S Swaminathan
Guest Article

Get over the Millennials; it's time to focus on the Centennial

Our guest author makes a case for a new kind of target audience.

Digital natives who seek instant gratification, have shorter attention spans and emphasise on experiences as opposed to material things; that's how marketers, researchers and brands have slotted the millennials. Powerhouse brand-loyalists, millennials, considered until now the largest living demographic, have piqued the interest of every brand and marketer. Today's consumers have been studied, researched, laboriously monitored and meticulously dissected from boardrooms to classrooms and their collective consciousness has forced brands to reposition their offerings and shopping experiences. However, millennials are soon becoming the thing of the past, because lo and behold, we're in the world of Generation Z or Centennials. It's already time to start thinking outside the 'millennial box'.

Get over the Millennials; it's time to focus on the Centennial

S Swaminathan

Gen Z, post-millennials, centennials, call them what you want, but they're every marketer and brands reality and the game-changing target audience with the oldest of them barely out of college. The true mobile digital natives, Gen Z, born and raised in the smartphone world, stay constantly connected on multiple screens, every time and anywhere, just like the millennials preceding them. However, the similarities between the two seem to be dwindling. While the predecessors of Gen Z focused on experience to turn brand-loyalists, Gen Z is taking their own time choosing to become brand advocates.

While their demands are bigger, their expectations greater and their patience shorter, they're more resourceful when it comes to spending and are increasingly showing signs of being driven by sustainability and quality rather than price and marketing gimmicks. As a marketer, I see this as a new and distinctive paradigm shift that needs intuitive handling. On one hand, we have the millennials who crave nuanced attention to details and on the other, we are targeting the children of millennials who are slowly and steadily evolving to become the youngest, smartest, most discerning, and influential buying demographic the world has ever seen.

Well, if you think that they are just children and question their buying power and influence - think again! They're born into a world where technology is as common as running water. Empowered by the digital revolution of the preceding years, they're used to technology being integrated into their daily routines regardless of age and are becoming less trusting of anything that isn't digital, but they are also astute shoppers who make the most informed purchase decisions based on genuine, detailed product information and reviews.

Centennials want answers; if the information they need is not readily available, they prefer to move on to the competition rather than wait for the brand to give them the answers. With 24 hours of access to technology, brands will have to leverage a slew of Martech tools and strategies to lure this generation of the newest and youngest influencers. However, brands will also have to pay heed to how much and what information they want this new buying segment to consume. Smart and judicious, Gen Z shoppers are the influencers who can sway the purchase decisions of not just their peers but also their millennial predecessors. With the youngest of them still being toddlers and they're millennial parents ready to indulge their whims, it would be necessary for brands to make sure that their online and offline work in tandem to deliver a truly unified experience.

Centennials are not necessarily predisposed to only shop online. With their unhindered access to information, they are more likely to check other consumer reviews and choose to interact with brands across mediums, including offline, at brick and mortar stores. And being the first to grow up with social media, they are much more attuned to virality and are adept at spotting trends, making it necessary for brands to maintain more transparency, speak their language and always be prepared to take part in conversations that matter to them.

Gen Z has a heightened need for personalisation and they truly epitomise the culture of the 'connected consumer'. They live in the present, strive for expression and don't just passively consume content. They want to be heard and are a highly engaged audience that can seamlessly navigate reams of data to extract the information that they are looking for.

A pragmatic generation that is more mindful of the greater good, Gen Z is also the consumers that grew up with the buy button in the palm of their hands. They have no patience for distraction, live by multi-tasking and expect seamless shopping journeys that are highly personalised, empowered and efficient. They have no qualms about moving on to the next option when things don't match their need for instantaneous access to information and only follow brands whose ideologies resonate with their sensibilities.

Poised to become the largest consumer group by 2020, with a market share of nearly 40 per cent, Gen Z follows a distinctive value system and their beliefs and expectations are vastly different from the generations gone by. Hence, for brands to stay relevant, it is necessary to really listen to their voice and be part of their discussions, without being overbearing or pushing messages across. With their inherent mistrust of traditional forms of marketing, it is now become critical for brands to keep pace with this generation that is motivated by honesty and integrity and are anticipated to become the biggest spenders and the most influential brand loyalists.

For a marketer, they are not just the future but also the present because they can influence the buying habits of millennials and bring about significant disruption in not just the way but also what brands communicate.

As someone who has been studying and predicting consumer trends in the country, I believe that marketing is on the brink of a disruptive transition. With the target demographic changing, today's brands will have to really delve deeper into their data to extract actionable insights. There's no longer time to ponder, it's now time to take action and this will only be possible when brands understand the growing need to tap into their data repositories.

Marketing and now sales hinge more on holding the attention of a generation of consumers with a dramatically shrinking attention span. In this age, where if you blink you'll miss your share of the consumer pie, Martech tools are substantially more crucial for success than ever before.

Today, for brands to stay competitive, they will have to convince their information-overloaded customers to make the purchase in 'the next few minutes'. And for that to happen every time, it is first important to stay constantly connected with their target audience by quickly and efficiently gleaning insights from their siloed data and gain their trust with relevancy, credibility and a unique value proposition.

(The author is CEO and co-founder of Hansa Cequity, a data-driven customer marketing company).