In terms of demographic research over the last decade, all the attention has been placed on Millennials—and rightly so. As consumers, they are the largest living demographic and an economic force to be reckoned with. But now it’s time to start focusing on the next generation—sometimes called “Post-Millennials” but increasingly being referred to as Generation (Gen) Z. Gen Z covers the period from 1997 to present, but for research purposes, cuts off around 2012, making the oldest among Gen Z age 22 and the youngest of interest age 7.
As if Millennials aren’t enough of a handful to understand, Gen Z adds another layer of complexity to the financial institution (FI) marketing strategy. But since the oldest among this generation are well into college and will soon be entering the professional workforce and settling down with families, it’s essential to understand what makes them tick and how they behave.
Compare and Contrast to Millennials
Here are 3 big ways Gen Z differs from Millennials:
1. Technology is everything.
Unlike Millennials who were coming of age during the digital revolution (the iPhone was released in 2007), Gen Z has never known anything but digital. They’ve also never known a world without social media, and they communicate across multiple devices at once: TV, phone, laptop, desktop, tablet or gaming device.
It’s important for FIs to meet Gen Z’s expectations for convenience and instant, 24/7 access to information and their money. Not surprisingly, mobile is key for this group, with 51 percent of them sticking with their primary FI based on its mobile banking capabilities, compared with 32 percent among Americans overall. But, don’t be too quick to shutter branches or the call center. Because older Gen Z consumers came of age during the Great Recession, they tend to be cautious about investing and other financial decisions—they value personalized advice and input, but only from those whom they see as honest, stable and transparent. For those times when digital rules, it will be essential to provide a seamless and consistent experience across multiple devices.
2. Gen Z is better at saving.
As children growing up through the Great Recession, many watched second-hand as their Millennial siblings moved back in with their parents due to lack of opportunity. Many also watched their parents lose their jobs and may have experienced hardships directly as a result. Whereas more present-focused Millennials freely spend money—especially on experience-driven pursuits—Gen Z tends to be more forward-looking. 64 percent of them report to already be researching or discussing with others about financial planning. They know that hard work today doesn’t guarantee a secure tomorrow, so they are building their savings as a firewall against future uncertainty.
To attract and retain frugal Gen Z savers, FIs will need to ramp up their approach to personalized financial planning, including savings, retirement and investing. While digital channels will continue to dominate, FIs must not abandon opportunities for person to person engagement. Gen Z are voracious learners and will readily accept advice and counseling from trusted resources.
3. The Gig Economy rules.
While most Millennials entered the workforce as architected by their predecessors—the 9 to 5 corporate gig—many of those in Gen Z aspire to a more entrepreneurial approach to making a living. According to Javelin Advisory Services, gig and freelance workforce is growing three times faster than the rest of the working population. Gen Z also tends to be more altruistic and socially conscientious than their Millennial counterparts and seek to start values-based businesses as a result.
The blurred line between personal and business pursuits, as well as finances, will produce unique money management challenges for Gen Z as they navigate tax preparation, budgeting and qualifying for and managing credit.
All of this once again underscores the need for FIs to focus on trust-building and advisory services through programs that speak to the altruistic and entrepreneurial aspirations of Gen Z, as well as their unique financial needs.
How to Reach Gen Z
To connect with this generation, financial institutions will need to communicate across multiple platforms and channels. Gen Z values face-to-face conversations, especially when seeking help from trusted sources. As their attention spans decrease from complex multitasking, information will need to be presented in new and surprising ways to make an impression.
Appeal to Gen Z’s natural curiosity and hunger for information. Appeal to their need to be part of something bigger than themselves and their desire to build businesses.
Appeal to their desire to become experts by educating them on economic issues and building their fiscal knowledge. Teach them and they will be willing students—and loyal account holders.
Speak to Gen Z in terms of value. They want to know they’re getting the best bang for their buck. They are savvy shoppers and will price compare to ensure they’re getting the best deal possible (If you can combine a good deal while appealing to their social conscience, even better).
A Bright Future Ahead
Gen Z currently has an estimated purchasing power of $44 billion and by 2020, Gen Z will surpass Millennials as the world’s largest demographic. Financial institutions that understand how to reach this dynamic new group and appeal to what they consider important will be well positioned to earn their business — and keep it — for years to come.