Gen Z’s: controlling the fate of the digital economy.

My daughter started high school a couple of years ago.  From a young girl who wore ballet outfits and loved the colour pink, she was suddenly an overly opinionated teenager who wore a lot of black and could text faster than she could talk.  Dissatisfied with the sluggish performance of an old iPhone 3 that she inherited from me when I upgraded to a 4S, she politely but firmly demanded I buy her the latest iPhone, which was an iPhone 5 at the time. My daughter’s argument went something like this.  Generic smartphones are first of all not smart, they are just phones.  Secondly, they have limited functionality that prevents use of emoticons that are critical to any communication exchange via text or on any social media platform.  In addition, the quality of the camera is critical for Instagram. Like other teenagers in this digital age, my daughter represents the next phase of consumerism. In less than three years she will be working part-time, going to uni and have her own purchasing power (that is obviously mum’s plan). Even though she does not have purchasing power now, she is nevertheless a strong influencer. There are over 4.6 million Gen Z’s in Australia, the oldest of whom may have already entered the workforce. What my daughter buys now – let me rephrase that – what I buy for her now, will shape her opinions that will be carried forward into her adult and professional life. So her focus on tools that enable her to take meaningful pictures to post on Instagram, edit these pictures to make them appealing and tell a story with a mix of words and emoticons, is not something to be taken lightly for forward thinking businesses. Gen Z’s are the most consistently connected visually engaged influencers that know no bounds. For this generation, technology is not a gift but woven into the fabric of their very existence. For this generation access to Wi-Fi and a mobile device gives them omniscience and omnipresence via multitude of social media platforms and they don’t believe in sugar coating the opinions they share on social media either. An important characteristic of Gen Z’s is that visual stimulation is critical for their engagement. A survey by Wikia titled ‘Gen Z: the limitless generation’ shows that nine out of ten or 93 per cent Gen Z’s visit YouTube at least once a week and 54 per cent visit YouTube several times per day. In Australia, Gen Z’s conduct 4.7 billion searches per day on Google and 4 billion on YouTube, making YouTube the second largest search platform.  Another survey from Pew Research has revealed that in 2014 Instagram was more popular than Twitter and 53 per cent of people using Instagram were aged between 18-29 sharing in excess of 70 million photos each day. This is precisely why as we enter the age of the consumer, more than ever before, now is the time to understand what our newest customers really want and what language they understand. Businesses need to transform the customer experience by speaking a universal language that has a cross-border and cross-generational appeal. This is the time to recognise the impact of Gen Z’s digital behaviour by building visually engaging messages that evoke an emotional connection with brand names. I am not saying you need to communicate with this generation in emoticons and acronyms, like my daughter communicates with me on text messages, but this is not a generation of many words. In order to survive, businesses need to get on the visual appeal bandwagon fast to deliver an outstanding user experience. After all, this is a generation that controls the fate of the digital economy.

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