Tonderai is a typical 17-year-old who is glued to his phone most of the time. When he is not on his phone, he spends his time channel surfing on DSTV or playing computer games on his laptop. It’s his phone, however, that he does not seem to let go, though his parents are becoming completely agitated with the endless requests for airtime bundles and WiFi. Ladies and gentlemen let me introduce you to the world of Generation Z, popularly known as GenZers by some. As we remember International Youth Day, which was celebrated on August 12, we would like to discuss how this youth demographic will influence the business fraternity in the future.
Firstly, it is important to give a general overview of what we mean by generational cohorts. Dr Alexis Abramson, an expert in generational cohorts, notes that, it is essential to define cohorts because; “When you are born it affects your attitudes, perceptions and values.” Baby Boomers were born between 1946-1964 and they are 55-73 years old; Generation X, were born between 1965-1980 and they are 39-54 years. Millennials were born between 1981-1996. Our main topic of discussion Generation Z, were born between 1997-2012 and are aged 7-23 years.
Within the business fraternity, it is thus important to understand these very different consumer groupings as their spending and behaviour patterns affect company outputs. Baby Boomers were named because of an upsurge of births after World War 2. They are generally known to be committed, self-sufficient and competitive. Generation X, straddles both the digital and non-digital age so they do tend to use information technology as more of convenience. The most researched group among these demographic are the millennials who are extremely digital savvy and have a high spending power. They are described as lazy but sometimes very curious. According to Dr Abramson, the main differences among these cohorts is the way they communicate.
Our subject of today — GenZers, have been described as “digital natives”. Ambitious and extremely confident they rule the digital space. The business fraternity can do well to understand this grouping as they are billed to affect the way consumers view their products. Harry Beard, a GenZer speaking on TED Talks, postulates that most of his colleagues in this group are “trailblazers” with 70 percent already thinking of starting their own businesses because of the huge resources and business mentorship programmes that are available to them on the internet.
According to Adebayo Alonge, a Nigerian market development and business specialist, GenZers are “digital natives who live in the technology, social media and internet ecosystem.” He adds by saying that, “Since they live in this ecosystem, it cannot be said that they are distracted by it. They simply do not know any other way of life.” Research shows that 32 percent of GenZers cannot go for an hour without connectivity while 51 percent cannot go for 5 hours without being connected to an online platform.
A McKinsey survey that was conducted jointly with Box1824b in Brazil, revealed interesting facts about GenZers. The study notes that, GenZers value individual expression and avoid labels. They also believe in the efficacy of dialogue to solve conflicts, and improve the world. The study adds that “GenZers do not define themselves through one stereotype but through experimentation with different things.” To this end, they are thus called “Identity Nomads.” GenZers also value online communities and are extremely concerned with causes that make the world a better place.
Let’s just look at some GenZers who have changed the world by taking up worthy causes. At 15 years old, Greta Thunberg, a Swedish activist started a global movement on Climate Change. She has already felt Donald Trump’s venom and has spoken at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2018. Her influence on Climate Change activism has been described by the Guardian as the “Greta Effect”. To her credit she has been awarded with different environmental related accolades.
Malala Yousafzai is an activist who advocates for girl children’s education and has the title of being the youngest Nobel Peace Laureate. She was shot in the head by the Taliban as a retaliation for her activism. She runs her own fund, Malala Fund and in 2013, 2014 and 2015 some issues of Time Magazine featured her as one of the most influential people globally.
To this end Businesses should therefore change their attitude towards this demographic as they are very likely to impact on market forces in future. According to the Business Insider; “We cannot continue to ignore GenZers who will be accounting for 40 percent of the population and are currently spending an average of US$140 billion.” The publication goes on to note that GenZers are “driving retailers into a frenzy”.
According to the Mckinsey Survey sighted above “GenZers analyse not only what they buy but also the very act of consuming.” To this end consumption patterns among GenZers are quite different from other groupings. To them what is important is to have ‘access” to a product. In their case they do not necessarily have to own it. Subscriptions or hiring are therefore very important means of overtly owning something. In their minds, a GenZer is already looking out for the next big thing. They rather prefer to upgrade rather than buy new products and services.
Despite being influencers in their right, GenZers also influence each other in their buying patterns. According to Rutendo Nyoni, an undergraduate at Rhodes University” many of us are into trends and we have this tendency of following what others do and there is little variation”. Once a company manages to capture this demographic with its products, you are most likely guaranteed of volumes as referrals come quick and fast. GenZers are prone to using social platforms such as Instagram, Snap Chat to show off their latest purchase. This prompts other peers to “covert” the same items thus pushing volumes up.
Marketing messages need to be specifically tailored to GenZers. The chances that a GenZer has already made their own advert using the myriad of resources in the internet are high. Though GenZers are popularly known for low attention spans, Forbes magazine argues that they have “large quick filters “and they are ultra-focused because they have been on the receiving end of marketing since they were very young.” To this end they quickly “filter out noise”.
To a GenZer a marketer only has an average of eight seconds to get their attention. The message should be fun, memorable and resonate with their online spaces. It is thus important to ensure that the company has in-depth knowledge of what is trending and use these messages to capture their attention.
A University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) report entitled “An Insider’s Guide to Generation Z and Higher Education 2019” revealed that 66 percent of GenZers will buy from brands that sell high quality products. However, GenZers usually gravitate towards Brands that value ethics. The report also revealed that, 62 percent are frequently attracted to new and fun brands while 36 percent have a strong loyalty to a brand.
GenZers are an extremely competitive group of people and are likely to start their own companies. This implies that current businesses need to brace for this competition.
The implications are that doing business the GenZer way, will be much quicker and reach bigger markets because of the online communities that they are part of. According to Marcos Jacober, chief executive officer of Life Hacks Wealth, ” GenZers are poised to take business by storm and if you are an entrepreneur the time to prepare for this competition is now.”
GenZers know that starting a business has never been simpler because the digital space has lowered entry barriers across a whole range of industries. According to Rutendo Gandidze, a GenZer and student at Rhodes University, “If I don’t call the shots I will never be a millionaire. I don’t know who came up with this idea either its stupid or brilliant but I totally agree with them.”
Human Resource managers must now make space for GenZers in the workplace. Because GenZers are extremely entrepreneurial and tech savvy, hiring managers need to put in place different workplace apparatus that will keep them engaged. GenZers are also most likely to be “job hopers” as they feel that they have other entrepreneurial choices that they can explore.
The European CEO website notes that 75 percent of GenZers think they should receive a promotion after working in their first job for one year, while 32 percent believe that they should receive career advancement after six months. As GenZers are very close to social issues, it is prudent to have them involved in CSR departments.
GenZers are basically glued to the internet and connectivity at all times is very important to them. Nyoni another GenZer at Rhodes University is not always on social media and don’t use them but “when she does not have she is bored.”
In addition, employers should also know that Social Ethics are a big thing with Generation Z. So strong CSR initiatives are a part of their DNA.
In Zimbabwe this group has not been thoroughly researched studied intensely and it would be prudent to study this group with a view to understand how the Zimbabwean market can tailor-make inclusive business strategies that incorporate GenZer Marco Jacober feels that “it is wise for business Insiders to learn everything they can about GenZers so they can prevent problems in future.”
◆ Joseline Sithole is the Founder of Southern Africa Development Consultants(SODECO). She writes in her capacity. Contact her on 0773634062.