Make Way for Gen Z: Is Your Business Ready?

  •    Freelance journalist covering women, business, policy and social good.

Although many businesses are still heavily focused on Millennials, 2015 is a good time to look ahead. Generally agreed on as anyone born after 1990, Gen Z is the largest generational group in the U.S. And they're vastly different from any other group. “If marketers thought they threw out the playbook with Millennials, they need to know that Gen Zers aren't even playing on the same field," reports Ruth Bernstein in Ad Age.

Rebels With a Cause

This next generation wants to make a difference in the world – and will appreciate businesses that do the same. Compared to 39 percent of Millennials, 60 percent of Gen Zers say they want to make an impact, according to a study by New York-based marketing agency Sparks & Honey. About a quarter of Gen Zers are currently volunteering and social entrepreneurship is a popular career choice.

Gen Z customers will appreciate websites and blogs that are transparent and socially conscious. What's more, they'll gravitate towards brands that can demonstrate that their own underlying practices are sustainable, too.

Forging Their Own Paths

Gen Zers are resourceful, entrepreneurial, and ready to work hard for their success. In fact, about 75 % of high school students want to start their own businesses someday, reports Sparks & Honey.

Look to Gen Zers as consumers who are partners and not as a target audience, advises Jeff Fromm, president marketing consultancy of FutureCast, in an interview with the International Business Times. “You're not going to be marketing to them, you're going to be co-creating with them," he says.

Trailblazers and Realists

Gen Z is the generation least likely to believe in the "American Dream," reports Ad Age. They look for messaging that's realistic, not idealistic, and don't respond to traditional ideas of beauty. Gen Z is also unconventional and willing to take risks. And they respect independence, innovation, and self-direction.

Websites and blogs that empower Gen Z consumers to create their own styles and make things their own will do well with these rebellious thinkers. As Dan Schawbel, the founder of Millennial Branding shared in Business Insider: "While millennials seek mentors, Generation Z is more about helping themselves."

Digital Natives

Gen Z is more mobile than any other generation. They're the first generation of digital natives who have never known a world without computers and mobile phones and they use at least five screens daily, according to the Sparks & Honey report.

To catch their attention, businesses must act like digital natives as well, by providing seamless digital and mobile experiences across multiple screens, and engaging with Gen Z in two-way conversations instead of one-sided marketing. Gen Z is also used to rapid-fire banter and commentary, so it's better for sites and blogs to communicate in shorter bursts of “snackable content," reports Sparks & Honey.

There's no time like the present to start connecting with the socially responsible values and entrepreneurial spirit of Gen Z consumers across digital platforms. Gen Zers may be young, but they're a powerful generation – and they're growing up fast.