The current generation or demography is known by many names iGeneration, Gen Wii, etc. In mainstream media, they are widely known as Generation Z, the one following Gen Y(surprise!) or millennials. Like the demography which preceded Gen Z, i.e. Gen Y, Gen X, etc., Gen Z has its unique traits, preferences, likes and dislikes, and behavioral patterns.
The millennials(Gen Y) were the first to consume digital products the way we see them today. With the advent of the Internet, the millennials adapted to services, tastes, sharing, brands favored, buying preferences, etc over the Internet in a digital platform. Whether it be booking movie tickets, ordering lunch, filing taxes, etc. digitalization is how the millennials made their lives easier.
The behavior of Gen Z
For Gen Z, the digital world is what is.
But For Gen Z, the Internet & the digital world was not about making lives easier. The digital world and its products were not luxury. They were born into this digital world where the Internet was a necessity. Experimenting and expressing with social channels & the digital world is how Gen Z communicates. As opposed to the traditional model of sales like brick and mortar setup, mom and pop stores, this is a generation that prefers buying online and learning about brands online.
How does Gen Z deal with brands
All most all brands and businesses eventually had to migrate to this digital platform to stay relevant since the purchasing power and ability of this demography is staggering. The traditional methods for branding, advertising, and sales have entirely turned on its head in the digital world. The pace of change in the digital world is fast, and brands have to adapt to keep themselves competitive. Physical channels of sales are superseded by digital channels. Methods of advertisement like flyers, print, television are rejected over likes & comments & reviews & feedback by existing users over social media. A “like” which a friend gives to a product is worth more than a plastic smile driven endorsement by a Taylor Swift or a Justin Bieber.
According to consulting firm Altitude, this new generation will account for 40% of consumers by 2020.
How to design for Gen Z
Before Gen Z, technology was used in society, but it was never as imbibed in everyday life as it is today. Consumption of services and goods was predominantly through offline modes. But thanks to technology, things have changed.
Honest, fact-filled stories
1. Constant information
Gen Zers have grown up with constant connectivity. This is a generation that knew “swiping,” pinching, “liking,” zooming before they could walk. They search online for information that they need rather than relying on someone or something be it for education, entertainment or anything. A brand that wants to be appealing to this generation needs to have a presence that serves information about itself to Gen Zers all the time. Patience is not a virtue for this generation since there are too many things vying to catch their attention over multiple mediums. If your brand can’t provide information about itself when they require it, you are history. Designers thus need to realize that constant availability of information is not a “good to have,” but rather a “prerequisite” for the Gen Zer's attention. Build a design that is accessible all the time.
Gen Zers use social media to share thoughts, ideas, and views. Geographical distances, gender specifics, location-based preferences are no longer applicable when it comes to a Gen Zers lifestyle. What is vogue in one corner of the world, is also a must-have in another part of the world. Traditional preferences based on different parameters are irrelevant to this generation. Gen Zers identify themselves as fluid when it comes to favorites, identity, likes, and dislikes. Designers need to rethink traditional concepts of branding based on geography, gender, and other variables.
3. How to engage with Gen Z
Traditional forms of marketing, like print media, television are one way. A potential customer is informed via text, songs, stories, etc. about a product, and that’s it. The way a user places his trust in the product is by trying it and then rejecting or accepting it. With the Gen Zers, feedback for a brand is available for a potential user even before he/she uses the product thanks to social media and other online channels. A review by a family user is considered more useful than a superstar who endorses the brand. Hence the designers have to continually engage with the Gen Zer and get their feedback.
What is it about this product they like?
What can be made better?
What should be removed? How can this be shipped faster? It’s mandatory to engage the Gen Zer in all of this. This reinforces their trust in the brand.
Since branding is primarily done on digital channels, pixel-perfect designs are a no brainer. Relevant content with bright, bold colors, designs, and icons that convey the brand’s purpose should be used. Slow, lagging, delayed experiences will be swiftly rejected. Mobile-specific content catering to different sizes and screens are a must as well. In this age of information overload, the content should be loud enough to call out Gen Zer's attention while maintaining relevance.
5. Honest, fact-filled stories
In this digital age, when nothing is hidden from anybody, and everything is available online, brands have to be authentic and honest. Gen Zers can immediately determine when they hear corporate lies. They value honesty and reliability over everything since they were born in an age of recession, religious turmoils, terrorism, fake news, etc. This makes them value authenticity and honesty and reliability. Brands and designers have to appeal to the Gen Zer with an unmasked front. Designers have to showcase real-world use cases to connect with the sentiments of Gen Zers.
Spoil them for choice. Period. Globalization has indeed arrived. What is locally produced is available everywhere and vice versa. Gen Zers are sticklers for what they want and like, considering their propensity for stability. Hence if your brand does not give them multiple options, it will be rejected. Options catering to their fluid interests should be made available.
Gen Z, in short, is a digital generation. This generation seeks, disseminates, share, express, observe, objects, likes, dislike in the digital world. Designers have to rethink traditional values, methods, techniques of branding to fit into the mobile, tablet world which is the primary mode of consumption in the digital world.