New Kids on the Block

Racepoint Global

Written by: Dory Butcher – Account Coordinator Racepoint Global Boston

For the past few years, Millennials have been the focus of the media and market research due to their early adoption of many modern technologies as well as experiencing the Great Recession during their adolescence. Because of this, this generation has developed unique behaviors, motivations, and opinions compared to their predecessors.

Some of these distinct traits that are persistent throughout Millennials are their preference for online shopping, multi-screen/multi-tasking capabilities, their passion for brands who practice social responsibility; the list goes on and on. Millennials have since been the butt of many jokes, being identified as different from previous generations, such as in Mashable’s article “70 Things Millennials Have Killed.” With that being said, Millennials may soon get a break from the spotlight because the latest generation to emerge has thoughts and habits of their own.

Enter – Generation Z, ‘Gen Z,’ or the ‘iGeneration,’ who were born between 1995 and 2010, meaning the oldest members are graduating college and entering the workforce, and the youngest are in elementary school. As Millennials were shaped by significant cultural events and developments, Gen Z has witnessed and endured some significant phenomena as well.

First and foremost, Gen Z is the first generation to only know a world with mobile technology. They expect more from technology because they do not remember a world without constant technological innovations in all aspects of life. Many critics have speculated that being born into a world of instant gratification and shortening attention spans has shaped Gen Z’s habits for better and for worse.

In understanding Gen Z’s influence on society as they age and join the workforce, it is important to identify some key differences between Millennials and Gen Zers. Behaviors that are definitely wracking the brains of marketers are their purchasing habits. Business Insider identified in a survey that 81 percent of Gen Z said they prefer in-store shopping, while the majority of Millennials say they like to split their shopping between online and in-store. This may come as a shock considering countless industries have shifted from brick and mortar to e-commerce. This is also surprising for a generation whose entire lives have been intertwined with the internet and technology; however, there are a few explanations for why Gen Z shifts away from online shopping.

First, research has found that Gen Z sees shopping as an event, whether it is a social event or simply something to do to get away from their hectic schedules. This motivation for in-store shopping actually makes sense for Gen Z and even Millennials to an extent. These generations are infamous for spending their money on experiences rather than things, so why not turn a trip to the mall to ‘spend money on things’ into an experience?  Second, brands are incorporating digital experiences into their brick and mortar presences, allowing shoppers to get the best of both worlds.

In addition to their purchase behaviors, Gen Z has formed other unique behaviors compared to their millennial predecessors- the list could go on but we will just start with a few. One difference that has made a large impact is Gen Z’s lack of interest in attaining a college education. Their comfortability with the internet and grasp on the media has paved the way for more independence and self-education. Seeing Millennials’ struggle to find a job post-graduation has led to the feeling that the risk of debt is not equal to the reward of a degree. In fact, Forbes found that 75 percent of Gen Zers believe there are other ways of getting a good education besides going to college.

Another difference that may not come as an earth-shattering shock is the painstaking curation of their social accounts. This characteristic is opposite Millennials who have had a tendency to over-share every detail of their life. Gen Z may have a better grip on the lasting and permanent effect that shared content can have on these public platforms.

Finally, although Gen Z is still a young and developing generation, they are more financially conscious than most generations. One key aspect of this characteristic is their distrust of mobile finance apps such as Apple Pay. A large factor that contributes to this wariness is the idea of accidental charges or losing one’s phone. They believe that if something is too easy, it can’t be trusted.

Although Millennials and Gen Zers differ in many ways, there are similarities that have transcended both generations. In many cases, the behaviors exhibited by Millennials are amplified by Gen Zers. For example, when it comes to corporate social responsibility, both generations have strong feelings about companies taking a stance on current pressing issues. Forbes identified that 94 percent of Gen Z believes companies ought to address social and environmental issues, compared to 87 percent of Millennials.”

Additionally, Salesforce noted that millennials prefer brands that champion transparency and share their values. But Gen Z is even more obsessed with finding brands that feel authentic. Gen Z has been able to take beliefs that were established by Millennials and intensify them to align with their own values.

Gen Z is still at a young age where assumptions about their future behaviors may not be as set in stone as some may think. Will they grow to be Millennials 2.0 or will they continue to forge their own sets of values and shift society indefinitely?