Generation Z (Gen-Z) is known mostly as the generation to follow Millennials and is currently classified as the demographic born after 1996. Over the past decades, Millennials have taken much of the limelight and have been a primary focus of sales and marketing teams. Times are changing. Gen-Z is finally taking the spotlight from its more well-known predecessors. It's making big waves in the news this month. According to research from Bloomberg, Gen-Z will surpass Millennials in 2019 as the most populous generation, comprising roughly 32 percent of the population.
For years, Millennials have acted as the trendsetting generation. Brands have yearned for their eyes and ears. But something rather mysterious happened--time. Yes, Millennials, like every other generation, aged. For the past four years, Millennials have been classified as the demographic aged 18-34. Those adhering to this classification schema are typically charlatans lacking a strong background in statistics. Newsflash: Millennials are a generation, not a demographic.
As for Gen-Z, not only is it mounting in numbers, but it's also already shifting trends on communication and consumption. From the rise of ephemeral platforms to the fall of cookie-cutter social media, Gen-Z is making its mark on businesses.
For trend seekers looking to attract this lucrative generation and analyze these new trend setters, here are three things to keep in mind:
Preferring Conversation Over Mass Communication
When it comes to social media, Gen-Z has a clear advantage over past generations. This generation has watched Millennials' social-media failures and has taken close note. It is paving different paths for social connections, expression, and consumption.
Instead of focusing on increasing their "friend" count, members of Gen-Z are focused more on quality of friends and developing personal connections. Islands, a new messaging app that is making waves on college campuses, connects communities of individuals together, allowing for in-depth conversations. Communities include those looking for the latest social scene to meetups among individuals coping with a specific tragedy. Gen-Z will seek better ways to connect and explore its identity in these niche communities.
Relocating News Media
Remember when the news lived on TV? This is quickly coming a distant memory for many. For Gen-Z, next-generation news media will have a new home. News outlets have recognized that this generation lives on social media and is thirsty for something more than over Photoshopped selfies. Live interactive video is still in its infancy on social media but is already growing at unprecedented rates.
Some of the business community's senior players, such as Goldman Sachs, the New York Stock Exchange, and a host of VC firms recently invested another $22 million in online news media platform Cheddar in hopes of making this transformation a reality. Cheddar has dramatically increased its distribution in the past year with its live linear broadcasts and on-demand programming streaming via Facebook, Snapchat, Spotify, Sling, Comcast X1, Amazon, Twitter, Twitch, and a host of other non-traditional platforms. To take an even greater stake in this Gen-Z market, Cheddar funneled some of its new capital to purchase Viacom's MTV Networks on Campus distribution platform. Cheddar is creating a new channel, CheddarU, that is slated to stream at college campuses all across the U.S.
Growing up with an entirely new set of tools at its disposal, Gen-Z is 55 percent more likely to have a desire to start a business, as compared to its Millennial counterparts. Gen-Z is growing up in an era where building an e-commerce storefront on Etsy or building a store via Shopify requires little skill and minimal financial backing.
The barriers to entrepreneurship are constantly being lowered, affording Gen-Zers more time to devote to being creative and taking advantage of their youthful optimism. The likelihood of this generation following the paved path Millennials have left for them is low. Gen-Z will forge new ways of building businesses. It will also be confronted with failures and the bleak reality that not every great idea is a billion-dollar business (yes, we now talk in billions).
As Gen-Z continues to grab media attention and forecast new trends, savvy brands should pay close attention to stay ahead of the curve. Their online communication and consumptions habits will predicate the future. As for Millennials, with their over $1 trillion in purchasing power, media dollars will remain in lockstep with this generation no matter its age.