Maybe we should stop talking Millennials and start chirping Generation Z

With 5G becoming a reality, it won’t be too long before new services are launched, which is perhaps why we should stop talking about Millennials and start focusing on Generation Z.

It might seem absurd to ditch the millennials demographic, especially considering they have been referenced so frequently in recent years, but if we are looking to the future, we aren’t designing products and services for the current generation.

If 4G was a technology designed for Millennials, then 5G might possibly have to be designed for Generation Z. In five years’ time, when 5G is likely to be largely ubiquitous in the developed market, this is a digital-native demographic which will come of age with wild ambitions, big plans and credit cards.

Although the definitions of the different generations does vary, below seems to be a widely accepted definition.

Category Born Age range today
Generation X 1965 to 1980 40 to 55
Millennials 1981 to 1996 39 to 24
Generation Z 1997 to 2012 8 to 23
Generation Alpha 2013 onwards 0 to 7

Of course we are being very flippant when we suggest forgetting about the Millennials. This is and will continue to be a generation of individuals who have money and will want to spend it, but for those who are attempting to create a service to take the world by storm, an innovative eye will have to be cast beyond the horizon.

As an example of creating future-proofed services for the generation which is likely to be the most attractive, lets have a look at Rich Communication Services. It is an evolution for the telcos and SMS, but the Millennials are all using WhatsApp. RCS is redesigning a service created for a previous generation and competing against one which has been designed with today in mind. This is an attempt to savage old revenues, as opposed to thinking ahead and attempting to create new streams.

With every new generation of mobile technology, a change in societal behaviour is enforced. 4G democratised mobile internet and was embraced by the Millennials much more aggressively than Generation X. Arguably, older demographics have become accustomed to a way of life, therefore are not as welcoming of change, which will perhaps explain why so many services are seemingly designed for Millennials. But could the same not be said about 5G?

In five years’ time, Millennials will be in the same position as Generation X when 4G started gathering momentum. Your correspondent is a Millennial, so is writing from an informed (somewhat) position and is perhaps exasperated by the idea of something completely new. Today, your correspondent becomes frustrated attempting to learn all the different nuances and features of smartphones, applications, platforms or services, something which would not have been a problem in the first post-Uni years of the early 2010s.

But perhaps there is evidence of services being designed for Generation Z, even if the buzzword is yet to catch on completely.

Twitch is video live streaming service, designed for online gamers, which was acquired in 2014 by Amazon for $970 million. This is effectively an aggregator platform for commentary on gaming videos, tips and tricks, highlights or live streaming of organised competition and all other forms of user-generated content.

This might sound like a ridiculous idea to many reading this article, but Twitch has four million content creators who contribute every month, 15 million daily active users on average and more than 600 billion minutes of content were streamed through the platform over the course of 2019.

Members of Generation X or Millennials might find themselves asking a question now:

Why would anyone want to watch a video of someone else watching a video game and commentating on what is going on?

The users are of course gamers themselves (or very likely to be) but this does seem like a service which is beyond logic. Older demographics might struggle to understand why this is appealing, but then again it is not designed for us. Different types of content are emerging for a different generation, and there is plenty of money to made of the back of it should products be designed with the right nuances in place.

Another example of this evolving landscape is the work-from-home mentality which is being forced on us all due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This is perhaps a glimpse into the future, where offices have become obsolete (perhaps not…) and the digital economy is running rampant. This would have been unforeseeable a few years ago, but a new era of connectivity could bring about an evolution in working practices.

Remote working is definitely not new, but it hasn’t really been embraced by the working world until it was forced to. Older generations might not be the most comfortable with the new status quo, but digitally native Generation Z may well be.

Of course, what is worth noting is this is simply history repeating itself. In the mid-00s, some older individuals might have wondered why anyone would want to display personal details on their lives for everyone to see (Facebook), how people could trust taxi drivers when you haven’t rung the depot (Uber) or why on earth you would want to stay in the spare room of someone else’s home (AirBnB).

These are all products which were designed for the next generation and enabled by the emergence of a new mobile technology. The Millennials are far from an obsolete generation for the ambitious innovators, but to fully embrace the 5G era, perhaps the baton will soon have to be passed to Generation Z.

But what could these services look like? Virtual reality might be one, having been written off numerous times by today’s demographics. Virtual meetings and video conferencing will certainly be a trend is staying for the long-term. The voice interface might well overtake touch at some point in the future, and there does seem to be incredible potential for gesture control. And who knows what else connectivity could be embedded into in the future…

And what is important to Generation Z? This is a generation which tends to travel more, is more socially and environmentally conscious, are super-swipers with relatively short-attention spans, they demand connectivity and access to services constantly, are OK with the cloud but take digital privacy and security more seriously and as they have been born into the social media revolution, are more welcoming of user-generated content, as well as creating it themselves.

If you’re wondering what might be big in the future, ask some of the kids in the office and just remember all the things which don’t make sense to you. It takes a special type of person to design products for the next era, but it will become a necessity as 5G stumbles towards us, albeit at a slower pace while we are in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic.

Millennials, we had a good run, but maybe we are just getting a bit old.