Various studies point to evidence that says Generation Z is frugal. These digital natives, born between the mid-to-late 1990s and around 2012, are apparently mindful of their finances and more likely to begin saving for retirement at an earlier age (at least in the US). I’ve seen survey results that say the opposite, so it’s hard to know what to believe. Yet, the pandemic has certainly had an effect on all of us, and Gen Z have seen a lot of this sort of thing in their formative years, which is having an effect on how they view their own financial health.
They’ve watched their parents suffer the global financial crisis and have witnessed first-hand the student debt crisis. They have lived through the internet’s infancy without knowing what life was like before it, and social media (and its foibles) is second nature to them. These are the protagonists in the drama that is a Gen Zer’s life, and they are having a remarkably lucid effect on young people’s approach to money.
The user experience angle
Let’s look at some statistics. A study has found that 35% of Gen Zers plan to start saving for their retirement in their 20s. This is no different from Millennials, who began saving at age 23, but there is a curve that shows how, from Baby Boomers through Gen X and Millennials, people are generally thinking about their savings earlier.
The difference that I believe is influential to how Gen Z will manage their finances over the next few years is their approach to digital products and services. Primary characteristics of this generation include the ability to find answers quickly, their entrepreneurial bent, and their independence and self-reliance. These characteristics taken alone would make for a headstrong individual at any age, but in the mind of a tech-savvy teenager, it’s potent.
Retailers are tripping over themselves in the race to become the primary destination for unspent Gen Z income, and banks and buildings societies are doing the same. The rewards, it seems, have fallen to those who already operate good digital products and services. They are the ones that create relationships with consumers, use automation wisely, and invest in user experience studies and subsequently develop profitable journeys. These are the likes of Etsy, Amazon, Nike and Asos, and Starling Bank, Monzo and Revolut.
Data nutrition labelling
But let’s come back to that frugal bit. Where Gen Zers are more discerning is in how they share their data and how they spend their time. Yes, they may spend 74% of their free time online, but they don’t waste time on things that don’t work or don’t happen fast. This comes back to the user experience angle, where gaps in a user journey are unsympathetically punished. If you ask too many questions in an onboarding journey, for instance, the average Gen Z will abandon the process. And if that journey didn’t start on a mobile device, you’re off to an even worse start because 75% use smartphones compared to other devices. Should they need to call you to get a fix for a problem with your service, 60% of them will hang up on you if you don’t answer within 45 seconds. Get a chatbot.
Gen Z is skeptical about sharing data, so it’s best to keep that onboarding process uncomplicated and devoid of unnecessary data mining questions. Consider what’s happening in the App Store at the moment, where app developers are now obliged to provide a “nutrition label” of information about what data is collected should a user choose your service. This is the future of app development, whether you’re a retailer, a bank, a building society or a game developer, and there’s a generation of young people who expect this level of transparency about how you plan to use their personal information.
Fewer bells and whistles
Where Gen Z is also frugal is in their respect for bells and whistles. They have very little. They allegedly have the capacity to see right through it (unlike my mum and dad, who love a good bell and whistle). In shopping for goods and services, Gen Z wants good product availability, quality and efficient service. Compare what you’re currently doing to these criteria and ask yourself if your user journey is set up to attract new customers over the next few years, or whether you’re simply applying lipstick to a pig.
This generation wants to save its money and is turning to services that offer the simplest and most authentic ride. And while studies point to their discerning nature, they also point to an appreciation for brand loyalty. 69% say they find comfort in the familiar, and 85% say they prefer to buy from familiar brands over those that are new or non-mainstream.
In tapping in to the generic characteristics of the newest demographic for financial services, you would be laying the foundation for the success of your next project. Bear in mind that, should you get it wrong despite this knowledge, they will walk away quicker than you can say interoperability.