Generation Z is rapidly shaping the economic future of the world. As these new “digital natives” begin to enter the workforce, their spending power is quickly becoming more evident.
While many are quick to label this generation as anti-social ‘mobile addicts’ with short attention spans, designers and marketers alike would be making a huge mistake to ignore Gen Z’s influence on a company’s business success. Designing your organization’s website with this generation in mind will not only open the door for future opportunities - it will also keep your brand at the forefront of the digital competitive landscape amongst this rising consumer base. To communicate effectively with Gen Z, brands need to create a relevant brand experience - and web design is a powerful tool to do this.
Who Are These New Digital Natives?
Gen Zs are generally defined as being born between the mid-‘90s and mid-2010s. They account for 32 percent of the global population of 7.7 billion in 2019. This generation is on track to being the most ethnically and racially diverse generation, with a large percentage being minorities. This is a vast and varied population that is poised to be the highest spending consumer group in the world. Even today, their purchasing power is estimated to be over $44 billion. This generation makes up such a big portion of online sales that businesses can’t afford to overlook them. Companies that are catering their websites toward this tech-savvy audience have the opportunity to increase sales and give your brand more traction and recognition.
What Do Gen Zs Care About?
Gen Zs are known for taking a cautious approach when going about their lives. They came of age during the recession, which makes them appreciate the basics of comfort and stability, they also understand the importance of planning for the future.
That might explain why Gen Zs are actively seeking careers in the tech and healthcare fields- both areas that provide a lot of stability and are always in search of new talent. Also, with many industries moving toward automated labor, post-millennials are taking control of their income by creating their own revenue streams with the use of the internet. It’s understood that post-millennials are independent, entrepreneurial and tech-savvy. It’s no surprise that many are using the web to turn their hobbies and online personas into successful business opportunities that are making them millions at younger ages. They are, at large, a smart and entrepreneurial bunch that know how to use technology and social media to influence, learn and earn.
Gen Zs were born into a harsh social and political climate. Due to the increase of online accessibility of current events and media coverage, they were introduced to the topics of terrorism, war, inequality and political controversy at very young ages. This, in turn, helped to create a population of empathetic humans that seek to break down barriers and incite changes in the environmental and political landscapes.
“I do feel like my generation is facing an immense pressure to fix a lot of the world’s problems, which may sound dramatic but that’s kind of what being a person in their 20s feels like today.” - Jacquelin Banos, Public Health
As with the rest of the world, Gen Zs use their smartphones more than any other device, averaging at least 3 hours per day. That’s a lot of time spent connected. However, post-millennials are consuming screen time quite differently than the generations before them. While Facebook was a popular website amongst previous generations, we can see that Gen Zs are turning away from popular social sites and moving toward more favorable platforms that allow for more digestible visuals and sound-bites, such as YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Netflix. Even more recently, Twitch and TikTok have become popular due to the new trends in compressed media and live-streaming video content.
“The majority of my non-school/work related web content is probably HBOgo, Netflix, Youtube, etc. This can range from shows like GOT to science-related youtube channels.”
- Eric Rivas, Mechanical Engineering
Gen Zs, also known as the ‘iGeneration,’ are depending heavily on mobile to manifest their desired identities. Everyone wants to be accounted for by having a strong, branded online presence that showcases their interests, whether that be in photography, art, dancing, fashion, etc.
How Do Brands Get Their Attention?
Now that we’ve met these powerful young consumers, let’s focus on how to win them over.
Starting with the Obvious: A Mindful Design Will Win
The first step in reaching this audience is to wow them with mindful design. We all know how crucial it is to create websites that are not only optimized for mobile and multiple platforms, but that also have quick load times to retain the average 8-second attention span of a post-millennial user. We will soon see that number rapidly decline. People are bombarded with loud, distracting marketing ads and banners every day. Create a website that incorporates minimal, sleek design with content that is impactful and highlights all the reasons your organization stands out. This will leave a lasting positive impression amongst the masses. A diversified website with web accessibility and multi-language web features will also go far in a diverse market like this that is quickly expanding.
Design is Not a Luxury, it’s a Necessity
In order to stay relevant and capture the attention of Gen Z, the approach to design needs to be both bold and effective.
Your Website NEEDS to Look Good
Millennial Pink was the “genderless mascot” of their generation. And now we have Gen Z Yellow, symbolic of this group’s uncompromising demand for inclusiveness. The bright, positive, attention-grabbing yellow serves as their brand. Consider incorporating this yellow into your content to grab their eyes immediately. Videos and moving imagery are other ways to communicate vast amounts of information in a short time, which appeals to the Gen Z need for instant gratification. Features like geolocation help you customize content toward specific audiences. Gen Zs also appreciate time-saving features, like auto-loading information for forms and subscriptions, etc. A visually pleasing website that creates a tailored, personal experience is just what Gen Zs are looking for.
Keep Authenticity 100%
Gen Zs are also known for demanding brand authenticity and flexibility. In other words, keep it 100% real. In this day and age, people no longer respond well to a cold robotic marketing approach. Organizations that approach consumers in a more conversational way will foster deeper connections with the iGeneration. It’s important to highlight your organization’s social and environmental efforts to prove that your business is not just about making money but that your company genuinely cares about making a positive change in the social or environmental landscape.
“I admire companies that make an effort to be socially conscience wherever possible. An example being the clothing brand 10Tree. I believe their policy is that they plant 10 trees for every article of clothing sold. I imagine that makes a consumer feel less selfish about their spending habits in a way. Like they too are making a difference.” - Eric Rivas, Mechanical Engineering
This low tolerance for inauthenticity suggests Gen Zs will publicly call out brands that aren’t staying true to their identities. Along the same lines, they rely on real reviews to interpret genuine experiences which further influences their purchasing decisions. Featuring reviews from your customers on your business’ website will highlight the fact that your brand is confident enough to show the world what others think of your products and services.
“When I’m looking for a new beauty product or pair of shoes, I like to hear what other people think about it.” - Jacquelin Banos, Public Health
"Are You Not Entertained!?"
Visuals and a human approach are important components for your company’s website when it comes to getting Gen Z’s attention. Why? Because we’re all human and we seek to avoid the mundane. Gen Zs tend to create, consume and engage with content that is much more visual than word-heavy. Make your website memorable by including meaningful short videos and images that captivate and make your audience feel something. This moving example in the recent Budweiser commercial featuring Dwayne Wade does a great job of using a well-liked celebrity and the power of emotion to show how he, and thus Budweiser, are giving back to the community.
Keep in mind that humor and education go hand-in-hand. Today, it’s not uncommon for people to see memes about current events before they see reports on the news. Quick visuals are a good way to create awareness while educating people on issues. Gen Zs are intelligent, they want to become aware of all matters in the world and love to be enlightened with content that gets their wheels turning.
Unexpected, bold storytelling is the way forward. Use your website as a platform to build authentic narratives and bring them to life. In the new age of political satire, things like Hasan Minhaj’s ‘Patriot Act’ series provides an engaging audio-visual experience for audiences. Brands are also educating through gamification. Generation Z grew up playing games and they understand the language and design that plugs into gameplay. Using gamification, or the use of game-like features like point-scoring and leaderboards encourages participation. For example, Cal State University started a ChargeOn campaign that lets students cash in their experiences with rewards.
This generation lives for speed and frictionless transactions. They have grown up with conveniences like same-day delivery options, mobile self check-outs and more, and they don’t have the patience for wait times. This creates a unique opportunity for brands to create engaging load screens or “buffering” experiences while their audience is waiting for content to load. Splash screens and load animations are now being used by brands to “pre-communicate” the brand products and values in a more intuitive way.
Post-millennials want to feel empowered. They want to make the world more convenient, more accessible, friendlier, smarter, more inspiring. Give them options by offering content across different platforms (web, email, social media) Eg. schools, colleges have started giving Virtual Reality campus and dorm tours which can be experienced from home.
Be Fresh, Be Cool.
Businesses that showcase their products and services in a fresh and innovative way with the use of celebrities and artists and will have a large advantage over others. For example, Nike solidified Gen Z interest when they aligned themselves with 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick.
“I seek brands that are collaborating with artists or making an impact in the community.” - Matt Rivas, Environmental Engineering
And remember not to overwhelm your audience. They already have to cut through the clutter of online noise to find anything of value, so don’t make it even harder for them. Shareable, “snackable” content that is both powerful and thought-provoking is the way to go.
Don’t forget that 49% of Gen Zs are minorities. Your content needs to be geared toward one of the most racially and culturally diverse generations of our time. That’s why there is wider availability of stock images, such as this brand’s, featuring trans and non-binary models to better represent members of these communities, moving beyond clichés.
Pushing boundaries and rule-breaking are the norms for Gen Z and they will often welcome a departure from the traditional. Your content needs to be smart and intuitive because your audience is smart and intuitive. Generation Z was born into the digital world and they have high expectations, keep your online and web experiences slick and efficient in order to make an impact on them. Your business needs to constantly evolve and your website should be leading the way.
Take the Next-Gen Seriously
Gen Z will continue to make an impact and shape the world around us, and it will be interesting to see how this evolves over time. Companies need to prepare for the future by beginning to build connections with this up and coming consumer base now, and the way to a Gen Z's heart is by impressing them with a smart, personal, and innovative web experience that is superior to the rest.