We’ve seen and heard plenty about Generation Y – the millennials – who will dominate the workplace by 2020, but it is Generation Z – those born in the late 1990s – who are now energizing the thoughts and minds of travel suppliers.
Gen Z are the new disruptors, or “millennials on steroids” as one commentator dubbed them. According to the Digital Tourism Think Tank, Gen Z already makes up a quarter of the world’s population and by 2020 will account for 40% of all consumers. So travel providers need to be ready, because the new kids on the block are very a different animal to their forebears.
If Millennials were the first generation to demand immediacy and personalization, Gen Z takes personalization for granted. They have grown up with smartphones and tablets, expecting high-speed mobile broadband on demand. They have already performed 5.1bn Google searches, watched 4bn YouTube videos, sent 500m tweets and downloaded 1m apps. 60% share their knowledge and opinions online willingly – often using multiple devices simultaneously.
Gen Z are even better informed than their millennial parents, conducting pre-purchase research online more than any other generation. According to IBM’s 2016 Uniquely Generation Z research, 74% spend most of their free time online; the smartphone is the most frequently used device for 75% and 66% frequently use more than one digital device at the same time. This is the multi-tasking, multi-screen generation, reckoned to have an incredibly short attention span, so travel providers should beware when creating content for this audience.
The new demographic watches twice as many videos on mobile than previous generations, with 70% spending two-plus hours on YouTube every day according to Upfront Analytics. With Cisco Systems predicting that streamed video will account for more than two-thirds of all consumer Internet traffic this year, we can expect to see travel companies rely more on video content, even in business travel, to engage effectively.
Gen Z also approaches social media differently, preferring apps like Instagram, Snapchat and Whisper to public messaging platforms like Facebook or Twitter because of the privacy they offer. The fact that 25% of Gen Z abandoned Facebook way back in 2014 shows how significant this shift is.
57% of Gen Z spend half their phone time on messaging apps like Snapchat and iMessage, whilst 26% use the same means to engage with businesses – thereby creating the means for travel brands to engage with them. That time is spent seeking out content on social media and YouTube rather than social networking.
Early predictions that Millennials would rebel against inflexible company travel programs proved wide of the mark, but there’s no doubt that the changing workplace demographic has coincided with many companies introducing greater choice into their policies, not least to retain talented workers.
The millennial generation has also witnessed a trend towards greater self-employment as the global talent pool shrinks. The travel industry needs to be ready for consumers who want to be in total control of their travel arrangements if Universum’s estimate that 55% of Gen Z want to start their own business proves accurate.
This generation doesn't just share, it creates things. To that end low-fare airline Wow Air has targeted Gen Z with a campaign encouraging consumers to show off their Snapchat skills for the chance to be a content creator and travel the world. Starwood’s W Hotels was the first hotel brand to launch Snapchat sponsored Geofilters.
The Huffington Post says Gen Z will be “more conservative with their money, though not fearful of splurging on trips that enhance their views of the world...” They have also been described as more cautious, more money conscious and more face-to-face.
So what does this mean for savvy travel brands – and travel management companies in particular?
- Connectivity is a given for Generation Z, so travelers will remain dependent on travel technology. Connected to multiple devices (practically) since birth, travel suppliers will need to ensure that the depth of personalized content, functionality and the overall digital experience is consistent across all channels. Travel Management Companies will have to invest in multi-device strategies that allow travelers to seamlessly interact with their brand at every stage, from pre to post trip.
- Gen Z’s short attention span will mean that digital content is scanned rather than digested. Travel providers will have to find ways to encapsulate their value propositions into short, bite-sized pieces that connect visually with the consumer. In a corporate travel program, communication with travelers and bookers will need to be more frequent to achieve any real traction. Smartwatch Glances are tailor-made for Gen Z with ultra-brief updates and notifications that remove the need for the recipient to read lengthy text.
- Self-service will increasingly dominate the way Generation Z plans, books, checks-in, pays for, reviews and manages its travel. They want to be autonomous, whilst keeping within company travel policy, so travel brands will need to meet those needs whilst investing in the Artificial Intelligence-driven apps that enable more informed yet personalized decision making.
- Instant messaging will relegate phone calls and emails to secondary importance in the eyes of Gen Zers. This will determine how travel companies manage transactions and customer service. Gen Z is very hot on fast response timers, especially when problem solving, so travel brands will have to be proactive in keeping travelers informed 24 x 7 using live mobile chat.
- Above all, Gen Z wants to be treated as individuals, but having grown up in a world of personalized messaging they expect relevance in the communications they receive. This characteristic is also likely to be seen in the way they select their travel products and brands.
- Gen Z wants to make a real difference, is socially and sustainability-minded. Travel brands can appeal to their better nature by encouraging them.
Within 15 years, Generation Z will become the decision makers of the travel industry, so travel providers are already engaging with them to inform future investment decisions. Multi-device, mobile technology and personalization will be key to successful engagement and strong relationships.