Ice Cream, Roller Skates, and Gen Z with Lisa Box

NamesCon 2018 saw over 1,100 attendees over three invigorating days of keynotes, talks, and workshops. Here, we revisit one of our keynote sessions.

Lisa Box, Vice President at Strategic Alliances and Business Development at WP Engine, introduced the NamesCon audience to a very mysterious species… The post-Millenials. Today’s teens and tweens. Generation Z.

In partnership with the Center for Generational Kinetics, WP Engine studied this up-and-coming demographic. Generation Z are currently 21 and younger. They’ve never really known a life without the internet. Their defining moments so far would include 9/11 and the invention of the iPhone. “They only look at the world through the eyes of full connectivity, full freedom on the internet,” said Box.

The study found that 27% of Gen Z couldn’t comfortably go more than one hour without internet access. They would actually present symptoms of anxiety if disconnected for such a brief amount of time. (The same percentage of Baby Boomers could go two days or more unplugged with no problem.) They don’t just love tech, though—they believe in it: Gen Z is also more optimistic than their generational adjacents about the internet being able to bring the world together. Nearly a quarter of the surveyed cohort see great advertising as key to building a brand.

Gen Z controls 93% of household buying decisions, with more disposable income at their fingertips than Millennials, said Box: this is a high-stakes market to engage. Overall, Box identified four key thematic takeaways from the survey, which you’ll find below.

But First, Entertain Me

72% of Gen Z access the internet for entertainment. (Boomers and Millennials tend to use the internet more for information.) For this generation, there’s no real difference between a computer and a smartphone: they’re both gateways to the internet that permeates their lives.

Emotion vs. Function

Every morning, Box’s son plugs in his headphones on the way to school and plays video games with his cousin, who lives in a different city. He and his younger sister tear through trends at what seems like a breakneck pace to their mom. They want to love the apps they use, and that love can be fickle.

Gen Z prizes authenticity. They want social-networking and dating sites to guarantee the people they’re talking to are really the people they’re talking to. They prefer online reviews to celebrity endorsement.

Predictive Personalization

Gen Z want experiences crafted to their own needs and wants, and they’re willing to give you more personal information in order to help you help them. Perceptions around tech are evolving, added Box: Gen Z is cool with the Internet of Things operating their household appliances. A full quarter of the surveyed cohort are predicting that the internet will be able to predict what they want.

Gen Z doesn’t interface with the internet in the same way their seniors do: they’re less about typing and more about voice control. They believe that typing on a keyboard will become a thing of the past, replaced by gestures and voice; all helped along by the predictive work done by the companies with which they interact.

Fear to Fearless

For authenticity to happen, Gen Z understands that they need to be open with personal information. While all generations agree that security concerns are the most important part of life online, except for Gen Z, who are more concerned with bad advertisements. “Fear is “just table stakes,” said Box: “This is truly a generational switch… they just view things very differently.”

Overall, anonymity is less important to Gen Z than the convenience that comes with a predictive internet, said Box, a dynamic driven by younger users and impacting users of all ages. Website functionality will change dramatically in the next five years, especially how advertising is done. 62% of Gen Z respondents believe that websites will know what you are looking for before you tell them—in fact, 41% said they would not buy from a website that couldn’t anticipate their needs and wants.

Your internet usage will be equivalent to your credit score, according to Gen Z, who are fine with putting personal information online; as long as that information is properly protected. Gen Z is demanding a human experience from the internet, for everything from shopping to entertainment to knowledge. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity to advertisers and websites alike: a rich prize awaits those who can best engage an increasingly oversharing audience.

The value of a domain name will be different for younger generations: social media is more important to them than web destinations, but those web destinations are still where shared content comes from, so brandability of a domain and owning a strong domain name remain important. Interoperability will be the order of the day going forward: your content and commerce will have to play nice with other technologies, and you’ll have to stay abreast of what’s new out there. As Box said, “It’ll be a hard one for us to wrap our head around.”

Key Concepts

  • Market research
  • Curiosity for new technology

Take Action

  • Know your audience: study the profound behavioral differences between generations.
  • Make sure your service feels human at every step of the conversion funnel

Lisa Box serves as VP of Strategic Alliances at WP Engine focused expanding the company’s partner ecosystem. Lisa has an extensive background in program development, marketing and channel incentive design from her more than 15 years in the domain and hosting industry in leadership roles.
Twitter: @lboxtexas

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