Will Gen Z demand a new level of collaboration?

Aug 01, 2017
Tom Ryan

While much has been said about the digital prowess of the Gen Z generation, less attention has been paid to their yearning to contribute and participate with brands.

A global survey from the IBM Institute for Business Value and the National Retail Federation of 15,600 Gen Zers between the ages of 13 and 21 shows that, if given the opportunity:

  • Forty-four percent of Gen Zers would like to submit ideas for product design;
  • Forty-three percent would participate in a product reviews;
  • Forty-two percent would participate in online game for a campaign;
  • Thirty-six percent would create digital content for a brand;
  • Thirty-eight percent would attend an event supported by a brand.

In related findings, 60 percent felt it is important for brands to value their opinions. Further, 55 percent want to have control over what information to share, and 54 percent want to have control over how brands contact them.

The report, also informed by interviews with 20 senior executives, found three distinguishing characteristics that separate Gen Z from previous generations:

Immune to marketing hype: Maturing in an age of “alternative facts,” Gen Zers are practical and skeptical and their focus is on quality and authenticity. Thanks to their technology savviness, they’re not easily fooled.

One size does not fit all: Technology has provided a vehicle for Gen Zers to interact with brands on their own terms. Their ever-changing platforms and apps makes them difficult to target.

Less loyal: While technology has made Gen Zers brand enthusiasts — they’re open to active engagement with brands — this group is also less likely than other generations to be brand loyal, defined by repeat purchases.

“Gen Z represents the latest iteration of consumer evolution — one in which control of the brand experience has gradually migrated from organizations to individuals,” wrote IBM in its report. “Companies no longer direct the conversation. At best, they can be willing participants and engage the new generations of consumers according to the preferences of individuals.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think Gen Z stands out as a participation-oriented generation? What does that mean in terms of engagement and collaboration for retailers and brands?

"If we build experiences that fulfill their expectations for engagement and participation, they have already shown us that they will participate."
"When it is all said and done, remember: you market to generational groups, but you sell to and manage individuals."
"Gen Zers have grown up with easy access to all information. They are more informed (or at least believe they are) than previous generations..."

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22 Comments on "Will Gen Z demand a new level of collaboration?"

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Anne Howe

Marketers will do well to realize that what Gen Z lacks is real-life engagement and the emotional resonance that comes with it. When experiences and engagement results in emotional resonance, there is big opportunity for lasting feelings to develop that can influence purchasing. Brands that understand and work to develop these interaction skills early will be ahead of the curve!

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)

I’d like to believe that Gen Z would wish to contribute toward the fulfillment of their needs and wants, but I fear that they will value their time more highly and will vote with their wallets as much as any generation before.

Max Goldberg

The coming of Gen Z reinforces the maxim that brands need to listen. Brand managers need to make themselves available to consumers, ask questions, request customer participation and solve needs. Perhaps some customers have ideas that will improve brands and increase sales. Some ideas may be frivolous, but they still should be heard and valued. Boomers, Millennials and now Gen Z have all changed marketing and sales. They all want to be heard. It’s only going to get more difficult for brands to thrive and for brand managers to succeed.

Charles Dimov

Yes I expect that Gen Z, as digital natives, will stand out as more participatory than either Gen X or Millennials. Also in the coming years, as Millennials become busy with starting and establishing families, Gen Z will have more time for hobbies, interacting with brands and retailers.

What does it mean? Technology adoption among retailers is only going to become more and more important. Gen Z is all about the coolest new tech. So be as engaged and engaging with them as possible.

Ryan Mathews

I think if you had taken a snapshot of Baby Boomers in Golden Gate Park in 1967 you would have predicted a much different future than the one that actually developed. Ask most Boomers or Gen Yers the same set of questions and you are likely to get similar answers. Yes it’s true Gen Z will operate under a different set of rules but it’s really too early in the game to say where they will settle in the long run.

Dick Seesel

Whether we are talking about “Gen Z” or “Millennials,” it’s dangerous to paint an entire group of consumers with a broad brush. That’s why I would challenge Anne’s statement that “Gen Z lacks … real-life engagement and the emotional resonance that comes with it.”

My own Gen Z children and their friends (now in their mid-20s to early 30s) certainly don’t lack for real-life engagement. They are out there trying to establish their personal lives and careers (and figuring out the economics), just like their parents were at the same age, regardless of their tech prowess and skepticism about authority. Marketers would do well to remember that a lot of Gen Z “consumer behavior” will be driven by household formation issues (marrying, having their own children, buying a home) — just like it was for their Boomer parents.

Anne Howe

Everything I’ve read and researched on Gen Z is that they are born 1996 to 2005, so the eldest is just getting out of college. That would make your kids a part of the Millennial generation. I have a preso on Gen Z I’d be glad to share with you!

Dick Seesel

I may have mixed my Ys and Zs …

Dave Bruno

As always, success in retail will be entirely connected to the quality of experience that brands deliver, and Gen Z epitomizes this maxim more than any other generation. If we build experiences that fulfill their expectations for engagement and participation, they have already shown us that they will, in fact, participate.

Lee Kent

Let’s start with their ages. Who at 13 to 21 does not think they can do things better than everybody else? Of course they SAY they want to contribute, design and attend, for as long as their attention span let’s them. I am not trying to put down a generation. I am really speaking to the nature of this age. On the other hand, the parts about being immune to marketing, not being one-size-fits-all and being less loyal, those things are true of them. Will retailers understand how they might reshape to appeal to them?

Do Gen Zers want to have control of their own brand experience? You betcha! Many of us nowadays want that. And they will be more than happy to let you know, where it hurts. In the pocketbook.

For my 2 cents.

Art Suriano

I think Gen Z may turn out to be the most powerful generation of all and the least predictable. With most of them still quite young and not employed their likes and dislikes will change. But those born in the mid-to-late ’90s are showing signs of how they shop differently than other generations. Even though their buying power now is quite limited, it makes sense for retailers and brands to begin thinking about how they can reach out to them, get their input and feedback on products, etc. and start a relationship. This group will eventually be the leaders of tomorrow with new ideas, concepts and technology and the sooner businesses can become part of their life, the better chance they will have to succeed with them.

Ed Rosenbaum

I do not think Gen Z has matured enough to become a contributor. Once they do mature more and realize the opportunities they have to contribute, their contributions will begin to filter through and their voices will be heard. As each generation comes along their influence on technology will become more important and certainly more relevant. I have four grandchildren in Gen Z. I can see in each of them their strong sense of technology and the importance of it to their futures.

Ralph Jacobson

Yes, the connectivity of Gen Z is greater than older generations, so collaboration of all types is a natural outcome. Brands need to leverage this better.

Mohamed Amer
I suspect there are more similarities in outlook with other generations when they were at the same biological age as Gen Z. What I see happening is a significant change, decades in the making, in which consumers are not accepting the received wisdom from authority figures (across society). What’s different today is that technology in the form of mobile and social underpinned by the internet is giving individuals a near unlimited potential to share and speak their mind. Reality is no longer handed down to us in 30 minute “soap operas” or the nightly news. The genie is out of the bottle and never going back in. This is a massive decentralization. Having an entire nation tune into the evening news on one of three channels to be told what they should know and how to think about it is a relic. Technology is empowering individuals and changing how value is defined, while giving consumers the digital keys to creating a different future. For retailers and brands, it means that the acceleration to 1:1 marketing… Read more »
Sky Rota
5 months 18 days ago
We are sharers. Lots of us want to share or give back our findings with brands and businesses. But sadly our input isn’t taken seriously most of the time. I tried to buy a ticket for a luxury Generation Z conference in New York and they didn’t let me because they said I was too young. If you are talking about my demographic and I actually consult with companies regarding my generation how can you not let me come to an event? Sadly most businesses are judging us by our age and not how we can actually help you see us through our eyes. I tried to get a ticket to IRCE in Chicago for internet convention and I was turned down because of my age. I receive emails back from top companies saying sorry but you are too young to give input, but you win the award for youngest person to ever pitch us. Why does it matter who you get the answers from? As long as you get the answers. All we want… Read more »
Jasmine Glasheen

People can be too quick to discount consumer input based on their preconceived notions about the demographic. Here’s an incredibly literate 12-year old wanting to discuss his demographic and even here on RetailWire he is struggling to be heard when he has daily firsthand research into the Gen Z buying mindset.

My advice? Keep doing what you’re doing. I just hit you up on Twitter, Sky. Let’s collaborate on an article and get some more traction for your site.

Ricardo Belmar

This may be more reflective of Gen Z’s current age than a true generational difference. Who doesn’t remember being in that age range and wanting to do more and “participate” and “engage” more in the world around you? I suggest the real difference with Gen Z will be realized in how they use technology to filter their lives. With each passing generation marketers have to create new techniques to reach their audience as each generation becomes numb and immune to the tactics that were effective with previous generations. Gen Z will be no different in this respect, however their deep integration with technology will allow them to build “immunity” that much easier than past generations. For now, yes, Gen Z wants to participate, but will they as they get older? Only time will tell …

Cristian Grossmann

Gen Zers have grown up with easy access to all information. They are more informed (or at least believe they are) than previous generations since they’ve always had the internet at their fingertips and they want a say in more decisions. They want their ideas heard and working alongside many of them I see firsthand they thrive on participation and collaboration. Whatever retailers can do to make Gen Zers feel heard will capture their attention since they don’t have a strong sense of brand loyalty like other generations.

Mel Kleiman

When it is all said and done, remember: you market to generational groups, but you sell to and manage individuals.

Doug Garnett

This is all exciting. But let’s all go through our kitchens and count two things. First, how many brands are in the kitchen (much less bathroom, living room, garage, car…)? And of those hundreds of brands, how many would a “Gen Z” even care to have a relationship with?

Specific individuals may enjoy having input or be interested in offering input into one of the hobby brands. But life is far too short for people to want to spend any more than minimal time connecting to the brand (as opposed to using the product).

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

Labeling Gen Z a participant-oriented generation does them a disservice. That label is company/product centric and will lead to products and brands trying to find a way for them to participate and then wonder what went wrong.

Turn the phrase around — Gen Z wants to be listened to; they want to be heard. Creating a form of participation without really attending to what they say will be a huge mistake — worse than if you had not asked them to participate. Gen Z will be more demanding of what consumers have been requesting — a way to communicate with companies and brands.

Franklin Chu

Gen Z consumers expect and reward authenticity. They select brands and retailers that reflect their own identity, including their values and lifestyle. This trend represents an exciting opportunity for niche brands and retailers to align with Gen Z consumers by being relatable and relevant to these young shoppers.

Gen Z also relies on peer recommendations rather than traditional marketing, so many retailers and brands now collaborate with opinion leaders who Gen Zers trust.

These shoppers also want to be heard and receive a timely response, so retail companies should put more effort into adapting to consumer feedback to improve the shopping experience and collecting flattering customer reviews to earn consumer confidence.

"If we build experiences that fulfill their expectations for engagement and participation, they have already shown us that they will participate."
"When it is all said and done, remember: you market to generational groups, but you sell to and manage individuals."
"Gen Zers have grown up with easy access to all information. They are more informed (or at least believe they are) than previous generations..."

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