Generational shifts have a huge impact on commerce. You don’t have to look very far to see millennials’ influence on modern sales and marketing. Sellers clearly target the much-analyzed group, openly courting their spending power and scrambling to align with their values.

For millennials making their mark on consumerism, technology is a game changer, setting apart an entire generation for the first time equipped with mobile communications and apps that’ll do anything. Consumption trends among millennials reflect this kinship with technology. Not only are more young buyers shopping online, but growing mobile capabilities have also broken barriers for sellers, stretching commerce’s reach into every corner of global society.

As producers, sellers, and advertisers continue honing their understanding about millennials, a new wave of consumers is washing over commercial markets. Generation Z is stepping into the spotlight. If you’re still preoccupied with the differences between baby boomers and millennials, you’d better make room for another distinct group of consumers. Chances are good the emerging Gen Z workforce will play a significant role in the future of your business.

Who’s Who and How Does it Affect Your Business?

If you sell skateboards, baby boomers probably aren’t your best customers – despite their nostalgia for the old days. Clear generational differences and age-related factors make it easy to identify such obvious trends, but your business success may also be at the mercy of subtle generational differences that aren’t as easy to decipher. Starting with a general sense of demographic distinctions gives you an advantage, both in selecting goods and services to promote, and reaching out in effective ways.

Sprout Funding logoFor your purposes as a seller or service provider, it doesn’t really matter exactly where each generation stops and the next picks up. If you’re like most business owners, more than one generation supports your venture. When planning and promoting, you’re interested in hard data showing who actually spends money on your products and services. For conducting research and analysis, however, generations represent units that can be studied individually, or comparatively, providing insight into changing times.

There is some disagreement about generational cutoffs, but Pew Research uses these ranges defining generations, for their work.

  • Millennials ages currently span 22-37. Members of the group were born from 1981-1996.
  • Generation X captures the group of individuals born from 1965 through 1980. Gen Xers are presently ages 38-53.
  • Boomers come from a generation that’s longer than others, in terms of years represented. Members of the baby boomer generation were born between 46 and 64, making them at least 54 years old, but not more than 72.

The baby boom generation is unique, because the date marking its inception is tied to a historical event. The spike in births following WWII distinctly sets off the generation. The demarcation isn’t as clear with other generations. As a result, the group succeeding millennials doesn’t yet have a universal designation. Though post-millennial accurately describes them, the name Generation Z is catching on and may one day achieve consensus.

Millennials Yielding to Their Successors

Millennials are overtaking boomers as the largest generational group. But even as they take the top spot, millennials’ role is shifting within society, making way for a group of post-millennial consumers. Tuning your business to their frequency helps expand your demographic and may bring useful lessons to your operational flow. After all, these are the buyers you’ll count on for growth, so there’s no time like the present, getting to know their values and habits.

The definition of a true millennial has been distorted, leading many observers to characterize all young people as members of the group. The oversimplification doesn’t acknowledge the fact that many members of the millennial generation are no longer young; the oldest are well into their 30’s. Failing to distinguish millennials from their generational successors automatically leaves your business out of touch with a powerful economic force.

According to a new Barclays report, Gen Z represents 25-percent of the US population, already making it a sizable demographic, competing with boomers and millennials. In addition to putting a number on the generation’s economic strength, Barclays assessment also points out a few noted differences distinguishing post-millennial consumers from their predecessors. Among other things, the following differences separate Gen Z from millennials.

  • Though millennials blazed new trails with technology, members of Generation Z have been wired for tech their whole lives. The group expects fast access, made even faster by technology. And they’ve already moved on from many millennial breakthroughs. Still think Facebook is where you’ll connect with young consumers? Gen Z prefers Snapchat.
  • The information age isn’t a novel concept for Generation Z consumers, it’s the only environment they’ve ever known. That means they’ve been marketed to more than any other group in history. The result is a savvy generation, equipped to efficiently navigate consumer information. Having a hard time holding millennials’ attention? You’d better start adapting your business for Gen Z, which may have an even shorter attention span for marketing messages.
  • Generation Z exhibits conservative tendencies, economically, but the group is highly charged about social issues. More than any other generation, members of Z make purchases based upon sellers’ and producers’ values and social activism.

Every business deals with changing social mores. But as hyper-connected consumers find new ways to share information, and technology provides more tools, the differences between generations has become starker. Marketers focus on millennials has left little unturned about the group, but it’s time for forward-looking business owners to embrace their successors, members of Generation Z.

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