The next generation is one of the first to have grown up in a world where every aspect of their communication, entertainment, social activity, private and school lives are entwined with technology.
Ever changing technology is having a huge impact on how these digital natives interact and build relationships with brands, and the way this generation is adapting to and shaping technology is in turn presenting brands with challenges and opportunities.
In 2011, the Amaze Generation Project – the first of its kind – set out to track how ever-changing technology has influenced the lives of a group of 10 – 15 year olds and observe how five years’ immersion in a digital landscape has shaped their behaviours and attitudes as they move into further education, work and relationships.
>See also: The future of digital manufacturing
As the participants have matured, they have developed processes and strategies to deal with the digital world around them.
The original hypothesis concentrated on the idea that the rapid evolution of technology could make this the first generation to find its behaviour shaped by digital.
The key findings, outlined below, show that in reality, the Amaze Generation are the ones shaping digital in their own image, something which has key implications for brands.
Building relationships with multiple personae
This generation is not a group of selfie-obsessed digital conformists. Digital is not shaping their world. They are shaping it. They manage it and mould it, developing strategies to get the most out of every platform while minimising the risk of negative feedback. They are the ones in the digital driving seat.
As such, they have become adept at fragmenting their identities, cultivating multiple digital selves depending on the platforms used and the result they want to elicit from sharing their content.
Brands need to understand what the multiple personae of this generation mean. They should respect privacy settings and address this generation as it wants to be addressed, using data to draw accurate behavioural portraits.
Brands also need to recognise that ‘rawness’ and ‘realness’ trump slick production values and be careful not to ‘force’ messages onto platforms – this generation will reject them if they are not in the right place at the right time.
Challenging perceived notions
This is also a generation of digital strategists and content editors – even if they don’t know it. While they may be actively seeking more real experiences online, they have learned to be extremely calculated in how they present their personal brand, creating strict strategies around how, when and where they are seen.
Aware of the tension between their current social media presence (a reflection of the present) and their digital footprint (a reflection of the past), they edit timelines and delete online histories to create better, up-to-date impressions.
>See also: The smart nation: Singapore’s masterplan
As such, brands can no longer expect audiences to confirm to their perceived notion of how they will interact with them online.
They must be mindful of how audiences are using specific platforms and be prepared to adapt and change accordingly.
There is no ‘one’ customer journey any more. Brands aiming to create a customer view should be aware of the changing trends in social media platforms and give greater credence to data from those perceived as being more ‘real’.
There has also been a clear shift in how relationships are viewed. Once, the aim was to collect followers as a form of peer validation.
While followers and likes still matter there is a greater understanding that social media friendships do not necessarily equate to real friendships.
This generation is, therefore, placing an emphasis on finding positive experiences on closed, intimate networks of real friends.
This balancing act between open and intimate is one they appear comfortable with, as they adapt content rather than security preferences to stay active online, yet a dichotomy remains between the ongoing need for validation and a desire for more control and privacy.
Brands should make sure they respect privacy settings and address this generation as it wants to be addressed.
They will accept cookies and buy from recommendations, but they won’t tolerate any intrusion or harm to the online self they have built.
The future is bright
From access to information to mobile shopping, study groups to social interaction, the view this generation has of the world is largely upbeat and positive.
There is a sense of being at the start of an exciting journey or phase in their lives and they hold the view that the digital world already does, and will continue to, enable them to progress.
They know what they want, and if brands fail to deliver, then they are happy to customise and adapt the digital platforms around them to deliver what others don’t.
Brands need to ensure they have the insight and flexibility to keep up.
Sourced by Alex Comyn, chief strategy officer at Amaze