Generation Z – Shortening our attention span to less than that of a goldfish

GenzMeet Big River Solutions’ own Panel Z™ – helping you get inside the heads of the next generation of shoppers

The goldfish may be a creature of ill-repute when it comes to lengthy contemplation but, at 9 seconds, its attention span is now officially longer than that of humans. According to research by Microsoft, we can now focus for just 8.25 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000*.

However, more encouragingly, the study also found that our ability to multitask has dramatically improved. The findings state that:

“While digital lifestyles decrease sustained attention overall, it’s only true in the long-term. Early adopters and heavy social media users front load their attention and have more intermittent bursts of high attention.

 “They’re better at identifying what they want/don’t want to engage with and need less to process and commit things to memory.”

Getting into the Generation Z mindset

To help, we would like to introduce you to our Panel Z™ – the first members of our recently recruited team of Generation Z youngsters. Definitions vary, so to be clear, our Generation Z are those who are not yet officially launched into the outside world – they are all still likely to be in full time education and their birth years range from 1995 to 2010.

But they are all rapidly approaching their entry into the world of grocery shopping for themselves. So these are the people we need to understand and engage with – and their everyday lives have never been so different from their parents’.

We will be tracking their thoughts, beliefs and attitudes to the world and how it impacts their views on shopping, grocery and FMCG. We plan to provide a quarterly report which will summarise their thoughts on either a task we set them, a question that you have asked them or a current issue – let us know if you have any burning issues you would like to raise.

So, to give you a feel for how this will work, the first task we set these young people, was to photograph themselves in their favourite grocery aisles of a local supermarket:

Rupert – aged 20 years

  • A third-year university student
  • Favourite aisle – frozen pizza
  • Other favoured aisles – magazines/entertainment; alcohol; crisps; hot prepared food
  • Rupert has to fend for himself on a low budget. He shops in supermarkets on a regular basis with a limited budget and thinks the discounters are great. His goal is to feed himself with as little commitment as possible in terms of time and money.

Jamie – aged 17 years

  • An A-level student at day school
  • Favourite aisle – sweets
  • Other favoured aisles – chilled pizza; hot prepared food; fresh juice; bakery ‘Emporium’; biscuits
  • Jamie lives at home with a larger than average single-parent family. While his mother makes most mealtime choices for him, he finds the limitations frustrating and so will visit the supermarket to ‘fill the gaps’.

Thomas – age 15 years

  • A GCSE level student at boarding school
  • Favourite aisle – the peppers in the vegetables area (he just loves them!)
  • Other favoured aisles – steak; non-standard fruit; deli cheese counter; Xbox/Playstation games
  • Thomas is catered for by parents or school and a visit to a supermarket is infrequent and treat-orientated. He is super-sporty and needs protein to keep him going but is also into looking at the most recent games that have become available.

Alexandra – aged 14 years

  • A GCSE student at boarding school
  • Favourite aisle – deli cheese counter
  • Other favoured aisles – fresh fish counter; chilled ready meals; bakery; confectionary
  • Alex is catered for by parents or school. She visits supermarkets with parents who are very store-genre-savvy. As a family, they favour high-quality products and service but Alex is very interested in the recent opportunities to make more choices herself.

William – aged 14 years

  • A GCSE student at day school
  • Favourite aisle – bagged snacks
  • Other favoured aisles – chewing gum; yoghurt; pizza; chocolate
  • William is Jamie’s brother. He also lives at home and is catered for by his mother. He has recently worked with Jamie to lose a lot of weight and his choices are at odds with what he is actually eating.

Additional recruited members of our Gen Z panel who you might also like to get to know are Archie and Lili, both 10 years old. We suggest their initiation into the rites of independent shopping is less evolved and will be different to those of our teenage and upwards members. It will be fascinating to see how they approach the retail world compared to their older peers – and this is a subject that we look forward to exploring later this year.

Archie – aged 10 years

  • Junior school student at a day school
  • Favourite aisle – comics
  • Other favoured aisles: DVDs; confectionery; crisps; cereal
  • Archie is the eldest of two boys. He is pretty sure what he wants from a supermarket visit – but his mother is still clearly in control. Her life is about to change. And quite dramatically.

Lili – aged 10 years

  • Junior school student at a day school
  • Favourite aisle – pet food
  • Other favoured aisles:
  • Lili is the youngest in a busy family that includes four elder brothers. She loves animals, hates the ‘girlie’ label, is sporty rather than scholarly and has a sugar-addiction issue!

Our take from this limited but interesting exercise:

  • Boys love pizza!
  • This is a generation viewed by their elders as being screen addicts. However, smart phones, social media and widespread internet use are fundamental parts of their lifestyles – they have never known a world without them. This is where they meet people and make friends. For them there is no line between virtual and real relationships. The popularity of the likes of Snapchat and Vine videos demonstrate the attention span.
  • Our youngsters are adept at finding and filtering massive amounts of data. They expect immediate information and entertainment – there is no patience when it comes to waiting for a webpage to load or for a delivery to arrive.
  • They are extremely cynical about direct sales tactics – they expect to be entertained and engaged. They don’t buy ‘stuff’; they buy an experience where the item purchased is something of a by-product. The experience and the sharing of it on social media is how they define themselves. These kids don’t buy into longevity.
  • Expensive luxury items that used to be viewed as something that could be worn forever don’t cut the mustard as they serve little purpose on social media.
  • Uncertainty has also been a constant throughout their lives and they take nothing for granted. This makes them risk-averse, pragmatic and entrepreneurial. Global unrest is part of the fabric of their lives.
  • They are among the first to have to commit to a serious debt in order to getting a university degree – and this makes them anxious. For all their eagerness to make their own way, their world does not include an easy route into the job market – many of their degree-educated peers are delighted to start out waiting tables, manning tills and sorting stockrooms.

So how to get into their heads …?

For those keen to know how to reach Generation Z, the word to keep in mind when reading this type of research is ‘engage’.   It is key to understanding what will enable brands and retailers to get under the skin of tomorrow’s shoppers.

This is the generation that retailers have to woo next – they are the next big retail disrupter.   Retailers need to be looking to provide quick fix, low cost experiences that can be checked out online and easily shared. Communications with this generation need to short and succinct – always keep in mind that their attention span is shorter than a goldfish!

If you would like to set our youngsters a task, let us know.

* Research by Microsoft Corp, surveying 2,000 participants in Canada and study of the brain activity of 112 further participants using electroencephalograms.

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