How can today's 'Generation Z' help with market research? And just as importantly - how do we go about finding and engaging with them? Our Associate Director Catherine has some answers to these questions and we would like to share them with you!
Generation Z: First Contact
Market research has always been about keeping our collective finger on the pulse: we look at what early adopters are doing so we can spot trends and make predictions about the wider market. Very often ‘early adopter’ is synonymous with ‘young adult’: teenagers and twenty-somethings have disposable income, understanding of technology, and in a lot of ways they’re the culture makers – the group of people coming up with new ideas and pressing for social and technological change.
Ten years ago, when I started out in market research, unlocking Millennials was the big challenge: understanding this new generation who thought and behaved differently to their parents, and to most market researchers! We wondered how to understand their values and attitudes and how to engage them in research.
We figured out Millennials but now attention is shifting to the next generation, Generation Z: children born after roughly 2000. Generation Z have grown up with a different set of influences to Millennials: in a world where no company is ‘too big to fail’ and Twitter can start a revolution they represent another completely new set of ideals, attitudes and behaviours for the Market Research Industry and Brands to understand. And we’d better figure out how to do it fast, before these teenagers become adults and start to make up a massive share of many important markets; one estimate says Generation Z will make up 40% of US consumers by 2020.
So how do we find out what Generation Z are thinking, and what they want from products and brands?
We already know that people under 30, by and large, are less likely than older people to take surveys. We know that’s in part because traditional surveys are just alien to the way this generation communicates: they don’t tick boxes, they express themselves through a full range of text, images, and video, and they communicate when they want to, not when they’re asked to.
In one sense, the response to this is obvious: we need to meet Generation Z on their own terms. The question is how?
The good news is that we’re armed with all of the right tools to do this. We just need to get around to applying them.
Where & When
At the very first level we have to be mobile – which means our software and research has to be platform agnostic - and we have to fit research into Generation Z’s lifestyles. We love the idea of flash communities for this: research communities that have a strong reason to bring participants together – for example, spending a few weeks or months talking about beauty habits, or aspirations for their first cars. In addition setting tasks that allow Generation Z to be creative: to make a YouTube style review video, or an Instagram style feed of beauty inspiration. Asking them to keep a diary, and engaging them in a conversation – not just with us, but with each other: this is the peer-to-peer generation, and we want them to get something out of our research by making social contacts, and sharing ideas, not just letting us suck knowledge out of them.
We can also put short surveys to a Flash community but the emphasis is on short. A few focused, 5-10 question surveys are better than a single 30 (or worse, 50!) question survey that answers every possible question. To work well with Generation Z, we’re going to have to get better at making our research relevant and interesting – and keeping it short is a great first step to that. The Google Opinions model, of a few key questions sent via a push notification to your phone, is a great one to refer to. Of course, with respondents coming from a Flash community, it’s easy to go back to them with more short, relevant surveys – so our clients get all the answers they need, just not from a traditional ad hoc survey approach.
We know the answer to this, too. The answer lies in moving research away from being dry and scientific, and towards an engaging, interactive process.
We want people to engage fully with our research, so simple gamification techniques, like playing the role of a marketer to identify a product or ad’s strengths and weaknesses, or telling someone whether they’ve been able to name more drinks brands in a minute than the average respondent, go a long way to that. So does interactive surveys – visuals and video, wherever possible, and the avoidance of large grids or long, wordy questions.
We’re looking into more techniques that will help us speak Generation Z’s language: using emojis instead of semantic scales, for example, and introducing psychological experiment style research that’s more engaging, and unusual, for respondents – and might let them learn something about themselves, as well as informing us and our clients.
We’re excited about the new ways of conducting research being driven by this new generation and it is finally time to move on from long, dry and static surveys and we think we’re learning to speak Generation Z’s language. If that’s something you’re interested in too… come and talk to us! We can keep learning together!
To find out more about MindMover’s research with members of Generation Z, contact Catherine Evans via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone 44 (0) 203 176 0729.