Is your business ready for Gen Z?

Is your business ready for Gen Z?
November 12, 2016 LH3_Admin

Photo source: Kids React 

This past weekend, I parked myself on the couch next to my (almost) teen daughter, who was on her Mac browsing for a new messenger bag. She had a bunch of tabs open for sites that she had found. This is when I noticed something bizarre.

She was barely on a site for a few seconds before shutting it down and she repeated the same with every other site. By the time she shut down her fourth site, I couldn’t help myself and had to ask, “What the heck are you doing?”

Her nonchalant response, “These (sites) are horrible. I refuse to look at badly designed sites.”

Expectations for User Experience have changed..dramatically.

That’s when I realized that the sites she was shutting down were “normal” looking ie. traditional websites with a great deal of text and tiny images. The sites she favored were highly visual with striking pictures of the product. As it turns out, this preference for aesthetically pleasing websites isn’t unique to my child.

According to Lance Shields, chief strategy officer at iiD, a San Francisco-based design agency. “Gen Z, also popularly known as iGen has a very high bar when it comes to user experience. They want beautiful pictures and visuals with minimal text.” He went on to add, “This generation thinks websites suck in general. They don’t want to deal with drop down menus. They much rather have a mobile app.”

This dramatic shift in User Experience (UX) design expectations has huge implications for all the legacy websites out there.

But it’s not just the UX. The expectations are sky-high for the entire customer journey.  

My colleague Mimi was horror-struck by her teenager’s near-meltdown when she found out that the sneakers she had ordered online wouldn’t be arriving for another few days. “What do you mean I won’t get them tomorrow?”

You may be tempted to dismiss this as the outburst of an entitled teen but you would be mistaken. Companies like Amazon and Google Express have set the bar high with same and next-day delivery services. So immediate gratification is no longer a “nice-to-have” but a “must-have” for your next generation of customers.

This is just one of many examples of how the user expectations have shifted dramatically over the past decade and will continue to do so. There was a time not so long ago, when the users didn’t have much of a choice. They (we) had to put up with badly designed sites with their cumbersome navigation and cluttered layouts, tolerate delayed shipments because that was the norm.

But that’s no longer considered acceptable, no matter which industry you work in.

Despite the popular notion, Gen Z is not an age group.

A key point that often gets missed in many discussions on generations is this – While a generation may be defined based on the year of birth but it’s not age that differentiates one generation from another.

A generation is a cohort unified by their shared values, expectations and norms shaped by the world they are exposed to. They have common experiences from having lived through similar and likely life-changing major world & economic events such as the great depression, recession, world wars, terror attacks, equal rights movement and others.

“It’s only technology if you don’t grow up with it.” ~ Thomas Koulopoulos & Dan Keldsen ,
“The Gen Z Effect”

While Gen Z is generally defined as post-Millennials, those born after the mid-1990s, Shields reiterated this is not one particular age group. “Because even within one generation there will be notable differences. From my perspective, it starts with the age when the child starts using a mobile phone or tablet for the first time.”

Gen Z attitude and expectations related to technology are shaped by their early adoption of digital devices. If you’re a parent, you have already seen your precious wee tot trying to “swipe” the inert television screen and getting frustrated when it doesn’t respond.

When a child gets their first smart phone or tablet as an infant or toddler, they learn to swipe rather than type or point/click. This is a learned behavior that is ingrained in their rapidly-developing brain at a very young age.

“I wasn’t born in the 40s so I have no idea what you’re talking about.” ~ Kids React

This point is quite clearly made through in this brilliant Kids React video where kids are introduced to a rotary phone for the very first time. The kids are totally baffled and have no idea what to do with it. This is not their norm.


Source: Kids React video

In one of the most priceless moment in the video, the kids are asked what they expect to hear when they pick up the phone. It’s not surprising that they have no idea. But when they find out the answer, one of them muses, “Dial tone? I think I’ve heard of that.” While another is much more brutally honest, “I wasn’t born in the 40s so I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

As funny as the video is, it’s a critical reminder of why businesses can no longer afford to be complacent about building and delivering experiences that are relevant to this new generation.

Sparks & Honey, a New York-based cultural relevance agency calls this post-millennial cohort the “Final Generation”, which represents nearly one-quarter of the US population today and growing. And with their growing influence over billions of dollars in purchasing power, this lucrative audience will not hesitate to swipe left if businesses don’t meet their expectations.

Here’s the question that needs be asked and answered in every organization today.

Is your business ready for Gen Z?