It’s no industry secret that the most effective and efficient way to do business these days is online. With less overheads, a global reach and a huge increase of Millennial and Gen Z customers, conducting business online has been firmly established as a necessity, rather than an option.
Buying stuff online was a change ushered in by Millennials, a demographic made up of students, trainees and young professionals who are often described as ‘digital natives’. These people have been using the internet for a solid chunk of their lives and have become totally comfortable with the medium.
But we’re currently amidst the rise of Gen Z – the ones who came after Millennials. They were born between the mid-’90s and the mid-‘00s and they are arguably the first true digital natives. They don’t even remember a time when the internet didn’t exist.
Gen Z is therefore made up of clients and customers who demand a very different kind of customer service experience than was previously accepted.
Who Are Gen Z and What Do They Want?
A study conducted by IBM called Uniquely Gen Z looked at more than 15,000 consumers from 16 different countries, including Australia. It found that Gen Z is made up of people who “hold unprecedented influence over family purchasing decisions and wield enormous economic power of their own”. Basically, they are the ones who will dictate the terms of tomorrow’s marketplace, and brands need to start listening to them – not the other way around.
The aforementioned study found that while 87% of Gen Z have access to high speed internet at home, 62% will not use an app or website that is difficult to navigate and 60% will not use an app or website that is too slow to load. This puts the onus back on the business – if your product isn’t extremely convenient to access, it’s not even in the race.
What Do Gen Z Value in a Website?
Customer service is still the key to good business at the front end, but what it actually looks has changed a lot and continues to change rapidly. Instead of a charming retail salesperson who works in a brick-and-mortar clothing store, modern customer service often equates to a secure booking page, a prompt loading time and a messenger chatbox that’s manned by a real person. Essentially, the process of buying something online has to be easy, efficient, safe and secure.
‘Uniquely Gen Z’ also found that while Gen Z are far more technologically savvy than their parents and older peers, what they value is still pretty straightforward. “Quality”, “product availability” and “value” were the top-rated factors for choosing one brand over another. They value brands that have a social conscience and are transparent about their core values. So the business principles haven’t changed so much, it’s more about being on top of the technical stuff and meeting the customer on their own terms.
Gen Z are also a very discerning demographic. With instant access to a plethora of user-generated online product and service reviews at their fingertips, they’re not going to take a gamble on a product that looks substandard. This means that it’s become a necessity for brands to put effort into their Google ratings and other online reviews.
Gen Z have also grown up in an era where geopolitical unrest and ecological destruction are fed to them via a 24-hour news cycle, along with a whole lot of advertising and branded content. This means that they are literally bombarded with information via their smartphones on a daily basis. The result is that they’re forced to have a good eye for distinguishing between what’s important to them and what’s not. Cutting through the noise is no small feat but undoubtedly the most direct avenue is through social media.
As the report reads, “They are ‘always on,’ with 24/7 access to YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat and WeChat—as well as any other apps or channels they want to use for interactions.” The best way for brands to remain relevant is to connect with customers in the online spaces they already inhabit – which is in the sphere of social media.