RALEIGH – If you have a tween or teen in your house, you know first hand the impact of devices on the way they learn, are entertained and connect with friends. But what does this mean to marketers and the rest of us?

Monica Cravotta

That was just one of the topics as the two-day Internet Summit held in downtown Raleigh this week.

At “Generation Entertain Me: How Gen Z is Changing Everything,” Monica Cravotta, senior director of product marketing at Austin-based WP Engine, discussed Gen Z and how its online habits will change the way marketers connect with them.

What is Gen Z?

Gen Z is described as the generation that spans from 1996 to present. According to Cravotta, this generation is unique because it has grown up with the internet.

“They don’t know anything but being online, and, as a result, they are very interesting to think about for marketers,” she said.

Recently, WP Engine conducted research on Gen Z and its attitudes toward the internet and the online experience.

One of the key findings: Gen Z wants to be online all the time.

“This demographic is saying ‘I want to be online all the time, and I want it to be personalized,’” said Cravotta. “And they are willing to share information to have this experience.”

WP Engine graphic

Generation Z by the numbers

Here are some interesting statistics:

  • 55% can go no longer than five hours without access to the internet
  • 66% use the internet primarily for entertainment with connection to people coming in a close second
  • 68% expect websites to know what they are thinking and anticipate their needs
  • 71% believe they will soon interact with the internet by voice or movements instead of keyboard or mouse
  • 69% are more likely to buy from a company that contributes to a social cause
  • 33% would stop buying from a company that supports a cause they don’t believe in
  • 64% would prefer to have unlimited access to the internet than a college degree
  • 72% worry their online purchases and social media posts will impact future job and dating opportunities
  • 84% trust a company more if they use actual customers in their ads

Generation Z and Brands

What do Generation Z’s attitudes toward the internet and social responsibility mean to brands and marketers?

According to Cravotta, brands must be present in a way that captivates this generation online. With this in mind, brands must ask themselves how they can best reach and connect with this audience.

“The digital experience is the human experience for Gen Z,” said Cravotta. “They don’t know anything else. They are self-reliant, and they are gravitating toward authenticity.”

In addition, they want brands to anticipate their needs. For marketers, this means finding new ways to harness data to enrich the online experience for Gen Z users.

Will that be easy? Stay tuned.

What makes Gen Z different

From the WP Engine study:

  • Digital Dependence v. Boomer Indifference: Gen Z doesn’t just view the digital world differently; they are more dependent on it than previous generations. 27 percent of Gen Z can’t go for more than one hour without the internet while 27 percent of Boomers can go two or more days without it. Another 42 percent of Gen Z says they could only comfortably go without online access for 2-8 hours. In other words, 69 percent of Gen Z can’t go more than eight hours without being online.
  • This Time It’s Personal: Gen Z is 25 percent more likely than other generations to provide personal information to gain a more predictive, personalized digital experience. In five years, 62 percent of Gen Z believe that websites will know what you are looking for before you tell them. Half of Gen Z would stop visiting a website if it didn’t anticipate what they needed, liked or wanted. In addition, 55 percent of Gen Z believes that in the next five years websites will become more human in experience by exhibiting personalized emotions when you visit and interact with them.
  • Virtually There: 50 percent of Gen Z believes virtual reality will be adopted within three years or less. 92 percent believes that the way we interact with the online world will change significantly. Biometrics, predictive technologies, voice and gestures are all predicted to replace typing on a singular device. For Gen Z, technology isn’t a tool for productivity, rather it’s a door to empathy.
  • Authentically Yours: Authenticity on the internet is a significant factor for Gen Z. Half of Gen Z needs to trust that people online are who they say they are and reviews come from real customers who purchased the product and aren’t incentivized. Conversely, 64 percent of Boomers want secure payments online and are less concerned with authenticity.
  • Safe and Secure: With so many generational differences, one area where all generations resoundingly agree is with the need for safer, more secure digital experiences. Three of the top five things that all respondents want most from the web are better blocking from malware, more protection from fraud or ID theft and better authenticity around the trustworthiness of a website. However Gen Z takes this a step further. Gen Z is over 25 percent more likely than Boomers and Gen X to choose a digital world where websites or apps can predict and provide what users need at all times over one where a person is completely anonymous and has to make multiple manual selections. Gen Z is transitioning from fearful to fearless, because they see security as an enabler of better, more engaging online experiences.