A guide to Generation Z.

Generation Z. iGen. Centennials. Whatever you call them, the newest generation has come of age, begun to enter the workforce and unleashed their influence on American culture. Studies have shown they are now responsible for 25% of consumer spending. They’re too important to ignore.

But what do you know about them? Do you know how to speak their language and earn their trust? Don’t worry if you can’t answer “yes” to these questions; you’re not alone.  And we’re here to help. Here’s a quick primer covering everything you need to know about Generation Z.

Who is Generation Z?

Anyone born from 1996 to the present belongs to this newest generation. A huge, diverse generation of over 23 million people in the U.S. alone, they think and act very differently than their millennial predecessors.

What defines them?

Though they are still being defined as a generation, the iGen seems to be an increasingly self-aware, self-reliant and goal-oriented group.  They don’t remember a time before social media and it has had a profound impact on their relationships.

Technology is an ingrained part of their lives. They live an on-demand existence revolving around laptops and mobile devices, and technology has affected every aspect of their lives. With an attention span of only 8 seconds, they’re comfortable with virtual experiences and learning. Online shopping is their preferred method of purchase, and they will only visit stores as a last resort.

What do they value?

A highly educated demographic that is adept at web-based research and self-education, they value education for its own sake. They also want to make a difference in the world and have a positive impact. This can be seen in their food choices, with fresh, natural ingredients that are sustainably produced being preferable to processed foods.

This desire to do good in the world may be driven by a negative outlook on the state of things. Only 26% of them trust elected officials and less than a quarter feel the economy is headed in the right direction. The defining moments for them have been things like the Great Recession, the student loan debt crisis and changing social issues.

What does the emergence of Generation Z mean for you?

Like every generation before it, the emergence of this new demographic presents challenges to employers, marketers and salespeople.  In many cases, companies have to rethink their entire strategy to appeal to the values of this youngest generation.

To speak to them on their own terms, you need to be social and socially responsible. Simply having a Twitter account isn’t enough, you need to engage your audience.  Generation Z demands online shopping options and will do their research to ensure they’re getting the best deal.

Less likely to be seduced by high-end brands, they have a strong sense of personal style and want items that are both fashionable and functional. And they value character over mass production.