When my daughter turned 13 years old and started high school, it was only natural (in her view) that I buy her the latest iPhone.  Although, when one stormy night at the dinner table I made the suggestion of buying her a cheaper and smaller phone (when I say stormy, I mean stormy at my house at the dinner table, after my mere suggestion) my daughter vehemently protested with tears combined with a look of complete disbelief that I would have such illogical thoughts.  Her argument was that generic smartphones cannot display emoticons properly, cannot take good photos to post on Instagram and she will be unable to build a following in the social media as well as share information effectively if she had anything less than the latest iPhone in her possession. Besides, only an iPhone can have effective seamless connection with her iPad.

Why am I sharing this story with you?  Well for starters, my daughter represents the next phase of consumerism.  In about five years, which is not far off, she will be working part-time (mum hopes), going to uni and starting to make her own purchase decisions.  While she is a decision maker of the future, she is an influencer now.  Like 4.6 million Gen Z’rs in Australia the oldest of whom have just completed the HSC, she is influencing my decisions on what I can and cannot buy.  What she buys now – let me rephrase that – what I buy for her now, will shape her opinions and those opinions will be carried forward into her adult and professional life.  So her focus on tools that enable her to take meaningful pictures for Instagram and edit them to make them appealing and tell a story with a mix of words and emoticons, is not something to be taken lightly in the business world.

Gen Z’rs are the most consistently connected visually engaged influencers.  I’ll tell you why? Earlier this year I wrote an article about managing the generational divide and mentioned that we live in a society that knows no bounds with technology making us omnipresent and omniscient.  In March this year, my idea was further narrowed down to apply to Gen Z when a survey on Gen Z’rs Media Habits by Wikia was titled ‘Gen Z: the limitless generation’.  According to this survey, nine out of ten, or 93 per cent, Gen Z’rs said they visited YouTube at least once a week and of these 54 per cent said they visited YouTube several times per day.  In Australia, Gen Z’rs conduct 4.7 billion searches per day on Google and 4 billion YouTube searches making YouTube the second largest search platform.  Technology makes Gen Z limitless…internet is a means to ‘access all hours’.

An important characteristic of Gen Z is its focus on visualisation.  Their language has imploded into an amalgamation of acronyms and emoticons.  A study conducted by McCrindle Research for 2013 shows that Gen Z’rs respond to visual messages better and use logos, pictures, colours and brand names to overcome global language barriers.   This study also found that the preferred learning styles of children in today’s classrooms are visual and hands on, rather than based on linear words.  The use of interactive whiteboards that highlight words, create instant pictures, allow teachers to conduct a quick survey or Q & A session showing instant class results at the end in a visual graph etc is something I witnessed myself in my nine year old son’s classroom this year.  The fiction of my time, is the reality of Gen Z.

As we enter the age of the consumer, more than ever before now is the time to understand what our customers really want and what language they understand.  Businesses need to identify the drivers of growth for the segments of their target markets and use the levers to transform the customer experience by speaking a universal language that has a cross border and cross generational appeal.  Building a deeper connection with customers of the near future and influencing the influencers is critical.   This is the time to recognise the velocity and subsequent impact of Gen Z’s digital behaviour and build visual messages that evoke a personal experience for these leaders who will make the decisions for the success or failure of your business.  I am not saying you need to communicate with Gen Z’rs in emoticons and acronyms, like my daughter communicates with me on text messages, but keep in mind that they are not a generation of many words and rely on visual cues to understand a message. 

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