According to a recent report by Bloomberg, Generation Z will outnumber millennials within a year. Roughly defined as those born after 1995, Gen Z are the next consumer powerhouse and by 2020 it is expected that they will command 40% of all spending.
Getting to grips with their habits and preferences will be critical in the future success of most businesses. But what are the next generation looking for as consumers?
We commissioned a unique qualitative study focusing specifically on Gen Z: their passions, perspectives and the factors that help drive them in making decisions. Designed to suit the way they live, participants were given a Snapchat-style app to capture meaningful moments in their lives.
Which generation are you?
As consumers, each generation tends to be united by the technology they grew up with, how they like to communicate and shared memories of cataclysmic events – the days from their youth where the earth stood still.
While the classifications often change depending on who you’re talking to, at the moment we tend to think of consumers in terms of five key demographics: Maturists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and now, Generation Z. And let’s not forget our toddlers: the up-and-coming Generation Alpha. As fintech evolves, it will need to meet the needs of these very different demographics:
What are maturists?
Maturists are those born before 1945. Their formative experiences are based around the Second World War, with many remembering being evacuated as children or even fighting as young soldiers. They sent letters, listened to Elvis and were the first generation to own cars.
Next we have their children, the Baby Boomers. The first generation to grow up watching TV and chatting to friends on the phone, they caught Beatlemania and saw England lift the World Cup. Today they are the fastest-growing demographic when it comes to the adoption of digital, with 64% accessing the internet multiple times in a day, 63% owning a smartphone and 53% a tablet.
Born between 1961-1980, Gen X are sometimes called the MTV generation and count the fall of the Berlin Wall among their key formative experiences. The first generation to use PCs and benefit from the birth of the internet, their preferred methods of communication include text and email.
Then there’s the millennials. Today’s most powerful generation of consumers, Generation Y are broadly defined as those born between 1981-1995. They were the first generation to get into mobile devices, send texts and instant messages – and all remember where they were on 9/11.
Who are Gen Z and why are they so powerful?
If technology is a defining factor for millennials, for Generation Z it is THE defining factor. Bringing a new meaning to the phrase “switched on”, this digitally-savvy generation have never known a world without smartphones and social media. Research suggests they spend as much as 10.6 hours engaging with online content each day.
The effects of a life lived digitally are interesting. Used to the instant gratification provided by technology, their minds have developed to process information at a faster rate than their parents – on average, they have an attention span of just 8 seconds. They are more comfortable communicating in emoji, memes and pictures rather than words and love the kind of short, sharp content found on Instagram and Snapchat.
Many Gen Z-ers remember the financial crisis of 2008 and have felt its effects throughout their childhood. They are very aware that the changes in global economy and the rise of new technologies like AI make their future job prospects impossible to predict. And they are willing to plan for the unforeseen and prepare themselves for the unknown by investing in their knowledge, skill, physical and mental wellbeing. They are optimistic and inclusive but also driven and competitive. They have sophisticated rules for on and offline communication and consider maintaining good social media profiles important for their wellbeing.
What we found
As part of our study, we asked young people from the UK, US and Germany what role their favourite brands played in their lives and what they expected from our brand.
It was revealed that they prize “good quality” and “trendiness” above all else, followed by “good value”, “good design” and “nostalgia”. The brands they are already loyal to and those that reinvent a product for the better are crucial. Less important, but noteworthy factors included “sensory gratification”, “good for me”, “useful”, “customer service” and “comfort”.
While some of these qualities are more relevant to fintech than others, the results help us build a bigger picture of the moments and feelings that are important to Gen Z so we know what to offer them going forward.
Quality and design
Gen Z notice well-made products. They trust brands with durable products that can endure constant use and still perform at a high level. One respondent said of her favourite sportswear brand, “I love them because the quality is always reliable. My running shoes last for ages before I wear them in.”
Quality is about more than being well-stitched. Some brands are the best at what they do because they deliver the best sound, the best performance, the smoothest app integration. To keep the attention of our youngest demographic, banks will need to apply this to their digital offering, ensuring they have strong apps and sites that perform well – no matter what.
Good design is about finding that sweet spot between function and aesthetics. With speed of the essence, digital platforms will need to be both visually strong and streamlined from a UX perspective to appeal to short attention spans. Brand identities will need to evolve over time to encompass the latest design trends.
As students and young adults, Gen Z are already known to be risk-averse and financially astute. Another recent study found that 79% have a budget in place and 1 in 5 believe that personal debt should be avoided at all costs – a possible side-effect of growing up against the backdrop of a financial crisis.
Having come of age in a time of economic instability, Gen Z can be distrustful of messages from the government and large corporate bodies, instead taking recommendations from friends, family members and trusted influencers.
This means that financial institutions will need to work hard at customer service and keep fees low to retain loyalty – particularly as the Open Banking system looks set to bring forth an army of new digital competitors.
In the future we can expect to see finance increasingly integrated with social platforms to reach Gen Z where they spend most of their time. The savviest brands will take things a step further with hyper-personalisation, perhaps gamifying personal finance to help young people learn better habits or helping them save enough to pursue their dreams and personal passions.
Growing up alongside the experience economy, the study has revealed that Gen Z love to let loose and expand their minds with unique experiences.
Events like holidays and festivals have a lasting impact on them; unsurprising when you consider that many are having these experiences for the first time and that money and travel limitations might mean they enjoy them less frequently than previous generations.
The results suggest Gen Z prioritise fun, relaxing and connecting with others during experiences over learning, wellness and following a personal passion – although these things are important too.
This reveals what many of us already know. Function is no longer enough – brands need to have an element of fun. In addition to its stellar line-up, this past summer, Barclaycard presents BST Hyde Park brought festivalgoers a range of interactive brand experiences – including the chance to complete their very own rock star stage dive.
Maciej Partyka Head of Global Customer Insights, said: ‘It is fascinating to see how GenZ differs from Millennials, as the two are very often placed together.
“They both know what it’s like to be in an uncertain and fast changing world with an unpredictable job market, high property ownership barriers and student debt. But GenZ are more about carefully planning their financial futures and investing in themselves.
“Those financial providers (incumbent banks or new challengers) who can engage GenZ may find them very enthusiastic and valuable customers across full range of products.”