The always-connected, social-savvy, app-happy, smartphone-dependent, experienced-millennial workforce is here today, but post-millennials, or Generation Z, is the next demographic cohort. With birth years starting in the early 2000s, key generation z traits include being born with the Internet, technology, and social media in their hands. How will post-millennials use online communities to work, communicate, shop, and innovate? How far will this generation take technology?
Mike Walsh is the author of the award-winning book, Futuretainment: Yesterday the World Changed, Now It's Your Turn and the CEO of Tomorrow, an innovation consultancy. Walsh has been looking at Generation Z characteristics for a while. His focus is the post-millennial generation, how they will use technology to work, shop and communicate — and what that will mean for companies. His early predictions in 2010 about gen z characteristics continue to be relevant. Watch Mike Walsh on the recent SalesforceLIVE webcast replay for a complete look at this next generation. For 10 major Generation Z traits, read on.
1. Technology comes naturally
“The things we have had to learn – communications, downloading content, online transactions, research, networking – is entirely natural to them...They were born into it,” shared Walsh in an EY.com interview. “The first thing parents now do when children cry is give them a smartphone as a pacifier.”
2. It’s about radical transparency
Today’s consumer — including Generation Z — is in total control. Because of this, Walsh said, “Not only is there no room for a lack of authenticity in the stories that brands tell about themselves, they may not even be able to influence the stories being told at all. But equally, consumers are also more transparent and exposed to brands today as well. The real point of Big Data is not increasing the surveillance of consumers by marketers, but the beginnings of a true, two-way dialogue between brands and consumers that turns insights about behavior and action, into preference and personalization.”
3. They’re challenging tradition
Generational change, brought about by these emerging Generation Z traits, in your workplace is also inevitable. Your future co-workers and employees will both test the limits of your management models as well as challenge your traditional beliefs about your company culture. “This is an entirely new way of thinking about communications, content, and commerce,” said Walsh.
4. They want to get personal
“Marketing will be one of the most interesting, but also one of the toughest jobs in the 21st century. The future will be shaped by the colliding forces of adtech (algorithms and digital technologies that bring efficiency to advertising), and martech (brand-based platforms that support customer data collection and engagement),” advised Walsh. “The opportunity for marketers is to move beyond traditional forms of media to leverage emotional, contextual, and highly personal moments in a consumer’s daily life – where their messages will be relevant, reinforcing, and directly actionable.”
5. They’re not afraid to unfollow
At Vodafone Digital Transformation Summit in 2015, Walsh said this about Generation Z characteristics: “They will expect us to offer them better, faster, richer, and more personalized experiences, and ‘unfollow us’ the moment that we don’t.”
6. They’re future freelancers
In an EY.com interview, Walsh spoke of the gig economy. “One of the most profound changes for organizations is that most people will not be working for any particular company full time. In the United States last year, some 15.5 million people declared themselves freelance. By 2020, some 40% of the U.S. workforce is expected to be freelancers.” This changes the way organizations communicate with their hires, as well as the reliance on external resources.
7. The pressure for change is on
The pressure for change will only accelerate, as the demand created by Generation Z traits will drive the need for continuous disruption and reinvention. For tomorrow’s CIO, the challenge is clear: can they balance emerging technologies and the digital transformation agenda with everyday challenges of operational stability and security? For companies in the B2B space like CloudCraze, not only will they have to keep empowering their customers to sell online anywhere, anytime, on any device, but also infuse every step of the customer's journey with intelligence.
8. Customization is key
“This age group is of particular interest because they were born in 2007 — the same year the iPhone was introduced. They are the first generation to be connected from birth, so they are growing up with a much different outlook on shopping, cooking, and eating than other generations. They will expect products that are customized, readily available and—as already apparently on Instagram—look good enough to be photographed and shared on social media,” said Walsh.
9. They expect shareability
Food, for example, must not only be good enough to eat, it must be good enough to be Instagrammed. “It’s all going to be very connected to their experience on that smartphone,” Walsh said. “Look at the way the next generation forms their views on food today. Look at Instagram: there is some extent to which the next generation doesn’t want to eat a meal unless they are going to take a picture of it.”
10. They’re motivated by change
“It’s our anthropology, not our technology, that is driving the fundamental transformations we are seeing in our business and industries,” said Walsh. “Interesting as it is when things change, the real magic happens when people do. In other words, they’re thinking about how to change the world. The next generation...is more motivated by mission than money.”
Watch Mike Walsh talk about Generation Z traits on the recent Salesforce LIVE LeadingEdge webcast replay.