The newest generations, Z and Alpha, are the ones that have learned swiping and voice activation as they learned how to walk. Their level of savviness when it comes to technology is close to their second nature, therefore talking to them, marketing to them and asking for their loyalty and buy-in is going to change the rules of the game completely. In this article, we’ll get a glimpse of the various generations still present on Earth, their characteristics, and how to address the newest generations in comparison with the way we do things today.
A glimpse over today’s generations
As you can see in the image below, there are six generations currently still alive on our planet, each of them inheriting characteristics that come from the way they experienced realities as they were born, and in the way, they lived.
The builders, or the traditionalist generation
Called also the “silent generation” as they were mostly expected to be seen, not heard, the generation born before 1946 is mainly retired now from the workforce. The ones still active do work fewer hours and play more of an advisory role. Members of this generation are partner managers or very senior advisors in the companies they own or work for still. In general, they are very wealthy because they have worked hard for it, and were very disciplined in achieving growth.
Characteristics of this generation are the fact they are very hardworking, carrying strong work ethics, they have the willpower to overcome all adversities coming their way, as they have survived the Great Depression. They’re loyal, staying with the same company for years, they respect authority and are very traditional in the way they do things: this generation values morale, security, safety, and consistency. Technology is usually very challenging for them, and they only buy if they need something, as they have the mentality of not wasting nor wanting more than what is necessary.
Baby boomers (approx. 80 million today)
The generation born between 1946 and 1964, it is now from 54 to 72 years old. They are called baby boomers because, during that period, there was significant growth in the number of births that occurred after World War II. They are known for the pivotal roles they’ve played in the civil rights movements such as Woodstock or the Vietnam War.
They were born during a turbulent period in our history, and have learned to be independent, work hard and ethically, and are not afraid of taking on their share of responsibility. But at the same time, they are very competitive, want to reach the top corporate ladder, they actively pursue their set goals, and are very disciplined and structured in the way they do things. On top of this, they have developed a strong sense of community and teamwork to collaborate and solve problems.
They like face to face communication, value face time more than skills, expect everyone to be a workaholic, they are seen as greedy, materialistic, and ambitious. Technology for them is limited, the adoption of smartphones is not that high amongst them, although they appreciate the advancements in the form of the microwave and the likes that make their lives easier. As they value face time and used to make phone calls and write letters to establish connections, they see tablets and smartphones as productivity tools only.
Generation X (approx. 50 million today)
This generation was born between 1965 and 1979 and was initially called “Gen Bust” given the birth rates were so much lower than of the Baby Boomers. They are the generation whose parents were workaholic; therefore, they are focused more on work-life balance. They grew up as “latch-key kids,” either by two working parents or by a single divorced one. As a result, they postponed getting married and having children, putting their personal development first.
Generally, this came with a decreased level of loyalty towards a particular company, as their values are more around development, growth, informal work environment, fun and balanced, being quite susceptible at the boomer’s way of seeing the world.
Even if they represent just 1 in 4 individuals, gen X counts for 31% of the purchasing power in the US nowadays. They are fully integrated into the job market, pay their own rent, and focus on personal development both at work as well as in their personal life. They are the first ones that witnessed the introduction of the internet, cell phones, and computers. They make informed decisions and are resistant to change, but shopping wise, even if they still prefer the in-store experience, they do go for online shopping sometimes.
In terms of technology, they’re a genuinely hybrid generation. They use Facebook, but 80% use the desktop option, and will always go for TV over streaming. They’re the email generation, but still, 48% listen to the radio, and 62% of them read the newspaper. They are also very generous and prefer working for and buying from companies that do something good for the community they’re part of or contribute to global issues.
Generation Y, or, the Millennials (approx. 75 million today)
Gen Y is the first ones to reach adulthood in the new millennium, being born between 1980 and 1994. They are the young tech gurus that strive for innovation, flexibility, working from anywhere, and building startups. They grew up with parents that wanted to be less authoritative and more like partners; therefore, they had the opportunity to make their own rules.
Compared with the Baby Boomers that met their spouses via friends and real-life social networks, Millennials use dating websites, technology being like their third arm. Given the time spent and how they use technology, Gen Y has less interpersonal skills, and as a result, depression is rampant amongst them. They are known as narcissists, confident, entitled, and depressed at the same time.
Millennials hope to turn back all the wrong they see in the world. They’re very educated, grew up with many opportunities at hand, they are competitive but also feel part of a global community. Still, they live in a time when everything is costly, and the pressure to buy a home, keeping a good job and getting married is very high. This reality results in mental illnesses, loneliness, and depression levels never seen before.
In the workplace, they look for flexibility, casual dressing, working from home, and all in all, are adept of working smart rather than hard. They respect competence, not hierarchy, have an opinion, seek responsibility, want to have fun, and appreciate independence. They’re very ambitious, like to multitask, value contribution, and have an entrepreneurial mindset.
Millennials are spenders, not savers. They are online 24/7 and share their thoughts and feelings on social media platforms. Health is essential to them, despite the general initial sense of them being lazy. They’re very hardworking, out of the box thinking generation. Millennials appreciate big brands, especially the ones that prove integrity and honesty in the way they do things, like fair-trade sourcing, organic growing, and other actions that help combat global warming. They are more prone to watch good advertising when deciding what to buy, but still, skip ads and install ad-blockers as they feel unsolicited ads are just disruptive.
Generation Z (approx. 80 million today)
Generation Z is born between 1995 and 2009, and slowly, more of them will reach the adulthood age in the following years. Being so numerous and surpassing the Millennials, they will shortly get the attention of all the sales and marketing functions of all retailers and companies.
This generation sees social media as a vital part of their life, one that will help them be famous, connected, and successful. All of them use Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and WhatsApp permanently. They prefer individualized products, the “i” in iPad, iPhone, and iTunes suggesting precisely that. They have their own style in the way they express themselves, like to travel a lot, love to swipe, text and video message, and demand 24-hour access to the internet and social platforms. Still, they value diversity and non-discrimination.
By 2020 they are expected to become the largest consumer group, accounting for 40% in the western world and 10% globally. Even as kids, they now largely influence their household decisions. Self-actualization is extremely important to them, and they focus a lot on personal growth. Online shopping comes at hand, and once they trust a company, they are keen on receiving more recommendations on what else they could buy from it. Reviews from peers are the most influential in their buying decisions; availability is crucial, or else they easily switch providers and are great at filtering out irrelevant content while browsing.
Once Gen Z looks up at members of their peers, selling through influencers that represent their values is one of the most efficient ways for a company to brand itself and sell amongst this generation. All in all, ZED-ers look for authenticity, availability, and speed when making decisions related to anything from choosing a company to work for or buy from.
Generation Alpha, or the Glass Generation
Born after 2010, this generation grows up with voice activation and using devices starting with the moment they were able to speak and grab. If Millennials and Gen Z are digital natives, Alpha thrives in a technology world that is like their second nature.
They will be the most educated generation, technologically savvy, and wealthiest of all the previous generations. Their adolescence will start earlier and end later, as they will postpone as much as possible their adult life defined by marriage, children, mortgage and career. Their social, educational, psychological, and commercial sophistication will set in very early, bringing along both positive and negative consequences.
Still kids, they influence their Millennial’s parents’ buying decisions. They started to be born when Instagram was launched, and the word App became key to everything. That is why this generation is also called the Glass Generation. They will live using glass on their wrist in the form of a smartwatch, glasses on their face, the Head-Up Display on their driverless cars as well as their interactive walls everywhere from school, shopping malls, home, etc. This inevitably will drive new behaviors for interaction, shopping, marketing, sales, learning, and connectivity.
The technological change revolution is speeding up at unprecedented levels, and the newest generation will not only embrace everything but will continue to drive further progress while caring for the planet they still want to live in.
What’s in it for marketers and retailers
With the progress and exponential adoption of technology by the younger generations, marketers are tasked in finding ways to be where these generations are, and tailor the messages and advertising to their values, tools, and channels. Likewise, retailers need to upgrade the experiences they offer to match and include gadgets and apps to facilitate the young generation shopping journey and engage them to gain loyalty.
In such a digitalized space, security will shortly become a competitive advantage for brands looking to remain alive in the future market. Authenticity and standing up for health or sustainable values will also make the difference between companies that will gain (or not) the young generations loyalty, as they are very much looking forward to saving the planet, so they have a place to live in the future as well.
The new technology world brings challenges that nobody can predict, nor know precisely how mechanisms and rules of the games will eventually pan out. But some radical changes are already here, and companies failing to adapt, step-up and comply will most probably not be here for long. Moving to the environment where the new generations are and learning to play their game are key things brands nowadays need to learn to do to hope to be the preferred choices moving forward.