You might not think this is a necessary read just yet. But as the adage goes: preparation prevents poor performance. And the way you plan the next five years of your business could be largely determined by new ideas, insights and preferences of the next generation: Generation Z.
Generation Z will account for over 30% of UK and European customers by 2020 and 40% of online customers. And with the oldest members of the cohort celebrating their 24th birthday, Gen Z are slowly creeping up the B2B ranks and may even be perched on a (remote) desk near you very soon.I know what you're thinking. What changes will we have to endure now? We're still getting used to millennials!
But bear with me. These entrepreneurial, digital natives have interesting values that could bring some welcome changes to businesses worldwide.
Who are Gen Z?
Closely following millennials, Generation Z refers to those born between 1995 and 2010. Some well-known celebrity Gen Z'ers include Millie Bobby Brown, Billie Eilish, and Kylie Jenner. If you're not familiar with those names, might I suggest you check out their Instagram and Snapchat accounts, because that's where these entrepreneurial 'youngens' are hanging out.
While they may not differ hugely from millennials, there is one stark difference: they aren't all that familiar with a pre-internet world.
Generation Z practically grew up on the internet. They've owned smartphones, tablets and computers since they could walk and social media is a non-negotiable part of their existence. They are constantly connected and they identify closely with their online identities.
This has impacted their behaviour and the way they see the world. Gen Z are spontaneous, free-living, and more tolerant than their counterparts. They see technology as a tool that widens their experience in the world, their knowledge and exposure of topics, relationships and brands. But they also have much shorter attention spans (8 seconds), and crave instant gratification.
Why am I telling you all of this?
Just like personality tests can help us become better communicators, understanding fundamental generational differences will help you get the most out of your teams as well as your marketing strategies. So don’t shy away from new ways of doing things or fall into the “this is the way we’ve always done things” trap.
Let's look at how Generation Z could shake things up in the B2B marketing.
Sales pitches no more
Do you think a Gen Z'er is going to be impressed by a traditional sales pitch? Probably not.
Generation Z have spent the best part of their lives consuming information online. They want to know something, they search for it. They educate themselves. And they're no strangers to the latest platforms and formats for content consumption. Perhaps their most definitive trait is their love of video platforms Youtube, and Musical.ly/TikTok.
Similarly, it's becoming apparent in the education sector that Gen Z are shunning traditional methods of learning like text books and group activities in favour of YouTube and video.
If video isn't feasible for your business, ensure you're experimenting with a variety of visual and audio content. The general advice in the marketing industry is to leverage social listening as a starting point to ascertain where they are, what they're saying and how they interact with your competitors.
Actually, just park traditional marketing for now
Tech savvy Gen Z are much harder to reach via traditional marketing, such as targeted ads. They're more likely to shun traditional marketing like print ads, radio and television and 51% of this cohort use an ad blocking software.
This demographic are no strangers to self-educating and using the internet for research. But they also rely heavily on user reviews, peer-to-peer recommendations and influencers before making a purchase.
Peer-to-peer marketing strategies, influencer marketing and UGC (user generation content) will become far more popular and effective among B2B brands.
Speak their language
We're talking to tech entrepreneurs, social influencers, app developers, freelance video producers, and mega marketing moguls. The level of success attached to generation Z is unprecedented. They know how to use the internet to their advantage and have built lucrative careers as a result. For that reason we need to adapt our language. We're no longer educating - we are connecting, seeking common ground and creating a two-way dialogue.
Despite their level of digital literacy and connectedness, generation Z crave human interaction; this doesn't mean you necessarily have to be in the same room. Making use of communication software, such as Skype and Facetime which enable face-to-face communication is extremely popular with Gen Z'ers. This will likely impact the way we deliver proposals and host business meetings.
Acknowledge their values
Generation Z are known to be more tolerant, open-minded and environmentally conscious than any other generation before. They have more knowledge and exposure of worldwide topics and as a result they have developed their own views and opinions and sets of values. Change is welcome, and diversity is as normal as the sky is blue.
They want to feel that the brands they do business with are aligned to these same values and recognise the importance of worldwide issues and topics. Business culture, language and recognition of topics like diversity and environmental impact are going to be huge deciding factors for the future B2B buyer.
Tighten up your customer service
Gen Z know no limits to communication. Relationships, friendships and business partnerships are worldwide concepts to them and location is less likely to be seen as a barrier. Your customer service needs to be 24/7, and instant. They expect brands to know who they are and their history with your business without having to keep on giving this information.
Use technology as they would, and carry out all of the required research and endeavour to resolve their queries as concerns as quickly as possible.
Generation Z have no qualms about sharing positive (or negative) experiences with a brand with their huge social networks. If you can empower your Gen Z customers to become brand advocates and satisfy their needs for instant gratification, they'll do much of the marketing work for you.
Ultimately, we all need to delve a bit deeper into how technology can empower our marketing teams to become more present, reactive and communicate more effectively across generational divisions.
Generation Z bring with them exciting knowledge, views and values that will determine how we use social media and the internet to connect with our customers and prospects. This is definitely a topic to keep a firm eye on over the next few years.