Generation Z isn’t niche, it’s the mainstream
Companies need to start taking post-millennials seriously, or lose their business
Last month, news broke that Facebook was killing its standalone Lifestage app after less than a year, and the world collectively shrugged. Not only had most people forgotten it ever existed, but anyone who was familiar with the teen-focused selfie-sharing tool assumed Facebook had dumped it a long time ago due to a general lack of interest.
In a statement, the company said: "We've gotten some helpful feedback from this app that we're using to improve a number of visual and camera features across the Facebook app. Teens continue to make up an important part of the global community on Facebook, and we've learned a lot from Lifestage. We will continue to incorporate these learnings into features in the main Facebook app."
There are a lot of plausible theories as to why Lifestage failed, but chief among them is the narrow focus on a youth market (only those under 21 could sign up) over-saturated with choice. With Snapchat and Instagram already aggressively vying for attention, there simply wasn't room for Facebook's rival effort. Tech companies should learn from Facebook's misstep now or face their own failures down the road.
Generation Z, the generation following the much-discussed Millennial, is a demographic that's dominating the consumer tech market but crucially hasn't yet entered the workforce. That's about to change, however, and they'll be bringing with them a level of tech literacy more evolved than any previous generation.
Gethin Nadin, director of global partnerships at Benefex, says: "Born post-1995, Generation Z has never known a world without the internet. In fact, their lives are so entwined in tech, that some academics have affectionately dubbed them 'Mutants'. [They're] set to become the largest generation ever, reaching 2.52 billion, and by 2025 they will account for 30% of the workforce. Therefore, it'd be remiss to not take their wants and needs seriously."
One of the biggest issues related to the incoming generation is the expectation that technology used in the workplace will be up to par with what they use in their personal lives. This is not a new idea, as such Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is already fairly commonplace but it's one many companies may struggle to keep up with.
"Generation Z are growing up amidst rapid economic transition and in a hyper-competitive world," says Sam Shaw, from consumer behavioural analyst firm Canvas8. "Offline and online are inextricably linked for them. Constant access to social technology is a natural part of their lives."
According to research conducted by Fuze, three quarters of the new generation expect to be able to use the latest technology at work, yet almost half (48%) of respondents thought employers didn't provide adequate tech for them to work effectively.
Kris Wood, VP EMEA at Fuze, added: "While consumer technology brands are growing increasingly comfortable with the expectations of this new generation, those working in business technology still have a long way to go. To the business community, it's all too easy to assume that because Generation Z may not yet be in work, they cannot be a core target audience for business-oriented tech. This disconnect across corporate tech firms is already starting to show through."