If you thought Millennials presented unique challenges to marketers, branding experts, corporate reputation specialists and product developers, just wait till you meet….the Centennials.
(Just so you know, the amount of time it took you to read that sentence is about the length of the average attention span of the Centennial generation. In other words, you’ve been served!).
Also referred to as Generation Z or The Founders, the Centennials’ population group encompasses 13-18-year-olds – adolescents, young entrepreneurs (and budding consumers) who now represent almost 25% of the population and already are being eyed by advertisers, marketers and others because of their potential influence on, well, just about everything.
A recent New York Times article about Wishbone, a teen-focused app, captured what app developers learned about this new emerging market and behavior by Centennials: “They have immediate social validation or lack of validation at the touch of a button,” said Michael Jones, chief executive of Science Inc., which owns Wishbone.
“So if you thought that the immediate gratification generation was two generations ago, you haven’t even seen what immediate gratification looks like until you start spending time with, like, a teen on a phone.”
Here are a few things to keep in mind, because keeping up with Centennials is going to require entirely new ways of thinking, communicating, branding, messaging and marketing, especially if you’re so ancient that you don’t use Kik or Venmo, let alone know what they are (answer: messaging app, and a payment app).
Estimated average attention span for Centennials: about 8 seconds, so if you’re going to catch their attention, you’d better be QUICK and COMPELLING. Otherwise, bye-bye, they’re off to something else. Probably a different screen on another mobile device.
1. They spend more time on tablets than older teens, are more influenced by mobile ads than social media, and more than half (52%) say they spend time texting or playing games during the school day, according to a Gen-Z Digital Explorer report from Refuel.
2. Centennials have never lived without technology. They grew up playing with their parents’ mobile phones and iPads and can’t fathom screens that don’t move, enlarge and react in response to touch. If your marketing isn’t tech-savvy, it better be soon.
3. They’ll probably never own a land line, a cable TV subscription or maybe an email address, preferring instead the instantaneous nature of texts, chats, videos, images and anything that can be done on a smartphone. Or smaller.
4. They want to engage with retailers, but they rely heavily on other consumers’ reviews before making choices. According to a 2015 Centennial Shopper Study, 64% of Centennials read at least four online reviews before making a purchase, and 32% say online reviews are more important than a brand name or free shipping when deciding what to buy. The fact that consumers trust other consumers’ opinions, of course, is not new. But the level of reliance on reviews among Centennials does represent a shift in behaviors around purchase intent.
5. They want information. The same survey found that almost four out of every five Centennials (79%) would switch to another retailer (or Amazon) if a brand’s website product page did not allow them to ask a question immediately on that page. In short, they value information (and the quicker, the better) more than price.
6. Almost half (47%) use Instagram (according to a Refuel Agency survey), and 73% of 13-15-year-olds and 60% of 16-19-year-olds spend most of their social media time on YouTube, followed by Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. Their favorite downloaded apps: games (72%) and music (57%).
Reviewing marketers’ stances on reviews
Here’s an interesting question for marketers, linked directly to Centennials’ reliance on online reviews to inform their purchases. Of those who had written and posted reviews, 89% said they had not been contacted by the brand.
The obvious question: why not?
If reviews are so critical to Centennials’ choices, marketers should think very seriously about placing more importance on reviews, even if they understand that online reviews are often surrounded by their own issues of authenticity. Reviews can enlighten brands about everything from product quality to customer service to competitors – all factors that should make marketers sit up and pay attention.
Indeed, the incorporation of online reviews – and outreach to the consumers who craft them – might be critical components of 2016’s marketing and customer service strategies, especially if those strategies are being shaped to match the behaviors of tomorrow’s up-and-coming consumers.
Have you altered your 2016 marketing plan to cater to Centennials’ behaviors? We’d love to hear from you.
*Images courtesy of Shuttershock. We do not claim rights to or own these images.