It is no wonder that at the first mention of Generation Z, many people look puzzled. After all, Generation Z is made up of newcomers, arriving just as we feel like we have finally figured out those smarty-pants Millennials. Before we get acquainted with the whole Generation Z crowd and their relationship with the Internet, let’s figure out who are the people that make up Gen Z. Precise dates have not been assigned to when Generation Z emerged, but birthdates typically range anywhere from the mid-1990s to early 2000s—basically the seven to seventeen age range.
What is undeniable is that Generation Z was practically born with some form of device in their hands, and that is because we handed it to them. By age two or three, most Gen Z members have been placated or distracted with a phone. It is too effective of a distraction not to use it to make it through dinner at a restaurant, long car rides, or grueling delays pretty much anywhere you go. So it should come as no surprise that as these toddlers grow into adolescents, their device use just increases. Unfortunately, when we forget the color of their eyes and demand that they lift their heads from their phones once in a while, they are extremely reluctant—if not downright resistant.
The widespread usage of devices from a young age has made Generation Z into Internet experts. They are often the ones we turn to when we need help navigating our phones or searching for something online. Gen Z pulls information from the Internet at lightning speed and multitasks across several different screens at once. Snapchat is the fastest growing social network and this is most likely because it provides that instantaneous interaction that Generation Z users crave. Gen Z also prefers Vine, Instagram, and Twitter over Facebook. It could be that they look at Facebook as their parents’ social media site, or it might just be that they are forging their own path and expect the Internet to stay with, if not ahead, of them.
Social media is being shaped by Gen Z. They have the power to influence social media yet that also means that social media can also influence them, sometimes in unfavorable ways. More than any other generation, the self-esteem of Gen Z has been heavily influenced by social media. You might say YouTube has transformed real people into instant celebrities but it is really the viewers who have done this, and since Gen Z watches YouTube incessantly, they are the viewers that the Internet should now be watching.
Generation Z might not follow the path you expect them to. Generation Z believes in making jobs out of their hobbies and may choose to be educated online to avoid expensive schools that will leave them in debt. These early starters have little patience for putting off what they already know they want to do and prefer to jump right in rather than wait until after they graduate from college. The entrepreneurial spirit that is characteristic of Generation Z will lead to more start-ups and many of those start-ups will be Internet related.
Right Here, Right Now
Generation Z expects instant gratification. After all, they have grown up in an environment where everything is designed for greater simplicity and quicker results. People have little patience waiting for anything now in an age where everything is created to move quicker. Gen Z is no different—in fact, their short attention span is a personality trait that Generation Z is well known for. They will not wait for apps that are too complicated or take too much time. If you have not updated your website in a while, now may be the time. This new generation will not deal with long-winded content that takes too long to read. They want the information they need to stand right out at them. In order to hold the attention of Generation Z browsers, websites will need to get their point across quickly with images, videos, and direct content. Websites should be designed to deliver short chunks of content over short periods of time because that is all the time that Generation Z is going to give them. If your website is not designed that way then you might want to consider changing it to accommodate the right here, right now generation because that is who and what the Internet will be dealing with now.
Never Leave Home Without It
Generation Z feels no need for that break from social media and technology that you often hear people talk about. For Generation Z, the phone seems to actually be an essential body part. Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube are constantly being checked and rechecked. Generation Z surrounds themselves with a steady stream of pings, posts, and selfies. Generation Z is all mobile and desktops and laptops are a thing of the past (at least for Generation Z). Their device will travel with them at all times, whether it is their phone or tablet. There is little social awareness of when not to use the phone and the age you acquire a phone now has been moved up to be as young as 13, even younger in many cases. This need for mobility means a couple of things, First, there will be a shift in advertising and marketing methods from television to the Internet. Marketers in all industries will want to adjust their marketing efforts to Gen Z buying preferences. It is not that Generation Z does not watch television, it is just that it is watched from a device and oftentimes they stream their content. The downside to this is that streaming content requires data—often a lot of it. More data usage means more money, which means that the family plan has just gone up. The other thing this means is that most mobile sites will need to be constantly updated to keep Generation Z happy.