Move Over Millennials, There's a New Gen in Town

Generation Z is coming for your revenue streams.

Kris Blackmon, Head of Channel Communities

May 1, 2019

6 Min Read
As Gen Yrsquos size and clout in the workplace grows meaningful engagement between businesses and these employees will
As Gen Y’s size and clout in the workplace grows, meaningful engagement between businesses and these employees will become central to developing tomorrow’s leadership. Read more.ThinkStock

We’ve written before about our belief it’s time to let go of the notion there’s a “millennial problem” in the workforce and among customer bases. Odds are, you’ve got a lot of millennials – the oldest of which are pushing 40 – in your middle management these days. They’re the largest generational demographic in the country, and wise employers and marketers have resigned themselves to needing to cater to their wants and whims.

Especially when it comes to technology, millennials have by and large created the world we live in. Their demand for instant, always connected technology has driven many of the offerings managed service providers (MSPs) make money from today. Like it or not, they’re here in force.

If you still haven’t gotten on board with the millennial generation, we’ve got bad news for you. You’re not going to deal well with Generation Z, and they’re coming for your revenue streams. Like, now

The oldest Gen Zers are only about 22 years old, which means they’re graduating college and moving into the workforce. If you think you’ve got time before you have to worry about Gen Z competition, how to retain Gen Z talent or how to market to the aptly nicknamed “iGeneration,” you’re fooling yourself. Let us hold up the following entrepreneurs that changed the way you do business before they were 20 as reminders:

  • Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook

  • Matthew Mullenweg: WordPress

  • Aaron Levie: Box

  • Blake Ross: Mozilla Firefox

The influence of Gen Z can be seen most clearly in changing consumer habits. These days, it’s them whippersnappers that drive many purchasing trends just by asking, “Well, why can’t I just buy this with a click?” Disturbingly, every generation now shockingly has attention spans shorter than a goldfish at about eight seconds, according to a Microsoft study, but Gen Zers are growing up in a world where that isn’t disturbing at all. It’s just normal. You’ve got to catch their attention and give them something to obsess about enough where they’ll research it and follow a hashtag for it.

It won’t be long before Gen Z is both your biggest customer and your biggest competition. If you want to understand how best to market to and position yourself against them (and believe us, you want to. You really want to.), then take a look at their generation’s defining characteristics and apply them to your sales and marketing efforts. And do it fast, friends, because it’s now the the older generations following their lead when it comes to how they shop and sell.

They Pride Themselves on Individuality

From the time they were in diapers, Gen Z has been exposed to a wider range of perspectives, different ways of learning, and more lines of thinking than any generation before them, thanks to the internet. They grew up not wanting to be lost in the noise. Remember, they’re the social media generation, and cultivating a distinct personality is important to them.

You may still not be convinced that analysts, vendors and those annoying media outlets are right about needing to specialize, but you can bet your bottom dollar that Gen Z understands the appeal of niche expertise better than any of us. There are social accounts, YouTube channels, Instagram influencers, online retailers, entertainment outlets and software offerings for niches of niches of niches, and Gen Z knows how to use them to their advantage. They want customized experiences and specialized subject matter expertise, which we know doesn’t just appeal to the young. Boomer and Gen Xer-owned businesses today are looking for that targeted knowledge base, and that trend is only going up from here.

Social Savvy Meets Social Responsibility

We know that millennials are politically involved at much higher levels than Gen Xers or boomers, and they list social impact as one of the deciding factors when choosing an employer or deciding brand loyalty. They want their work to matter, the brands they buy to stand for something and their actions to reflect their ethics.

Because of how we’ve adjusted as marketers and service providers to this trend, Gen Z is growing up in a world where …

… social consciousness is front and center. They’re hyper-aware of income inequality, inferior treatment of minority groups and their own carbon footprints. There’s a current pending U.S. Supreme Court case where 21 young Gen Zers are suing the federal government over lack of action on climate change, for Pete’s sake.

Combine this with their social media savvy, and it’s a formula for a brave new world. Since birth, these influencers have lived their lives just as much in their online communities as their real ones, and they do their buying research by reading user reviews and forum threads. You cannot hide from social, and the more you ignore it, the further behind you’re going to fail. First of all, start devoting some real thought to your social media efforts if you haven’t already. And secondly, consider making your MSP stand for something larger than the generic “trusted adviser” line. Be specific. Maybe you’ve got equality and inclusion initiatives in place, you offer discounted services to firms with low carbon footprints or you’re heavily involved in your community. Then publicize the heck out of that on social.

The Tech Geek of 2000 Is Just the Regular Teen of Today

This generation has no idea what an offline world looks like. They’re social media natives. Their lives are lived at least as much digitally as they are physically. They’re naturally more digitally savvy than even millennials ever dreamed of being. They’re issued laptops instead of textbooks. As teens, we talked on the phone for hours. These guys prefer Snapchat and texting. They can install software at insanely early ages and were born into a world when everything is available on demand.

If you’re not on the front lines of bleeding-edge tech, they’re going to know it. And they’re going to care. Maybe not all of them will be able to craft advanced service offerings themselves, but they’ll all be able to recognize it when MSPs are phoning it in with the same old IT infrastructure packages they’ve offered for the last decade.

Keep up, partners.

Mobile First, Mobile Forever

Recall our “iGeneration” reference earlier? There’s good reason they’ve got this nickname. 

What does that mean for your marketing and sales operations? No matter what it takes, make sure your websites are mobile responsive. According to a recent study by the National Retail Federation and IBM’s Institute for Business Value, almost half of Gen Z members surveyed said the most important thing to their shopping experience is the ability to find things quickly, and more than 60 percent say they won’t use apps or websites that are slow or difficult to navigate.

This impacts your service offerings, too. Don’t even think about going with a solution provider that can’t offer you a mobile version of that “single pane of glass” everyone has bragged about for the last five years.

This all might sound daunting, but if you’ve done what you should have already and configured your business around the millennial buyer, then you’ve got a great start. Just remember, there’s no sitting pretty with Gen Z. The moment you’ve decided you’re savvy enough is the exact moment some 19 year old somewhere is creating something designed to put you out of business.

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About the Author(s)

Kris Blackmon

Head of Channel Communities, Zift Solutions

Kris Blackmon is head of channel communities at Zift Solutions. She previously worked as chief channel officer at JS Group, and as senior content director at Informa Tech and project director of the MSP 501er Community. Blackmon is chair of CompTIA's Channel Development Advisory Council and operates KB Consulting. You may follow her on LinkedIn and @zift on X.

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