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Sneakernomics: Here Comes Gen Z, Part 1

May 1, 2017
Matt Powell, Vice President, Senior Industry Advisor ;
Sports
@NPDMattPowell

I’ve written a lot about Millennials, but there is another cohort, Generation Z, that’s just as large in both scope and influence. While there are similarities between the two, they are distinct enough that brands and retailers must approach them differently. 

Gen Z is defined as having been born in 1997 or after, which means the oldest of this generation are in their late teens. This cohort is the most diverse ever—even more diverse than the Millennials—and they are also the most educated generation, being self-taught on the internet. Several major events have already taken place in the small window of time since they’ve been born, including 9/11, the first African American U.S. president, several instances of mass violence, and climate change.

I have described Millennials as tech savvy. Gen Z has taken this to a whole new level, which requires them to be tethered to their smartphones. They have only known a user-generated, wireless, and hyper-connected world. To them technology is invisible, but omnipresent.

This generation has never known a world without a smartphone or smart device. According to a recent NPD survey, 43 percent of parents have purchased a tablet for their children in the household*. This makes Gen Z both hyper local and hyper global; they are keenly aware of what is happening nearby and around the globe. This generation has been described as “prematurely mature;” because of the internet they know too much, too soon. This “loss of innocence” has made them pragmatic and resilient.

Like the Millennials, Gen Z is supremely confident and raised to “do anything you want,” but all the choices have made Gen Z risk-averse.

Gen Z is even more visual than the Millennials and their preference is for online information over print. They would rather watch a video instead of reading instructions. Rather than use Facebook, Gen Z views that as an “older crowd” platform and instead prefers apps like Pinterest and Instagram, as they favor pictures over text. Successful marketing will speak through images rather than words.

As with Millennials, marketers must listen rather than talk. Brands must be completely transparent, which earns trust.

Just as the Millennials changed the way brands and retailers approach the business, so will Gen Z. The business advantage goes to the retailers and brands capable of successfully marketing and catering to both groups. 

*Source: NPD Connected Intelligence, Mobile Connectivity Survey, January 2017


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