Forget Generation Y (aka “The Millennials”, born between 1980-2000). They are already here. Generation Z are the first generation born (1995 – 2010) into a world dominated by the Internet, Social Media, and Mobile – and they are about to arrive in the marketplace.
I should know. I have one. Born December 1995, the world of “…adding him to my car insurance is going to cost HOW MUCH?!” has finally arrived for me!
What does this mean for travel media?
Subjectively, not a lot. We write for the generation we are. Gary Arndt is not likely to start a niche blog on ‘Clubbing in Ibiza’ anytime soon and nor am I (I’m not ruling it out, Gary. Just saying ‘unlikely’!). So Gen-Z is not an audience we have to reach, but it is a generation we will have to compete with. If anyone thinks the travel blogosphere and social media networks are already too busy with Gen-X & Y bloggers, influencers & content creators, they’d better brace themselves because Gen-Z are going to be all over the online travel space like a swarm of bees.
This is the generation who aren’t just in constant communication with their friends. They are in constant communication simultaneously on multiple platforms! (I see it every evening. My son sits on the sofa with his iPhone and laptop, talking to overlapping groups of people on Skype, on his phone and through the Xbox that he is playing FIFA 12 matches on, with his team mates… while at the same time messaging & posting on Facebook.)
Gen-Y, and some X, writers may have been the first to occupy the online travel space, but over the next decade our presence there is going to be competitively diluted. Fortunately our voices will still be heard (thank goodness for search and the ‘long tail’!) but in a few years our resources will begin to diminish as the travel & tourism industry turns its attention to the new and growing customer base.
What does this mean for the travel industry?
A new concentration on seamless online technology says Grail Research. Companies wanting to target Gen-Z will need to…
- Adopt technology-based marketing and sales channels such as text messages (SMS), mobile Internet, social networking portals, etc.
- Aim to ‘catch them young’ (especially relevant for technology companies)
- Enhance their virtual world presence with online product information and purchase facility
- Develop high value-for-money products that are multifunctional with simple and interactive designs
- Provide ‘green’ products and services or take a proactive stance toward the environment
That last one is an interesting and encouraging trend. Grail point out that access to a large online information pool has made Gen-Z acutely aware of modern day challenges such as terrorism, climate change, etc. 74% of teenagers, globally, consider climate change and global warming to be a greater threat than drugs, violence or war. Grail have produced an excellent summary of who Generation Z are, and their defining characteristics.
Jon Keefe, CEO at KMP Digitata told delegates at last month’s Travolution Summit that it’s the Gen-Z girls who will have the most impact on the travel industry:
We’ve been researching these girls, known as “Disruptive Divas” and they are incredible. They are constantly connected across multiple channels both in groups and privately. They spend on average 2-9 hours a week video chatting and they send between 500 and 3,000 messages a week via platforms like BBM (Blackberry messaging) and Facebook.
What is particularly interesting is the group behaviour – group chat and group video chat. Multi-conversational across multiple devices.These girls will start a conversation in real life with friends at school. They’ll continue using BBM on the way home on the bus, and they’ll pick it up again on group Skype or Google Hangouts later on in the evening. They embrace the idea of shared experience and in three years time these girls are going to become your customers, bringing their ingrained digital behaviour to your front doors.
KMP Digitata’s interest in Gen-Z girls is in the development of their concept travel platform, Factor 15, which will enable group collaboration and purchasing, by creating a ‘trip board’ which will gather and curate the group’s conversations from multiple networks (Twitter, Facebook, BBM, G+ Hangouts), and insert product suggestions, content (video, photos, reviews) and prices. Very different to today’s travel websites, although Expedia have been making advances in collaborative purchasing.
Gen-Z are not patient browsers or searchers, says Jon Keefe, they want ideas fed to them organically as the site ‘listens in’ to their conversation. Nor is privacy an issue. They want stuff brought to them, now. They’ll hand over their personal details to get it, with no worries.
Privacy is for old farts – generation X people, like us!
The Factor 15 site will also enable the divas to get live feedback on their ideas. Jon describes a scenario where the girls get a live video review in a ‘hangout’ from another Gen-Z who is actually on holiday in the destination they are interested in, and for a 15% discount off his holiday, has agreed to make himself available for reviews on demand.
Now there’s an opportunity for travel writers/bloggers to exploit – ‘live’ reviews on demand!