Why Gen Z expects the web to be fully personalised

By Fabio Torlini, Managing Director of EMEA, WP Engine

Gen Z came of age in the era of the modern web – born when search engines were mature, using an iPhone to navigate their first secondary school report, and asking Siri for directions their very first time behind the wheel. This generation has never known a time when an answer wasn’t a Google search away.

Gen Z is the first generation – in history – to intrinsically combine the digital and physical worlds. As they become the largest generation of consumers in the year 2020, marketers and brands must understand: the digital world is now synonymous with the human experience.

First, engagement is now constant – and that means brands must continuously engage. According to an international study conducted by The Center for Generational Kinetics and WP Engine, 61% of Gen Z can’t go more than five hours without Internet access, and 32% can’t go for more than an hour. Compare that with 13% of Baby Boomers, who have little difficulty going without internet access for a week or more.

But the content Gen Z interacts with, and how it engages, is fundamentally evolving from previous generations. While Boomers go online to accomplish a task, Gen Z’s always-on mentality focuses largely on entertainment and social platforms.

85% of Gen Z associate the internet with social media, and 77% with entertainment or content websites. To engage with the most powerful buying generation, companies must entertain first and inform second. 29% of Gen Z respondents go so far as to say they prefer to be entertained rather than informed, compared to just 6% of Boomers.

Entertainment matters more than ever before, but substance is still critical. And when it comes to substance, authenticity and social purpose are key. 82% of Gen Z will trust a company more if the images that a brand uses are not Photoshopped. 84% trust a company more if they use actual customers in their ads. 65% are more likely to buy from a company that contributes to social causes, while 30% have stopped buying from a company that contributes to a social cause with which they disagree.

As companies adapt to pervasive engagement and increasingly selective consumer preferences, Gen Z brings another critical demand. While always-on is now table stakes, it is no longer enough to actually win in a competitive environment. 

For consumers that came of age with AI assistants and targeted advertising, they expect brands to predict what they want, before they know they want it. Over the next five years, 27% of Gen Z expect the internet to predict what they need and alert them before they need it. Perhaps most significantly, 40% of Gen Z would actively stop visiting a website if it didn’t anticipate what they needed, liked, or wanted.

The good news is an increasing number (38%) are willing to share their data to contribute to more effective targeting than previous generations.

Always-on, entertainment-centric, authentic and intuitive – these are all demand-driven changes of the web, being shaped by Gen Z. And as these digital natives actively step into the driver’s seat, their unique perspective empowers them to bring innovation and disruption on an unprecedented scale.

For brands working to adapt to current demands, they must also be aware that a veritable Cambrian Explosion in applications and digital capabilities is right around the corner.

And just as with any great evolutionary epoch, only those that adapt, survive.

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