It seems just like yesterday that marketers began addressing the needs, desires and attitudes of post-millennial Generation Z (currently ranging in age from 2 to 19).
Now along comes Generation Alpha (those born between 2011 and 2025 who have caused a reset to the start of the alphabet, this time the Greek version) to think about.
Wait a second. We’re talking about a demographic that was just born, is just being born, or hasn’t even been born yet?
A generation that hasn’t laid out a dime in consumer purchases?
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We are. Because as The New York Times points out:
For professional trend forecasters, a generation…is less a collection of individuals than a commodity: to be processed into a manufactured unit, marketed and sold to clients. To get there first and define the next generation is like staking a claim in a gold rush.
As the McCrindle social research blog points out, the first Generation Alphas were born the same year the iPad was launched and apps appeared on the iPhone. While Generation Z came of age roughly in tandem with the Internet and mobile wireless technologies, Generation Alphas are born into a world where constant interconnection is a given, perhaps not even an option.
The man behind the McCrindle consulting company, futurist and TEDx speaker Mark McCrindle, depicts Generation Alpha as potentially “the most formally educated generation ever, the most technology supplied generation ever, and globally the wealthiest generation ever. They will comprise the largest generation of middle-class consumers our world has ever seen and are also ‘upagers’—maturing at younger ages and influencing parental purchasing earlier—so it is no surprise that marketers are trying to better understand and prepare for this generation.
No wonder marketers are anticipating big things from this cohort, even as its first members are just learning the alphabet. Dan Schawbel, a partner of the executive development firm Future Workplace, notes that there are currently 20.8 million children aged four or less in the U.S. By 2050, when the eldest alphas turn 40, that number is expected to hit 35 million. Obviously, this represents a sizable target market.
What Generation Alpha Will Want
Here are some key characteristics you can anticipate for the upcoming wave of consumers.
- Boy, if you think Millennials are addicted to their screens…i t won’t even occur to Alphas there may be some other way to interact with people, businesses and retailers. Social media won’t just be second nature to them, it will be their nature. As Jennifer Taylor observes, because “boundaries between humans and technology [are] becoming even more blurred, marketers will have to prepare for a new digital marketing sphere.”
- This may be the most socially isolated generation yet. There is a price to pay for this social media savvy. The Daily Mail reports on a University of Michigan psychologist’s study that found online social media actually makes people feel less connected, resulting in a greater sense of isolation and reduced life satisfaction. Alphas may very well acquire the sobriquet of the loneliest generation. This may present opportunities for products and services that offer opportunities to improve or facilitate “soft skills” related to communicating in person.
- And you thought this generation was coddled. A constant complaint about Millennials is they feel entitled to special treatment. So how do you think Millennials are going to raise their own kids? Expect Alphas to be even more “spoiled” with high expectations. If you aren’t meeting their needs and meeting it right away, they’ll find someone who does.
- Down the line, they may be taking more responsibility for their parents at a younger age. For the most part, Millennials are marrying later and having kids later at a time when, good or bad, people are living longer. Consequently, Alphas may be acting as caregivers for their parents sooner (and for longer) than we’ve ever seen.
- It will take them longer to be adults. For previous generations, the goal was a college education to get a better job and a better life. These days, a graduate degree is as expected as a high-school diploma once was. Expect that trend to continue with Alphas. The longer people stay in school, the longer they delay the responsibilities of adulthood as well as the purchasing power of people with full-time jobs.
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