By Joan Schneider
The amount of content written about Millennials is astounding. They’re naturals with technology and can simultaneously use their phone to order a cup of coffee at Starbucks, Instagram a photo of their name spelled incorrectly on the coffee cup, reply to a friend via text, and talk to their co-worker about the company softball tournament. Corporations, retailers, universities, and their parents have been trying to solve Millennials for years. While Millennials, who were born in the early 1980s, continue to mystify the world, there’s an even more puzzling generation on the horizon — and they’re going to change everything. Enter the iGeneration, also known as Generation Z, or those born in 1994 and later who grew up with a smartphone in hand. Like Millennials, iGens share constant connectedness, but this generation of digital natives is also fiercely independent about their digital decision-making, from how they use Snapchat to the products they purchase.
Schneider Associates (SA) partnered with The Pollack PR Marketing Group (PPMG) to uncover the unique personalities and preferences of iGens. The “iGen Goes to School” study found that iGens require information on-demand, and trust the advice of friends, even strangers, more than authority figures, organizations, and brands on social media. We believe the findings apply to marketing of all types. It’s all about “me” for iGens – which is not necessarily a negative, but means brands and organizations need to work harder to understand their interests, hobbies, and goals, then deliver custom experiences. The manner in which iGens consume information is vastly different than previous generations. They’re multi-screen-users and are accustomed to consuming large amounts of media from multiple touch points at once. The SA 2014 Most Memorable New Product Launch (MMNPL) survey found that iGens turn to social media first to learn about new products before buying them. In addition, they screen who enters their digital worlds and will only “like” and “follow” brands that represent their ideals.
If you’re wondering how to reach iGens, here are some tips:
Members of the iGeneration expect personalized communications. According to focus groups that SA/PPMG conducted in Boston, New York City, and Los Angeles, iGens want brands to be aware of them as individuals rather than a name or number on a list. Repeated emails and generic email blasts addressed to “Dear Student/Customer” instantly turn this generation off. iGens share almost everything online and expect brands to use this information when communicating with them. So how do you reach this audience on a personal level? Think of the data they willingly share on social media (interests, hobbies, music, sports, and more) and use it to your advantage when personalizing communiques.
Connect with them through social media.
iGens use social media for more than just connecting with friends – they turn to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat as information sources. When applying to colleges, 60% of iGens surveyed stated they felt comfortable contacting schools through social media, and 48% cited Facebook as the social platform most frequently used. According to the 2014 MMNPL survey, when researching new consumer products, 81% of iGens use social media as a resource. They’re connecting with brands through their social networks and communicating with others who like the same products. Brands that are not taking full advantage of the real-time engagement that social media provide are missing the boat on reaching an entire generation.
Be strategic with advertisements.
Advertising has come a long way since print ads and broadcast spots were the only ways to promote products. We’ve seen social media channels implement massive paid ad platforms to monetize social commerce. Brands shouldn’t abandon traditional media altogether, but to reach iGens, creating a new approach is critical. According to the 2014 MMNPL survey, 68% of Gen Xers first learn about new products from TV commercials – which makes sense for a generation that didn’t grow up with social media. That number decreases to 44% for iGens. SA found in the “iGen Goes to School” study that college applicants don’t watch television ads; in fact, they felt commercials made schools seem desperate. The verdict? Understand the platforms where iGens get their information and be sure to test your campaign on these channels prior to launching.
Excite iGens with content.
The iGeneration is constantly stimulated – and inundated – with content from multiple sources. They’re scrolling through news feeds, photos, and videos at rapid speeds. Brands must produce content that excites and ignites engagement to reach these digital natives. During focus groups, iGens suggested colleges and universities should include more interactive features in emails, such as video and photos, to make them more effective. Focus groups also found that iGens want more robust content and better designed websites. This is a visual generation. That’s why almost 50% of iGens who participated in the 2014 MMNPL survey turn to YouTube to learn about new products, compared to only 25% who read emails from brands. The iGen is living life online, and web design and content plays a major role in impacting brand decisions.
Use mobile to reach iGens.
Does your brand, organization or institution have a mobile presence? This generation is rarely without their smartphone and uses them to make decisions all day, every day. According to a POPAI study on shopping behavior, “tweens” hold about $43 billion in annual spending power – and with increasing mobile and e-commerce, that number will only climb. Instagram is recently moving toward a “click-to-shop” option for retail brands, and mobile apps are adding to the wide selection of information sources for products, services and education. Brands are missing major marketing opportunities by not taking full advantage of mobile optimized messaging.
The iGeneration is here – now.
They’re graduating from high school and college and entering the workplace. They have incredible purchasing power. They’re voting and making important decisions, taking a stand in society, and contributing to the economy. To reach iGens, we need to be transparent, personal, and overly social. Marketers either change the way they communicate with this generation of digital natives, or iGens will move on to brands that do.