iGeneration. Plurals. Gen Z. The Founders. The Pivotal Generation.
Experts have yet to settle on the definitive name for the generation born between 1995 and 2007. This group — let’s call them “iGens” — will account for 40 percent of all consumers by 2020, according to the consulting firm Altitude. While not as large as Millennials, iGens are expected to have a huge impact on society as the first truly digital generation.
Here are some characteristics that make iGens different:
- They are more diverse than previous generations.
- The recession in 2007 was the major life event for this group and can be linked to higher levels of frugality and their increased likelihood to become entrepreneurs.
- They have grown up always connected to technology.
- They place a high value on education.
Many experts believe that these factors create a huge opportunity for brands.
“Gen Z leans on brands more when it comes to helping them craft their identities,” Joe Cardador, vice president/consumer intelligence director at Barkley, told Forbes. “All generations have faced this challenge as they transition into adulthood, but for Gen Z, the process is more public and fluid than ever before because of technology and social media.”
Diversity will be the reality for this generation. By 2020, 50.2 percent of children under 18 are expected to be part of a minority race or ethnic group, according to Census Bureau estimates. iGens have the largest percentage of Hispanics (22 percent) and non-Hispanic blacks (15 percent). This is a significant difference from the Greatest Generation (those over 71) who are 8 percent Hispanic and 9 percent non-Hispanic black.
iGens are more likely to be fluid about their sexuality. Research by J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group found that only 48 percent of Generation Z identifies as “completely heterosexual,” compared to 65 percent of Millennials. Over half claim to know someone who uses nontraditional gender pronouns, like “they/them.” This generation is more likely to have grown up with gay couples, and 75 percent support gay marriage, according to research by Northeastern University.
Brands will have to adopt the values of a more diverse and open-minded generation, Chloe Gottlieb, senior vice president and executive creative director at R/GA, told CNBC. “We are still in a transition time,” Gottlieb said. “Brands are being brave, but there are still some people who aren’t as comfortable, and they are reflecting it back.”
Members of iGeneration were firsthand witnesses to the widespread negative impact the 2008 recession had on their families. They are the least-optimistic generation about the nation’s economy, with only 24 percent believing things are headed in the right direction, according to a national study by a team of PhD researchers and generation experts.
Members of this generation expect to take economic fortunes into their own hands. Forty-two percent of iGens expect to work for themselves one day, according to a survey by Northeastern University. (Roughly 8 percent are actually self-employed today.) They have grown up with and participated in a so-called gig economy. Many members of this generation already earn their spending money through freelance jobs. Nearly 70 percent of this group have worked at “self-employed” jobs as teenagers.
Connected by technology
The members of iGeneration have no memory of a time before the internet or mobile devices. They will have more years of experience with mobile technology by the time they reach age 18 than any other generation has. Eighteen percent of iGens said you should receive your first smartphone by age 13, according to a national study by a team of PhD researchers and generation experts. This was four times higher than other generations.
For this generation, the connection to the digital world is ubiquitous and seamless. Only 27 percent of iGens say they could comfortably go less than an hour without accessing the internet, according to the national study.
Eighty-six percent of iGens think of social media first when they think about a digital experience, according to the national study. iGens see social media as a means for connecting, learning and expressing oneself. Forty-two percent of iGens say that social media affects how you feel about yourself, compared to 31 percent of Millennials. Thirty-three percent believe that social media affects job prospects, and 27 percent believe it impacts dating prospects.
YouTube is the most popular platform with this generation. According to Mintel research, 25 percent of those 10–17, and 35 percent of those 18–22, said they can’t live without YouTube. The second-highest-scoring platform for both age groups was Snapchat. Facebook scored the lowest with both groups.
“Gen Z…has grown up with influencers that they see on Snapchat and YouTube…and Instagram. They are reachable,” Victor Pineiro, senior vice president of social media at Big Spaceship, told CBS News. “Gen Z uses social networks to achieve influence and get total celebrity status. The wall separating them from being influencers has been completely taken down.”
The defining historical event for members of iGeneration was the 2007 financial recession and its lingering impact. iGens see the world through the stark lens of reality, but they are not fatalistic. Seventy-eight percent of this generation see the American Dream as attainable, according to a national study by a team of PhD researchers and generation experts. This is higher than any other generation.
Members of this generation want to work, save money and not get stuck or trapped. A Quartz survey of high school seniors found that 55 percent are willing to work over time to do a good job, compared to 44 percent of Millennial teens in 2004. A survey by Lincoln Financial Group in 2016 found that 60 percent of those between 15 to 19 already had a savings account, and 71 percent said they were focused on saving for the future.
This generation is very concerned about the idea of value when shopping. Members of iGen have never had to pay full price, thanks to things like online discounts, loyalty rewards and bidding sites.
“We’re finding that Generation Z is much more pragmatic around thinking about value,” Rana Ghosh, revenue executive at Spirit, told Fast Company. “It’s not so much that they are price-conscious. It’s about what they are getting for the money they are spending.”
This pragmatic nature has also led iGens to avoid risks. A study published in the journal Child Development found that iGens are avoiding alcohol, sex and driving cars more than previous generations. Research published in The Atlantic found that 12th graders in 2015 were going out of the house less than eighth graders did in 2009.
The members of iGeneration are set to become the best-educated population in history. Fifty percent of iGens are planning on pursuing higher education, compared with 33 percent of Millennials and 25 percent of Generation X, according to research by higher education consulting firm The Lawlor Group, Inc.
Members of iGeneration place a high value on education. Eighty-nine percent of students ages 13–18 rated the value of higher education as “very high,” according to a survey by Barnes & Noble College. Unlike Millennials, this generation strongly believes that college is the best way to secure a good job or get the background to launch a business. Among their top concern is that they will not be able to find a good job after graduation.
This generation brings different expectations to higher education. Seventy-two percent want a more customized college experience in which students design their own course of study or major, according to research by Northeastern University. Seventy-nine percent want to integrate the college experience with employer internships. They also expect the college experience to be seamlessly connected to the digital world, including how they communicate with professors.
The threat of college debt is a huge factor for iGens. Seventy-nine percent said that costs are a factor in college choice, according to research by College Savings Foundation. Thirty-nine percent said that high costs cause them to change their path and enroll in state schools, community colleges or vocational schools.
Read our series of articles about understanding the attitudes and behaviors of Millennials.
This article was researched and written by Pavone. Find out more about us here.