Generation Z, the generation following what is commonly referred to as the Millennials, has only just formed its identity, yet its older members are already preparing to enter the workforce and take part in modern commerce.
This emerging generation is already changing the way many companies look at payments. Fortunately, there are some companies already out there creating products to stay ahead of that change and embrace these new consumers.
While there is some debate on exactly when this generation started, most experts agree it consists of young people born between the mid 1990s and around 2010. That means the elders of Generation Z are in or approaching their 20s, finishing up college or finding their footing in careers and the marketplace.
According to recent research, it is expected that by 2020, Generation Z will account for 40% of all consumers. But the way Generation Z will take part in the marketplace will be different than any generation before it, and it promises to change the way many companies do business and reach out to consumers.
Generation Z is often referred to as the first “digital native” generation. They have lived their entire lives surrounded by technology and often don’t remember a time before the internet or mobile phones. Generation Z views technology as a necessity, not a reward or a luxury. A recent survey found that 90% of secondary students and 20% of elementary students have mobile devices.
More than any generation before it, Generation Z relies on technology for day-to-day tasks, including shopping. Fifty-five percent of consumers ages 18 and younger would prefer to buy clothes online. If it can’t be done quickly on a mobile device, these young consumers are less likely to do it, giving those retailers and brands with a large online and mobile presence the upper hand.
But drawing the eyes of Generation Z consumers through their preferred forms of technology is only part of the equation. It is also necessary to explore the ways these young consumers prefer to make purchases. And the way many members of Generation Z were taught about money goes beyond traditional banking.
According to a survey by the Prepaid International Forum, 60% of parents feel that prepaid accounts, rather than a traditional checking account, gives their children “a greater sense of financial responsibility” and teaches the skills necessary to manage a budget. Only 40% of Generation Z consumers use debit cards linked to a bank account, while 58% use a prepaid card or mobile banking app as their payment account of choice.
Younger consumers developed, or are still developing, in a marketplace that views prepaid products as more than just gift cards for family members during the holidays. Prepaid products are legitimate financial tools and banking alternatives for Generation Z consumers.
When you combine mobile and prepaid, you create a product that fits perfectly into this youngest generation’s financial ideology.
With the versatility of traditional gift cards and the convenience of digital products, digital gift cards have steadily been gaining, and in many instances, passing their physical counterparts for some time now. According to an InComm survey at the end of 2015, 81% of consumers said they were more interested in purchasing digital gift cards now than they were two or three years ago. Those numbers naturally skew toward younger consumers.
Further, 56% of respondents said that if they received a digital gift card, they would prefer to have it scanned from their mobile device rather than carry an email printout.
Digital open-loop products, like the Visa Virtual Account gift card, are growing in the market and are meeting the new and specific needs of Generation Z consumers. They are a versatile payment method that can exist on a mobile device and do not require a link to a traditional banking account. They are easily delivered via email or mobile app and are perfect for self-use, a growing trend among consumers. In InComm’s survey, 96% of respondents said they are interested in storing digital gift cards on their mobile devices for self-use.
Mike Fletcher is senior vice president and general manager of digital solutions at InComm.