We’ve heard a lot about millennials in the last decade. That generation now makes up a larger part of the workforce than any other. Despite some delays, they’re buying homes and getting married — but still not eating at many chain restaurants.
Millennial consumers are all grown up. Now it’s time to look at the generation coming after them.
Generation Z was born between 1995 and 2010, which means its oldest members are starting to enter the workforce. They are digital natives who have likely had access to the internet for their entire lives. They know how to process huge amounts of information quickly, and have an innate understanding of how data is likely to be organized — if they don’t know the answer to a question, they know how to find the answer. Distances don’t matter much to them. Instantaneous service does.
By 2020, millennials and Generation Z will make up nearly 60 percent of the global workforce and 40 percent of global customers. They already have a great deal of buying power, and soon they’ll have even more. That means companies of all kinds are going to have to adapt to their needs and wants.
What does Gen Z expect from shipping?
The members of Generation Z have been ordering products online for most of their lives. That means it isn’t enough to merely offer online ordering and shipping — if you don’t have an online store, then for Gen Z, you’re out of the game already.
Look at this through a young adult’s eyes: Everyone delivers. Many do it for free. Those are no longer differentiators. KPMG predicts that, for these customers, experience is more important than price and product.
IBM Consulting says 58 percent of Gen Z and millennial buyers value retailers that offer flexible pick-up and delivery options. Remember, these younger workers are less likely than any generation before them to work typical 9-to-5 office jobs. They value weekend and evening deliveries — and they’re willing to pay more for non-traditional delivery options if that’s what’s most convenient for them.
These people also don’t care that much about speed, as long as they’re kept informed while their packages are en route. Neopost Shipping says that 78 percent of Millennial and Gen Z consumers want email or text updates throughout the shipping process. Many retailers have already adopted this track-and-communicate technology. It’s becoming more affordable every year. Even better for shippers: When customers can check package locations and ETAs themselves, they don’t have to call customer service.
It’s important to note that these trends aren’t unique to consumer-facing businesses. Millennials and Gen Z will soon run warehouses, manufacturing facilities and other companies that have B2B relationships with shippers — if they don’t already. Their expectations are the same in work as they are in life.
How can shippers keep up with the next generation?
In some ways, Gen Z will push shippers to continue in the directions they’re already moving. Shippers will need to provide more information online and in real time, with a seamless, easy-to-navigate interface. (Gen Z has no patience for clunky, desktop-only websites.) Sending Gen Z customers updates before they ask for them is key.
Internally, shippers should begin to consider the value of service over price. The free shipping bubble is close to bursting, some experts have predicted; it may be time to focus less on reducing the cost of shipping and think instead about unboxing experiences, return and exchange experiences, and building relationships with customers.
Finally, to market to Generation Z, brands need to prove themselves trustworthy and transparent. For shippers, that doesn’t just mean making deliveries on time — it means admitting when you make a mistake and seeking to rectify it. Otherwise, you risk losing the trust of both customers and managers you do business with.
“Gen Z purchasing decisions take more than traditional drivers, like price, convenience and familiarity, into account. They value transparency and authenticity and make decisions based on the trust they have for a brand. Brands must deliver the level of transparency that Gen Z has come to expect in all aspects of their lives, from the company they work for to the brands they purchase from,” writes Kira Karapetian of Label Insight in Forbes.
Transparency goes beyond the B2B or B2C relationship, too — it means the entire industry. Gen Z, generally speaking, doesn’t trust corporations. They know there’s plenty of competition out there, and if they don’t get the deal they want in one place, they can look elsewhere. They will not hesitate to shop around and compare pricing, whether that’s with the help of consultants or their peers in the industry.
Gen Z is the first true generation of digital natives, which has profound implications across the economy. Having a website, a social media presence, or next-day shipping available — features that may have seemed like perks to Baby Boomers and Gen X — is second nature to Gen Z. They are not easily impressed by bells and whistles. Instead, they may force shippers and shipping companies to focus more energy than ever on customer experience and transparency — which is good for customers of every generation.