Natural Born Creators: What Innovators need to know about Gen Z
Cultural observers and marketers have started to shift their attention away from Millenials to the generation that is coming after them: so-called Gen Z. Roughly defined as those born between 1995 – 2010, this influential group has high spending potential and a radically different view of the world and their place in it.
This is a generation that has grown up in times of economic and global uncertainty. As a result, they feel less entitled and tend to take a pragmatic view that you have to create and take opportunities for yourself.
So while marketers try to define how to reach this new audience, what should innovators know about Gen Z?
They have instinctive understanding of technology and expect immediate and continuous connectivity
These are the first real Digital Natives, many of whom can’t remember a time before smartphones and social media. Gen Z can access, curate and absorb relevant knowledge in seconds. They go direct for information from videos and blogs and want instant gratification – a recent US study showed that the average attention span in 2015 is only 8.25s, while 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. It’s worth noting, though, that having witnessed the fallout from watching Millenials oversharing on social media sites, Gen Z is also more privacy aware and many gravitate toward privacy-safe sharing platforms such as Snapchat or Whisper.
So What for Innovation? Technology should be seamlessly incorporated into products and enhanced by intuitive online content. Gen Z are the digital natives who have multiple devices on the go at the same time. With their instinctive technical skills and short attention span, they will not tolerate cumbersome products or packs, or slow, clumsy tech that has been shoe-horned into a product experience. They will expect online content to augment the experience – and it must be instantly relevant and engaging.
They are open-minded, serious about saving the planet and mindful of the future
Gen Z tends to embrace a multiplicity of identities and be comfortable with all forms of diversity. They also feel a genuine sense of responsibility to undo the damage done in the past and want to apply technology to serious issues facing the world.
So What for Innovation? Products should have thoughtful tech-enabled design that minimises their impact on the planet. Designs should be high-quality, smart and stripped back, using only what’s needed in terms of materials and energy. Upcycled elements and sustainable materials will give the product stronger environmental credentials.
They are driven by experience and emotional achievements rather than economic achievement
This generation is looking for engaging and unique experiences and are drawn to aesthetically pleasing videos and content. Having grown up in harder economic times that Millenials, they are thriftier and don’t automatically aspire to ownership of expensive brands if there is no unique experience associated with it.
So What for Innovation? The key is Experiences ….not just products. With Gen Z’s focus shifting away from ownership of things and more towards unique experiences, they will desire products that to make them feel more, remember more and stimulate multiple senses.
They personalise and customise EVERYTHING
If there is one thing that Gen Z-ers do not want to be, it’s mainstream. Both the rise in Maker culture and their fluency with technology means that it is normal and natural for them to edit, augment and enhance products and experiences with any tools at their disposal.
So What for Innovation? Products must be intuitive for the impatient Gen Z-ers, but should allow room for creative self-expression and personalisation. Put simply, products need to just work…first time and every time, with no waiting around. While reliability must be at the core, products should be able to be hacked, mashed-up, augmented, played with, and personalised into a unique experience – which can be documented and shared online (of course).
How can you put this into practice? Innovate WITH them, not FOR them….
Companies need to embrace co-creation and digital research tools more than ever before. Gen Z is ready, willing and able to share their tech-savvy creativity. Serious innovation will involve engaging frequently with them, getting their contributions and speaking in their language and through their forums. Short, fun interactions through mobile, or online video to get feedback and customisation ideas on prototypes will be critical to develop ideas that truly excite this new generation of consumers.