By Adam Wakefield

The most noticeable difference between Generation Z, generally viewed as those born in the mid-1990s and later, and those that preceded them is their familiarity with the ICT space, especially the digital space.

“If you look at Gen Y, they were adopting technology and they were called digital natives, but these days, if I look at my daughters, they very much expect technology to just work,” Assabi, also chair of the Mobile Marketing Association of South Africa board, explains.  

“The adoption of apps and how-to-use-technology, for example Uber, has changed their lives, especially in South Africa if you look at Uber as a phenomena. For kids that have to wait till they are 18 to drive, they have the ability to not even think about cars.”

The challenge for brands is appealing to Generation Z, consumers who go online first, and given their proficiency with technology, who had an “in-built sales resistance”.

“Advertising has got to change, because it’s about education, giving information and permission marketing rather than trying to get their attention and capture it, because their attention span is something they cherish. I think it’s very, very exciting,” he says.

Assabi believes subtlety will be an ally of brands trying to reach Generation Z, along with being mobile, and particularly smartphone orientated in their approach. 

“It’s got to be contextual and relevant. I think these consumers would be very open to engaging if the experience is contextual and relevant. Brands need to become true customer advocates,” he says.

“They’ve got to think about the customer’s point of views. It’s always been true but now it’s even more relevant because there is so much choice and it’s easy to switch from one app to another. ‘There’s always an app for that’. That’s the way this generation thinks. If a particular organisation or brand is not going to serve them the way they choose, they will find something else.”

Asked what he has learnt watching his own daughters, Assabi says they do not trust brands, rather their friends. 

“Word of mouth is the only way. I think my daughter is a bit of an ‘influencer’, maybe because of the household,” Assabi says with a smile. “She is very tech savvy, and if she gets something, all of her friends get it. It’s very much around community and ‘If my friends are doing it then I think it’s cool’. They won’t trust brands, and while we’re the same, it’s more accentuated with their generation.”

Generation Z’s impact on the market place will begin to be felt in the next 10 years, as they age and become economically active. For Assabi, when Generation Z reaches this point, two words ring out: customer engagement.

“With social, mobile, information at your fingertips, consumers are much empowered and it’s going to be about a customer-led organisation,” Assabi says.

For example, the importance and size of consumer-to-consumer interaction within customer communities was increasing, with brands no longer expecting to “sell” to customers. Rather, the market place will be about informing the customer that if they have a demand, their brand is available to meet that demand.

“The rules of the game have changed. It’s about education, it’s about making sure you’re relevant, understanding your customers and being applicable to them,” Assabi concludes. “The brands that are going to win in the future are the ones that are really listening to their customers and use customer insight to reinvent their business and make sure they are relevant.”

For more information, connect with Assabi on Twitter.