According to a new recent research* – those born from 1996 to the present – the digital experience is their human experience. These digital natives expect to have constant access to the online world and want their digital experiences to be free, secure, authentic, transparent and personalized.
The Digital Experience Is The Human Experience
Unlike their predecessors, who use the internet mainly to source information, the research found that 86 percent of Gen Zers rely on it primarily for social media and entertainment, demonstrating a marked shift from “inform me” to “entertain me.” Where prior generations saw function or utility, Gen Z sees fun, connection and emotion. For them, there is no “online” or “internet.” Gen Z doesn’t distinguish whether they are online, on an app, in a social network’s platform or walking around with their mobile phone. To this generation, the digital world is ubiquitous and blends seamlessly with the real world – they price shop in stores, hang out with their loved ones while waiting in line and watch their favorite videos together with thousands of friends.
The expectation is not just that the web will play an increasingly larger role in their life, but that it is, and will continue to be, an absolutely integral part of their life. For example, 57 percent of Gen Z believes that in five years the digital world will determine what they do on a daily basis, 60 percent believes their online reputation will determine their dating options, and a surprising 71 percent believes that online actions, including social media posts and past purchases, will affect future job offers. 52 percent of Gen Z even said that they predict internet usage will be as accurate for understanding whether a person gets a loan as their credit score.
- Digital Dependence v. Boomer Indifference: Gen Z doesn’t just view the digital world differently; they are more dependent on it than previous generations. 27 percent of Gen Z can’t go for more than one hour without the internet while 27 percent of Boomers can go two or more days without it. Another 42 percentof Gen Z says they could only comfortably go without online access for 2-8 hours. In other words, 69 percent of Gen Z can’t go more than eight hours without being online.
- This Time It’s Personal: Gen Z is 25 percent more likely than other generations to provide personal information to gain a more predictive, personalized digital experience. In five years, 62 percent of Gen Z believe that websites will know what you are looking for before you tell them. Half of Gen Z would stop visiting a website if it didn’t anticipate what they needed, liked or wanted. In addition, 55 percent of Gen Z believes that in the next five years websites will become more human in experience by exhibiting personalized emotions when you visit and interact with them.
- Virtually There: 50 percent of Gen Z believes virtual reality will be adopted within three years or less. 92 percent believes that the way we interact with the online world will change significantly. Biometrics, predictive technologies, voice and gestures are all predicted to replace typing on a singular device. For Gen Z, technology isn’t a tool for productivity, rather it’s a door to empathy.
- Authentically Yours: Authenticity on the internet is a significant factor for Gen Z. Half of Gen Z needs to trust that people online are who they say they are and reviews come from real customers who purchased the product and aren’t incentivized. Conversely, 64 percent of Boomers want secure payments online and are less concerned with authenticity.
- Safe and Secure: With so many generational differences, one area where all generations resoundingly agree is with the need for safer, more secure digital experiences. Three of the top five things that all respondents want most from the web are better blocking from malware, more protection from fraud or ID theft and better authenticity around the trustworthiness of a website. However Gen Z takes this a step further. Gen Z is over 25 percent more likely than Boomers and Gen X to choose a digital world where websites or apps can predict and provide what users need at all times over one where a person is completely anonymous and has to make multiple manual selections. Gen Z is transitioning from fearful to fearless, because they see security as an enabler of better, more engaging online experiences.
“For Gen Z, there is an expectation that just about everything will either move online or go away completely,” said Mary Ellen Dugan, Chief Marketing Officer at WP Engine. “This presents an incredible opportunity for companies targeting their business and makes a brand’s digital face to the world – their website – the single most important place to express their purpose and deliver value. To effectively reach this younger generation, a brand’s digital experience needs to deliver value by establishing an ongoing dialogue with these stakeholders in an authentic, personalized and secure way. Anything less will be dismissed in 8 seconds or less.”
Added Jason Dorsey, President at The Center for Generational Kinetics, “Gen Z already influences tens of billions of dollars in annual spending and will soon be the driver of every major consumer trend. In fact, it’s predicted that by 2020, Gen Z will be 40 percent of all consumers. Brands that can’t adapt to the unique needs and behavior of these true digital and mobile natives are likely to fade into obsolescence and miss out on their incredible purchasing power.”
Gen Z is a large, increasingly influential group with a relationship to technology unlike any previous generation. In fact, their human experience is their digital experience, and they are dependent upon it. Gen Z has never known a time devoid of online access and they depend on it for entertainment over information. They also crave authenticity in all aspects of these digital experiences, and see security enabling better, more personalized interactions. Gen Z believes the future will be personal, with connected appliances and devices and uniformly personalized experiences across websites, apps, and platforms. This presents a huge opportunity to connect with them – in more human, more secure, more predictive and more personalized ways than ever before.
The custom 23-question survey was designed collaboratively by WP Engine and The Center for Generational Kinetics. The study was administered to 1,257 respondents in the U.S., ages 14-59, and it was weighted to current U.S. Census data for age, gender, and region. The survey was conducted online from July 28 to August 10, 2017. The study’s margin of error is +/-2.8 percentage points.