Today’s children are different from the generations that have gone before. They’ve grown up with streaming, social media and screens on every device. This has had a massive impact on how they live, and how they shop. Are retailers prepared for Generation Alpha? Download our report today to find out more.
And so, after generations X, Y and Z, we’ve come full circle again back to the start. Today’s teens and tweens, children of primary and secondary school age, the offspring of Generation Y Millennials, are now being collectively referred to as Generation Alpha.
This nomenclature of new beginnings is highly fitting for a couple of reasons. For one, Generation Alpha refers to the first generation born entirely in the 21st Century. But it isn’t just about a happy coincidence with the calendar system. Today’s 6 to 16-year olds are growing up in a world markedly different in many different ways to what has gone before - the result of some of the most radical and rapid shifts in social and cultural lives ever seen.
It is, of course, all to do with technology. Unlike the previous Generation Z’ers - who are widely known as the first ‘digital natives’ - members of Generation Alpha have never experienced a world where mobile phones were simply used for phone calls and text messages, where the internet was accessed via dial-up, where your first interactions with a computer involved a keyboard and a mouse.
Today’s children have grown up in a world of smartphones and touchscreens, social media and video-on-demand. In fact, they have grown up in a world where everything is on demand, with information, entertainment, even human contact literally at their fingertips. We do not yet fully understand the full impact the past two decades of accelerated technological progress will have on the way people think and live, but we can make educated guesses. And the smart money is on the behavioural impact of digital transformation being significant.
This is important stuff for the world of commerce, because the kids of today are the shoppers of tomorrow. And that’s not some far off distant tomorrow when Generation Alpha is all grown up, with jobs and families and disposable incomes of their own. The powerful influence children have on the spending habits of parents is well established, impacting on categories ranging from toys to technology to clothing to food. Today’s teenagers are already a market in their own right, with their own albeit limited spending power. And the way they are spending, through apps and video games, on mobile devices and voice assistants, already hints at some of the departures the retail world will have to cope with.
For the past three years, Wunderman Thompson Commerce has commissioned an annual survey into future digital shopping habits, asking the opinions of the people who matter most - consumers themselves. This year, we decided to add another dimension to these Future Shopper studies and, for the first time, gauge the perspective of the consumers of tomorrow, too. We therefore commissioned a survey of 4,000+ children aged between 6 and 16 split evenly between the UK and USA. We asked them a wide range of questions about what they think and feel about retail and shopping, covering everything from their values to their awareness of brands, what motivates them to want to buy something (or have their parents buy it for them) to what technologies they use and expect to use to shop.
The results make for a fascinating insight into the minds of a generation immersed in a digital world that no one with a stake in commerce can afford to ignore. These children are, quite literally, the future of your business.
As anticipated, the evidence from our survey suggests that Generation Alpha will grow up to behave in quite different ways as consumers to their older siblings, parents and grandparents. Here’s why, and what that might mean for future retail strategies.