Move Over Millennials — Here Comes Gen Z

Gen Z

 

What Marketers Need to Know About the Next Generation of Consumers

Over the past few years, marketers across all industries and categories have been obsessed with millennials — how to reach them and build meaningful connections with their brands. This captivating generation has a unique sense of self and a nontraditional approach to life stages, which has made marketing to them a challenge.

But perhaps even more challenging is the next generation on the rise — Gen Z. If marketers thought they threw out the playbook with millennials, they need to know that Gen Zers aren’t even playing on the same field.

Gen Z Defined
Gen Z consumers range from ages 2 to 19, though the target range for marketers lies from ages 11 to 16. Gen Z is the most diverse and multicultural of any generation in the U.S. — 55% are Caucasian, 24% are Hispanic, 14% are African-American and 4% are Asian.

Gen Z Beliefs
There are a few key beliefs native to Gen Z that all retailers must understand. First, Gen Zers are the least likely to believe there is such a thing as the “American Dream.” They look for products and messaging that reflect a reality rather than a perfect life — an important distinction for struggling retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch who still market their products by projecting a flawless, carefree, perfect world. Gen Zers simply don’t respond to these traditional notions of beauty or a projected image of perfection like past generations have. They respond to independence and entrepreneurialism, self-direction and a spirit of ingenuity. Brands like Free People (independence is implied in the name) are targeting Gen Zers with messages along these lines and a bohemian aesthetic, and it’s working. The brand continues to grow with sales up 25% in the first quarter of fiscal 2015.

Millennials expect success; Gen Zers make their own
Millennials are the generation of customer service — such as the creation of the Apple Genius Bar — to solve problems at any moment. They design their own, unconventional paths, yet they anticipate consistent success (and hand-holding) along the way. Gen Z is a generation of highly-educated, technologically-savvy, innovative thinkers. They look for solutions on their own. They set out to make things on their own.

With this level of self-direction and purpose, it’s no surprise then that Gen Zers also want to form their own style. They challenge traditional ideas of use, form and function when it comes to all facets of style and design. Brands should market their fashions and products with an understanding that Gen Zers will want to make each piece their own, and a message that that’s exactly how they intended it.

Retailers must create products and marketing that empower these teens to be their best selves. They must also create places — stores, websites, online communities — where Gen Zers feel welcome walking in and logging in, and feel just as wonderful walking out and checking out. Brands that offer goods and an experience that help Gen Zers define and express their individuality and lifestyle will succeed with this group.

Millennials have embraced technology; Gen Zers are digital natives
Yes, millennials grew up with computers in their homes. But Gen Z is the first generation born into a digital world. They don’t know a world without PCs, mobile phones, gaming devices and MP3 players. They live online, sharing details of their lives across dozens of platforms and dictating what they like and dislike with a tweet, post or status. And Gen Zers expects to virtually engage with their favorite brands in doing so. So brands can’t simply “embrace technology” as millennials have. They must act digitally native, too, creating a seamless and strong overarching brand experience across in-store, digital and mobile. It is shocking how few retailers have achieved this. To reach Gen Zers, it is paramount to reach them through two-way conversations, which are initiated online. An authentic digital and social presence as well as a slew of complimentary digital experiences in which Gen Z fans can engage with and share their brand allegiance is perhaps the best currency a retailer could generate.

Generation Z is open-minded and adaptable, not a group known for fixed opinions or inflexibility. And, with an estimated 72 million people in this demographic, brands would be wise to broaden their horizons to include Gen Z in their thinking. Brands that build careful marketing strategies that connect with the values of the younger set and offer a better digital experience both online and in-store will be successful among this new, young, powerful generation.

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What’s Blocking Innovation in Your Organization?

innovation

 

No one is able to stand still in this fast paced business environment. As business leader you’re looking for ways to innovate. “An innovation is something original, new, and important – in whatever field – that breaks in to a market or society.” In this definition of Frankelius the words “original, new and important” are vital.

To be innovative you have to break with your present habits and convictions. This is difficult in organizations, where a lot of people have to change their convictions and habits before something really new will be deployed. You can invent alone, but you can only innovate teaming up with others in your organization.

Recently I asked in more than twenty Linkedin groups on innovation the question “what are the main obstacles for innovation within your organization?”. The response was massive. This is a list of the ten most important innovation obstacles mentioned.

1. We are not aware of the need for innovation. Our company is doing too well. “A lot of people in our organization are just lazy, copying the work of others”.

2. We cannot change our habits. We lack the ability to invoke change, the ability to change our mindset. “My colleagues don’t think beyond what made our company successful thus far”.

3. We are not creative. “There is a substantial lack of curiosity among people in our company”.

4. We don’t believe innovation is going to happen. We have started some initiatives, but the board always stops new innovative products just before they would enter the markets.

5. We fear failure. Our past innovations were not successful and have cost a lot of money. “Managers were fired because their launches of new products failed”.

6. Our short-term mindset rules. The company focuses on getting results next quarter. “Shareholders demand profits today”.

7. There is no support. The hardest part is to get the support for the idea of innovation. How to create sponsorship for innovation at the top? A lot of innovators see a lack of among colleagues and managers as main obstacle for innovation.

8. How to uncover customer needs? A lot of our new products failed because customers did not wanted them. “We struggle to get inside the head of potential purchasers of the product or service”.

9. We lack a process and structure. Our innovation process is unorganized. It’s ad-hoc.

10. We do not have the resources. We do not take the time for it. We do not get the financial resources for it. And we do not have the right people in our company to develop it. -Gijs van Wulfen

Do you recognize these obstacles? What’s blocking innovation in your organization? Please share this with us.