Want To Know The Future Of Business? Just Ask Your Teenage Children

In the great Covid Crisis of 2020, we are entering a new phase, because we’re about to enter the “get back to work you lazy sloths” phase.

We’ve all been watching Netflix, doing the garden, bit of DIY here and there, and generally, thoroughly enjoying being paid to do absolutely sweet (insert expletive here) all.

And if we haven’t been lounging around on the sofa, we’ve been working from home, because, after all, commuting to the office is just so pre-pandemic. It’s caught out most businesses who traditionally have relied on us getting up off our backsides and paying them a visit.

But of course, during lockdown, we didn’t disappear, we simply moved into our digital worlds. And that, it seems, is where many of us are likely to remain for the foreseeable future.

And where better to get a good insight into what the new post-pandemic future holds for all of us, than the generation who’ve possibly been most impacted by all of this; Gen Z.

The third annual, international study of Gen Z, conducted by The Center for Generational Kinetics and commissioned by WP Engine, has revealed new expectations for the web by Generation Z in comparison to other generations including Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers.

Why studying Gen Z matters

2020 has taught us the reason why digital transformation is all we’ve heard about for umpteen years. Billions of people went online to work, study, and merely to stay in touch during the COVID-19 pandemic. After years of knowing they needed to adopt digital transformation strategies, the pandemic has forced organisations to not only accelerate those plans but put them into immediate action.

For Gen Z however, this is simply business as usual. They’ve never drawn a distinction between the physical and the digital world. For them, whether online or offline, the critical element is that you can seamlessly move between each.

Fabio Torlini, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, International for WP Engine, said “The pandemic caused a profound change in the way we do everything, from shopping to eating to engaging with friends and family. Gen Z was already comfortable in that new paradigm, so if you meet the digital needs of Gen Z, you’re ahead of the rest of the world.”

Gen Z is inextricably tied to digital

60% of Gen Z can’t go more than 4 hours without Internet access before they become uncomfortable. They’ve become 7% more dependent on the Internet to access other people and connections, compared to 2018. But they’re also more likely than other generations to believe in the positive impact of technology on the world: 64% believe the Internet will bring us closer together.

How do Gen Z and its counterparts use the Internet?

  • Gen Z now depends on the Internet primarily to access their friends (62%) and for entertainment (59%).
  • On the other hand, Millennials (57%), Gen X (63%), and Boomers (67%) rely on the Internet largely to access information.

“Gen Z are a huge, diverse generation and the fastest growing group of employees, customers, and voters,” said Jason Dorsey, President at The Center for Generational Kinetics. “As we’ve seen over the past three studies, this generation thinks and acts VERY differently. Their connectedness, their ability to navigate change quickly and their desire to have a positive impact on the world are all reflected in their higher expectations of technology and organisations.”

Resetting digital experience expectations

Even Gen Z’s demands for the future of Internet access look dramatically different from today. In the next 5 years, 40% of Gen Z expects to access the Internet by using their voice alone, through Alexa or Siri for instance. Conversely, over twice as many Boomers (23%) as Gen Z (11%) primarily expect access to the internet through gestures.

Overall, Western Europeans believe biometric authentication is among the top website functionalities of the future. With biometrics (e.g. fingerprint and face recognition, voice and speech recognition) authentication with the Internet will be done without a keyboard. Meanwhile, Gen Z is most likely to believe that in the next 5 years the Internet will impact our view of the world through AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) compared to older generations.

AI-driven digital experiences

Gen Z has also revealed growing demands for artificial intelligence (AI)-driven human digital experiences on the web.

  • Almost one third (31%) of Gen Z expects the Internet to predict what they need and alert them before they need it.
  • 79% expect that all software and website/digital experiences will have digital learning/AI capabilities.

On the other side, Boomers (78%) and Gen X (68%) would much rather have an Internet where they were completely anonymous and had to order everything manually, over an Internet or web apps that could predict what they need at all times and provide that to them. And despite Gen Z’s move towards predictive technologies, all generations show concern for the growing use of artificial intelligence, with Millennials (69%) even ahead of born-digital Gen Z (63%) on this point.

What does Gen Z expect from digital experiences?

  • Get to know me. 68% believe that all websites will “talk” to each other, so every site/app/appliance will present a personalised experience
  • Press ahead. 67% of Gen Z has personally used, worked with someone else, or hired someone to use WordPress for a website

Which underlines that it isn’t simply retail that is fundamentally changing, it’s not even the business of doing business, it’s the very essence of living in 2020 and beyond. And that can’t be such a bad thing.

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