By Jill Sherman, SVP, Social Strategy, Social Practice Lead, DigitasLBi North America
Performance. It’s the thing that has historically made (and continues to make) Millennials salivate. More seamless user experiences, faster access, lighter devices, longer battery lives and smarter, more personalized interfaces. CES 2017 delivered these in spades.
But for Gen Z, currently people ages 3 to 20—a generation that has grown up with performance as an expectation—it’s proficiency of technology, the degree of its competence or skill, that matters most to them. How the technology improves the way they navigate through life, how they experience the world, and how they learn about themselves (especially in relation to others), is what gets them excited.
So, although the parents of Gen Z were clearly a focus at CES 2017, there were a handful of startups and technology reveals specifically focused on the things Gen Z cares about, like immersion, fluid evolution, safety, and togetherness. And while most were in their early days—and in many ways gimmicky and near-sighted—there were a handful that were on point with this new consumer.
Abandoning the concept of one-size-fits-all.
Gen Z is fluid and adaptable, and will expect technology that is, too. Startups like SmartyPans—cookware that tracks meal nutrition as you cook to create future recommendations—aims at moving beyond generic advice. Instead, it will learn your preferences, your habits, and your meal preparation nuances to create a truly personalized, and evolving, meal plan. And Aire—a digital digestive tracker—aims to understand which foods are most compatible with your body. And while the concepts may seem simple on the surface, they can help the individual better understand their unique needs and adapt accordingly.
Thinking spatially and immersively
Gen Z thinks about experiences the way older generations think about engagement. As gaming, media, and social platforms continue to improve their VR capabilities, haptic feedback, mobility, and group interaction will only broaden adoption. Cerevo’s Taclim—the world’s first VR shoes and gloves—and Hypersuit—a Paris-based startup that creates highly immersive software for gaming—both created a fair amount of buzz at CES 2017 for their attempt to truly deliver transcendent individual VR experiences. Let’s hope group experiences are on the roadmap for next year.
Creating a greater sense of security
Gen Z has grown to expect a sense of privacy and safety. And while we are years away from sunscreen that alerts us we’ve gone over our personal UV limit, some startups are beginning to bring the potential to life. Startups, like Cosmo Connected and In&Motion, revealed products that help bikers be visible on the road, deploy on-body airbags, and alert first responders. And Amazon It may sound like overkill for some, but for a generation that is growing up with digital fraud notices and cars that break before an accident, the ability to add an ambient layer of security to their lives will be an expected benefit of doing business.
Gen Z covets group experiences. And while the individual is still important, technology that reimagines the group experience will win. AI that learns group dynamics, robots that understand the nuances of touch by different family members, and social tech that enhances relationships will excite and transform how Gen Z interacts with friends and family. Samsung’s C-Lab revealed Tag+, a bluetooth device that doesn’t just bring app functionality to toys, but digitally connects kids playing with the same toy in real-time. And while the concept of group tech was primarily applied to health equipment, features within self-driving cars, and talks on the future of Smart Cities, I’m confident that brands innovating in the arena of togetherness will most-definitely find their way into the hearts and homes of Gen Z.
A recent Sparks & Honey report, “Meet Generation Z”, makes it clear that this generation is different from their Millennial predecessors in every way. Gen Z’ers are mature and in control. They worry about the economy. They think spatially and in 4D. They lack situational awareness. They communicate symbolically. Their social circles are global. And they are hyper-aware of privacy and safety. For them, it will be the media, technology, and digital experiences that are naturally intuitive, provide them tangible (and actionable) benefits, and usher in more meaningful experiences that forge new pathways into closer relationships, better real-world experiences, and greater senses of self, that will win.
Photo Credits: Smartypans.io, Cerevo.com, CosmoConnected.com, Samsung.com