Is your CX ready for the Alpha generation?3. 5. 2022 | Kateřina Kopecká
Any brand that has ambitions to thrive in the future needs to start thinking about the Alpha generation. They are the successor to Generation Z and will be your customers, talent pool and influencers much sooner than you might think. To help you plan and take control of your future, here are 7 key things you should know about Generation Alpha, what they can expect from you and how you can be prepared for them.
1. WHO YOU ARE
They are everyone born after 2010, says Mark McCrindle, the Australian consultant who first coined the term. And since these generational designations often have a 15-year span, Generation Alpha will include those born in 2025.
Before you ask why you should worry about customer management for people who aren't yet in school (or maybe weren't even born yet), you should take this advice from Shopify to heart:
"Founders who are building brands for the future need to pay attention to the under-12 group now. By the time the Alpha Generation reaches the age of teenagers with influence and disposable income, it will be too late."
2. WHY THEY ARE IMPORTANT TO YOUR BUSINESS
Generation Alpha deserves your attention because there will be several of them. Mark McCrindle estimates that 2.5 million Alphas are born every week, which means there will be about 2 billion of them by 2025. By 2030, they could make up more than 10% of the global workforce.
Even before they reach the age of your customers, colleagues, business partners or employees, people of the Alpha generation have an impact on your company. After all, their preferences are already influencing their parents' decisions on everything from what goods they buy at the supermarket to what media they subscribe to.
3. THEY ARE THE MOST CONNECTED GENERATION EVER
In 2010, the agreed starting point for Generation Alpha, the iPad and Instagram were also born. Many of them, who are true digital natives, learned most of their learning, playing and communicating on screen. For example, research in the UK before the advent of Covid showed that:
- 21% of 3-4 year olds own a tablet and 53% of them spend nearly 8 hours a week online.
- 48% of 3-4 year olds use YouTube, of which 52% said cartoons were their favourite to watch and 15% said unboxing videos.
- 35% of 5-7 year olds had their own tablet and 79% of them spent around 9 hours a week online.
In other words, this generation was digitally immersed before we all became digital and virtual during the Covid-19 lockouts. This will affect the way they work, rest, travel, shop, build relationships, make decisions and relate to brands.
4. AND THE WAY THEY CONNECT IS VERY DIFFERENT
Alphas are not only more connected than other generations, they also use technology differently. You'll see this for yourself when you watch kids using a tablet or phone - they use gestures and voice to interact more often than other generations.
Generation Alpha, who grew up on YouTube and in the early metaverse, may be more visual than verbal. Video may be their preferred format for receiving information and presenting themselves to others, and gamification may be a major element of their education. As a result of playing video games from an early age, their eye-hand coordination and ability to switch tasks may be unmatched by previous generations, but the downside, according to some observers, is reduced attention and concentration and low levels of patience: they want things now.
From a customer management perspective, the implications are huge:
- At every part of the customer journey, brands will have to think about how best to interact with this visual, hyper-connected and multitasking customer base.
- Customer experiences will have to cater more than ever to customers who want instant gratification and a truly integrated, multi-channel approach to on-demand brands.
- The generation that grows up with avatars, web 3 and metaverse will consider human-machine interactions as "normal", but the seamless experiences they expect will require expert AI, machine learning and analytics capabilities from providers.
- Training, coaching, incentives and rewards for industry workers will need to reflect these different approaches to learning and communication.
5. BRANDS MUST TALK TO THEM, NOT AT THEM
Parents everywhere complain or worry that their kids are too passive because they spend their afternoons (and nights) in front of screens, but as Shopify points out:
"Screen time today isn't passive like it was in past generations. It's a two-way street where kids can contribute, interact and collaborate."
Whether Alphas are engaging in Roblox, Minecraft, TikTok, or other popular activities for preschoolers, they are likely using technology more actively than previous generations. In short, they are growing up as co-creators, new players in the maker economy.
Again, the implications for brands are significant. These co-creator kids will have higher expectations of brand experiences and are likely to expect the minimum:
- Active interaction and participation in relationships with brands
- higher levels of personalisation and customisation than ever before.
- Authenticity - this visually and digitally literate generation will have a sharp nose for content and brands that are "fake" or trying too hard to get through to kids.
Brands should also keep in mind that any day now, one of these pre-adolescent co-creators could come up with groundbreaking ideas that could put you out of business. To compete with them, you need to understand this generation!
6. WHAT ELSE WE KNOW
It's true that a lot can change before younger Alphas become your customers, competitors, employees and co-workers, but there are some things we already know:
- One of the key traits Mark McCrindle identified is that Generation Alpha is global: "thanks to access to the internet from an early age, they were raised with shared customers, values and experiences."
- With declining birth rates in Europe and the US, there may be a generational shift towards Asia and Africa.
- Alphas have grown up in a time of climate crisis. They may have seen siblings go on strike at school, heard their parents discuss climate change over dinner, or experienced the extreme weather swings that come with it. Their expectations about mobility, eating and consumption will be shaped by these experiences and their commitment to sustainability and ESG may be more firmly embedded than in other generations.
- They have grown up with social media, but perhaps not so much with social contact - especially during a pandemic. Their comfort zones in terms of how they interact with brands or seek support from them may be different.
7. WHAT TO DO NOW
- If you're a parent, sibling or even grandparent of a child under 12, you have a head start when it comes to the future of customer management. Watch how they use their phone or tablet, or how they choose to interact with their peers or teachers; listen to what behaviors they criticize; analyze what brands and online platforms they like and why - and then translate that into what they're likely to want as customers or employees.
- Second, be agile. We don't quite know what today's two-year-old will be consuming 16 years from now, but we know it will be different. Research, data analysis, open business culture and thinking can all help brands understand and adapt to change.
- Third, accept that you'll need help. For example, the digital transformation expertise needed to ensure a strong CX for Generation Alpha (and Generation Z) probably doesn't yet exist in your organization and may never do. But that's not a problem - outsourcing can provide all the answers.