find work during the economic downturn. The new generation is strongly career-minded, wants work experience at a young age, and is less promiscuous in its attitudes towards swapping jobs. Generation Y is also more motivated by money, whereas the younger group finds opportunities for advancement to be a greater spur in work terms. But, like Gen Y, the Z cohort does value flexibility.
These young workers will have high expectations of a business’s IT infrastructure. But, rather than seeing Generation Z’s second-nature grasp of technology as a threat and a hassle, sensible business owners will regard it as an opportunity, particularly older people who currently struggle with digital developments. These young people often understand the architecture of systems and software, as well as finding them logical and intuitive to use. Harnessing this talent to revamp your enterprise could be a great bonus. Three out of four of Generation Z likes to work with technology to accomplish their goals, so use this knowledge and enthusiasm to introduce the latest 21st century practices into your business. They’re likely to need training and guidance on work ethic, and professional responsibilities, as well as having their general expectations managed. But, young recruits could inject your small company with the digital know-how it almost certainly needs.
A new breed of business owners
Another reason why Generation Z will be increasingly hard to ignore is because they are well on their way to becoming the business owners of tomorrow. This group is one of the most entrepreneurial ever, if attitudinal studies are to be believed.
- About 17 per cent of Gen Z says that they want to set up their own enterprise, according to the Randstad study.
- Just 11 per cent of Generation Y has similar ambitions.
Much of this entrepreneurial zeal appears to come from the access that new technology gives young people to a wealth of data, as well as guidance from experts and mentors online. Plus, they’ve had the advantage of the Government’s focus on enterprise education in schools. Combine all of this with the fearlessness of youth, and that’s a powerful start-up recipe. One only has to look at the extraordinary success of characters such as Nick D’Aloisio, the 18-year-old entrepreneur who sold his app, Summly, to Yahoo for a reported $30 million last year, to see how early some of these young adults are realising their business ambitions.
In summary, dismiss this new generation at your peril. Chances are they have a better understanding of your business’s technology than you. They will certainly be your customers before long. They could even have ambitions to set up a competitor to give your company a run for its money. They may be a bit of a handful, but having this age group on board is probably the best way for your firm to keep up with digital developments, and what young consumers want. So, the choice is simple: embrace Generation Z, or risk becoming part of the Z list.
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