The buzzword these days is millennial consumers/audiences. Organizations are spending billions on marketing, tools and strategies that will boost their engagement with this set of users. But the shortsightedness in all of this is there is a new audience pool that is emerging, one that is much more different in terms of values, beliefs and experiences. I am referring to people born between 1996 to 2010 (some researches vary on the timelines), called the Generation Z or Centennials.
The purpose of this article is to understand a new emerging audience, and what role a solid business strategy will play in onboarding them with respect to your products/services/solutions. So,let’s begin.
As discussed earlier, Gen Z audiences are born between 1996 to the 2010 and as such, they are net native audiences. Imagine engaging with a generation that has seen a digitised world being born, natives to the mobile and web boom.
According to research Gen Z users are very different from Millennials. They value stability, are more influenced by their parent’s vs Millennial audiences. Another thing that is very important is Gen Z audiences are relationship led, much more than their predecessors, they are pragmatic and as such weigh the brands that they trust very differently from Millennials (who are more idealistic).
This shows that an emerging set of decision makers are smart, technology led and rational thinkers.
Future-proofing your customer engagement
So, usually organizations have the right amount of tech incorporated into their businesses to ensure that they take care of their customers. But the issue now is we are looking at an interconnected, digitally savvy customer.
With respect to technology and innovation, customer relationship management (CRM) is also something that is an equally engaging topic. With CRM market now expected to reach more than $80 billion in revenues by 2025 you can understand the importance it has with respect to customer engagement and what an active role Gen-Z audiences will play in that multi-billion dollar decision making process.
Gen-Z customers are looking for an omni-channel experience, one that does not ignore the power of social media influence, nor sales/marketing channels like web, mobile, IVR etc. They want their experience to be universal across a variety of touch-points.
Gone are the days when simple website could cut it. Now we need mobile first/optimized sites that act as sales funnels and can draw and engage customers ASAP. Customers are 3X more likely to make a purchase through chatengagement. In fact, 76% of Gen Zers say that they want prefer brands that focus on engagement and feedback, which helps them determine the authenticity of the brand.
Gen Z customers are focused on online reviews to determine their next purchase. So, it is evidently clear, to future-proof your business towards this next-generation of emerging customer, you need to define a clear channel-management strategy – one that is CRM led.
Gen-Z and the Cyber Security Opportunity
Cyber-attacks, Ransomware and various security breaches have grown at an alarming rate during the pandemic. We also have examples of counterfeit and fake products (medicines & medical equipment etc.) making rounds and putting lives and reputations at risk.
The main reason behind this is opportunity, since both public and private sector organizations/entities are struggling with digitizing their processes (work from home, supply chains, eCommerce etc.) and figuring out a work regime that helps them deal with the next Covid-19 wave, there are a lot of changes that are happening on-the-fly.
Obviously solving these problems in real-time is leaving them vulnerable (as they are trying to move towards digitization at breakneck speeds) and that vulnerability is leading to opportunity.
It’s pretty simple, a lot of organizations that tried to digitize their operations to quickly mitigate the effects of mass shutdowns etc. did not have this level of innovation set out, so they scrambled to migrate applications, data, supply chain processes etc. to remote-ready environments, but the usual stress/security tests they would put in place, which followed certain SOPs, had to be bypassed to get a quick turnaround.
This along with firms who were not aware of or keen on securing their systems, set up what we in the industry call a perfect storm. The right atmosphere for fraudsters (I wouldn’t call them anything else) to take advantage of a horrible situation and attack organizations voraciously.
The issue is security was being looked at as an afterthought, and it still is, but now more than ever users won’t hold back, they are smarter, more practical and if you don’t keep their privacy intact – they will leave you (it doesn’t matter how big you are).
Now with Gen-Z users they are born tech savvy, but are not necessarily well informed with respect to cyber-security. But what we need to understand here is not the audience but the environment we live in. This audience is informed and quick to make decisions and, in a world, where reputations can be uprooted in an instance, these audiences are easily the most sensitive to data and cyber security leaks and will make informed decisions to bycott brands that do not make security a priority. So, to safe face and work with an incoming audience that wants their privacy protected, brands have to be proactive and invest in the right infrastructure/measures.
Gen-Z and the future of brands
According to McKinsey Gen-Z audiences are hypercognitive, very comfortable with collecting and cross-referencing information from virtual/online experiences.
For this audience labels are not out the window, but brand-loyalty is hard bought. Gen-Z audiences are not sold by labels, but would rather align themselves with causes and socially responsible narrative, when choosing products. They believe in the environment, clean-energy and other-such similar narratives.
They are prone to dismissing narratives they feel are negative, fake our over-sold. Nowhere is this more visible than the cringe-worthy Pepsi Kendall Jenner commercial, which was lambasted online, for being an absurd deficit of originality.
So, brands have to be careful when they seek to piggy back on causes and social concerns, though there may not be ill intent, but fake no longer sells.
What the future holds
We all want to imagine a world that is better, one free from this pandemic, but though this year does bring promise of a cure, we need to prepare. We need to prepare for a world that has changed, not just because of the virus, but because we as a species have evolved.
Technology is the bridge that has joined geographies. It has eliminated distances, created opportunity and has informed us all. Now systems and best practices are clearly visible across continents and through influence and advocacy, mature brands are connecting with their audiences and resonating with their brand values.
Gen-Z audiences are accustomed to this interconnected and interoperative world. They are the upcoming generation that will now carry the flame of progress and innovation forward. To cater to their diverse, digitally led audience we have to prepare. The pandemic has done horrid things, but it has also led to the progress of the human condition and coordinated us much better or has very visibly shown us our flaws.
On that note, businesses have to evolve! they have to build processes, practices, product and solutions that help them connect with this audience. They can either evolve their practices or can fade into obscurity.