You think Millennials are ahead of the curve? How about the generation whose first toy was an iPad?
Generation Z is quietly plotting world takeover, and nobody even realizes it yet. This is the generation for which Snapchat marketing is second nature--a concept big brand executives are struggling to comprehend themselves. This is a generation that understood how to search for something online before they even knew the capitals of all 50 states. This is a generation that could type before they could write in cursive. (Does anyone even write in cursive anymore?)
The reason the conversation is still so focused on Millennials and not on Generation Z is twofold: First, Millennials are slightly farther along in terms of business. There are only so many 14-year-olds who have the people skills to execute on their ideas in a formal business sense. But second, Generation Z is more quiet about it. Millennials (and I'll be the first to admit this) grew up along with the internet. We saw life pre-internet explosion, and are now coming of age within the internet's maturity. So when something new happens or a big shift occurs, we are very loud about it. Because we still remember how far we've come, and what things were like before the internet's true leap into everyday life.
Generation Z, on the other hand, doesn't know. They were born after the glory days of logging online through AOL broadband, the blaring "BOM-CHI-BOM-CHI" sound from your computer blasting throughout your house. They didn't have to type 87 different text messages into a Razr Motorola phone. They didn't not have Wi-Fi in a restaurant while waiting 30 minutes for a table. Life was different pre-internet, and they were born after the fact.
That said, Generation Z has skill sets that many of us don't even realize the value of yet.
1. Online Personal Branding
Let's just take a look at this trend over the past 10 years. Did you know the other day I walked by a beauty parlor that advertised makeup and "social media headshots" as one of its primary services?
Regardless of how much we all want to think that Facebook is just "us being us," it's not. We post the pictures we want to post, because we want to be seen in a certain way. We subconsciously construct our own image of self online.
Every generation from here on out is going to get better and better at this. They inherently understand the value of being seen in a specific light--relative to their friends, their passions, their career choice, etc.
2. Social Media Marketing
If you thought Snapchat and Pokémon Go marketing was confusing before, you have no idea what's coming around the bend.
14-year-olds on Musical.ly are launching their own clothing lines. They are appearing on massive YouTube shows and podcasts. They are developing their own products. They are branding themselves and turning their passion into a full-time gig--before they're even out of high school.
But that's not what's impressive. What's impressive is that when you talk to these young people doing it, they explain it as if it was "the next logical step." A million followers? Of course, launch a clothing line. Of course, sell their own products. Of course, turn themselves into a meme and go viral.
There are Fortune 500 companies that can't figure out how to do this, and at the exact same time, there are teenagers all over the world doing this every day as if it's second nature.
3. Mobile Application UX
A few months ago, my mom wanted to know what Snapchat was. I had her download it, and, out of curiosity as to how she would go about learning the platform, I asked her to start using it (while I watched over her shoulder).
She stared at the camera screen for a strong three minutes with no idea what to do. She just kept pressing the middle of the screen hoping for something to happen--not realizing you need to swipe from different ends to move into new sections of the app.
Look at the UX trends that are popping up right now. We are slowly ditching the conventional "click here" calls to action--replacing them with more intuitive motions. Swipes and finger strokes are what unlock new sections within the app, and it takes a certain awareness of how that happens to use these apps effectively.
It's not just the apps and their interfaces that are rapidly changing. It's the way we as consumers interact with our technology, and learn how to go about using new technology.
For young people, this always comes faster and easier. And as these products become more and more intuitive, the learning curve for older generations is going to become more and more steep.
As a Millennial, I have long felt like I was, and would always be, ahead of the curve.
But looking at what the next generation is up to, and the ease with which they use the same technology, even I will admit a whole new generation is coming right around the corner.