Technology has not only been changing the world around us, it has also been changing the way our brains function. Despite growing concerns in the past decade-plus about our attention spans dropping from 12 seconds to 8 seconds, what is actually happening in our brains is far more optimistic, with bullying and sexting dropping from 31.7% in 2007 to 21.5% in 2013. These cloud native Gen Zers are the key to understanding the impact of our technological world and the future they’ll be living in.
Born after 1995, Gen Zers, are shaping up to be efficient, self-aware, driven, and the most independent generation in history, with 65% of Gen Z employees thinking salary is important and 67% considering the nutritional content of their food. Their reason for independence can be linked to the amount of information at their fingertips. They are also the first generation born into a technological environment, and while cynics rage about tech’s negativity influence, consultant Don Taspscott says, “What we’re actually watching is adaptive reflexes, faster switching, and more active working memories.”
In a Sparks & Honey study introducing the world to Gen Zers, they found that “60% of Gen Zers want jobs that had a social impact, 72% wanted to start their own company, 26% are already volunteering, and 56% claim they are savers, not spenders.” And according to a Centers for Disease Control survey of 13,000 high school students, teens smoke, drink, and fight far less than previous generations. This drive, however, is a two-way street. Gen Zers expect the best of everything, and like every generation that came before, they want it now. What’s new is their low tolerance for bad digital experiences, with ad-blocking software increasing by 41% in the past 12 months.
Gen Z will live most of their lives online via their smartphones, affecting relationships, problem-solving, and the way brands exist online. But it’s not all roses for this highly functional generation. According to research by the Center for Generational Kinetics, “Gen Z’s self-worth is affected by social media more than any other generation. A stunning 42% of Gen Zers feel that social media has a direct impact on how they feel about themselves.” As a result, they are shifting social platforms quickly, searching for something that they feel will reflect who they are. They prefer more one-on-one social media and messaging apps, such as Snapchat and Instagram. A shocking study reported that nearly 25% of 13- to 17-year-olds left Facebook this year. This trend toward apps that are more real-time, less personal, and more visual opens an area for brands to own their personalities in a more controlled space, like Snapchat.
Gen Z has also mastered self-education, owning web-based research with online sources like YouTube and Pinterest, while having the largest attendees of college than any other generation. For them, learning how to upgrade your computer’s system is the same as learning how to cook a roast for dinner; the information is available, and they are experts at retrieving it. Their priority, and this is important for brands, is how fast they can find the right information, not whether they know the right information. This is the sweet spot where brands should be utilizing tech to build tools that help the flow of knowledge.
The research, though still limited, suggests that these cloud natives are owning the tech world they have inherited. There will be more data on Gen Zers than any other generation in the history of mankind, which brings us to the most exciting opportunity in marketing. For this digital generation, conditioned to function in technology, we just need to speak their language and create the right user journeys to tap into the brains of 2027.