Gen Z emerging and driving change

By Sheila Moorcroft

Gen Z, born since 1995, is moving to adulthood. They are likely to be equally, if not more significant than Gen Y in driving change in the marketplace, the workplace and higher education. Their hyper-connectivity makes them mercurial consumers. The events that shaped their growing up have made them canny and self-reliant, wanting to mark. Companies need to gear up for more change.

What is changing?

There is some debate about when Gen Z starts, most suggest 1995, meaning that the front runners are emerging to adulthood. By 2020 they will make up 40% of consumers in the US, Europe and BRIC countries, and 10% in the rest of the world. By all accounts, this generation is set to make more waves than their predecessors, Gen Y.

They are digital and hyper-connected. They live in a multi-screen, share it, show it, tell it, App it, check it world, where interactivity is the norm and socializing is done almost more on-screen than face to face. Their lives are visible – whether via social media or stored in the cloud of memories. Virtual and real world interactions are extensions of each other, not separate.

In America, Gen Z is the most diverse generation ever. By 2020, the plurality will have arrived among the under 18s; there will be no overall majority ethnic group. They are more likely than others to have grown up in single parent households; gender roles are blurred. They have also grown up in hard times, with the threat of climate change, 9/11, wars and the financial crisis. Certainty and stability are not on their radar.

But, they want to make their mark. Their mainly Gen X ( but also Gen Y and Boomer) parents will encourage them to be different, to go their own way – not necessarily incurring debt at university, but getting their own experience and expertise.


 This generation is likely to be mercurial, fickle, and fragmented. They are about to redefine the fast moving in Fast Moving Consumer Goods. Catching and keeping their attention will need fun, theatre, experience. It will also need community and engagement – that level of fragmentation could mean that finding like minds is more difficult.

At present they are young and strapped for cash, but do have time to explore. Shopping is as much about the fun of it as it is about the buying, in part because they cannot afford to buy. Bargain hunting is a way of life – in store, online and both together. So too is the social side. Their pathway to purchase, as Fitch described it, is interactive and social – to chat with friends to get ideas via social media; browse and find out more via Google; put together a look book on Pinterest; then go compare. And after the event, of course, show and tell, with videos of the successes.

But it is not just retailing that will feel their impact. As emerging adults they are hitting the job market and higher education. Their expectations and use of technology, desire to learn and get on will be similar to, if not even greater than, that of Gen Y. Many employers are still struggling to accommodate Gen Y, and here come the reinforcements for change.

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