Every generation is shaped by a few consistent, major factors. The state of the economy makes sense to mention first, but other elements like technological developments, changes in legislation, even climate can affect the makeup of a generations’ demographics. The status of our society moulds money making and spending habits. Advertisers who are in tune with the lifestyles of their target audience have a track record of maintaining wider profit margins and see higher ROIs.
The year is 2018, and “millennial” tops the list of charged buzz words. The good, the bad, the ugly, the (alleged) lazy, it’s all highly publicized and discussed in terms of this demographic of 20 to 30 somethings. However, discerning brand leaders are looking beyond the lightning rod for debate to Generation Z, the next generation with buying power.
Generation Z is composed of people who were born from the mid 1990s to the early 2000s. (Yes, we’re old). They are the most technologically in-tune demographic that’s ever existed, and at 25% of the US population (1) they’re the largest cohort of any age group.
The era of the internet means advertisers have ways to market to very specific audiences. It is necessary then to have a thorough understanding of what future consumers are looking for. The recent disruption of the economy (in the form of recession) blurred the lines between business and leisure travel and saw the distinct rise in the “gig” economy. Younger generations are motivated (or forced) to find less conventional ways to generate revenue. This materializes in the form of increases in 10-99s and decreases in W-2s. The gig economy means the nine-to-five structure Americans have grown accustomed to has been toppled by circumstance, making it necessary to be able to generate revenue from anywhere, at any time.
Here in lies the paradigm shift. If I have to work when or wherever I am, my travel habits cannot be attributed solely to business or leisure. This means offerings from travel and/or hospitality brands must cater to and service every area of my life. Things that were considered perks not long ago, like free wifi for instance, are now given and necessary.
As the largest demographic with buying power, Gen Z is reshaping how hospitality, travel, and tourism professionals interact with their clientele. Modern technology allows vendors to seek out consumers who are most likely to engage with their product, maximizing potential ROI. However, these tools are of no use if you don’t understand your audience. Gen Z is much more accurately described as a generation of “prosumers” as oppose to being categorized solely as either a producer or consumer.
So how do we establish ourselves to the travelers of tomorrow?
The internet has forever reshaped the way we live life, and more specifically, market. The PR firms and million dollar photo shoots are so yester-year. A fifty-foot light fixture, a quirky art piece, even a well-designed lobby are all elements that can take a hotel from pleasant to exciting. From a tid-bit to the star of my post-travel tales. Most importantly, it can help keep you visible! If you build it, they will post. Gen Z has the strongest selfie game of any cohort, if you provide them with immersive, captivating content, you can be sure they’re sharing with friends and family. Keep it fresh and exciting!
MEET THEM WHERE THEY ARE
As stated, the amenities people are looking for has shifted away from room service and a pool. Younger demographics are seeking immersive experiences, and lasting memories. Although they definitely do not hold the most wealth of influential age groups, they are increasingly spending more on luxury amenities in the form of activities or more accurately, adventures. Your offerings should speak to the setting of the property, the type of person you’re looking to attract (fitness freaks, insta-it-girls, vegans, opera lovers, the options are truly endless…)
MARKET SMART NOT HARD
Ok, so the internet doesn’t mean the marketing methods of years past are completely irrelevant, but it does impact how you should map your strategy. One-size-fits-all marketing solutions are quickly being phased out of relevancy. Though your audience has increased exponentially by simply existing in the digital age, you will have to wade higher waters before you tap into your niche demographic. Once you do, and couple that with the understanding of their travel habits, the business will begin to generate itself.
COLLAB COLLAB COLLAB
Collaborations are quickly becoming a defining characteristic for boutique businesses. Sure a Starbucks in the lobby in convenient, but a Drybar dryer at my disposal, a Soul Cycle on site, these are the types of attractions that can take a property up an entire star rating. There’s also something to be said about outsourcing certain services to the experts. Why supply me with a blow dryer from the 70s when you could give your entire brand a facelift, and increase revenues by partnering with the most recognizable name in hair care. Focus on the gourmet cuisine, your guided cave tours, or booking local musicians. Allow adjacent industries to supply you, and you have freed up capital and time resources to excel at what your brand is known for. Win, win, win!
Shifts in economic practices mean the convergence of offerings from businesses, especially ones who service the same demographic, is inevitable.
Dozens of businesses have already tuned into the paradigm shift. Gen Z is here, and they’re ready to spend! Gyms, wellness brands, coffee houses, eateries, and even candy shops are touting themselves as experience providers and lifestyle facilitators. For hoteliers, this means the amenities and services you offer need to service every area of a guest’s life. As the boutique market continues to boom, the brands and businesses slow to reach out to the newest wave of consumers will be left in the proverbial dust.
Understanding how Gen Z functions will allow a property or company the opportunity to facilitate their lifestyles, ensuring they stay relevant and in demand for the foreseeable future.
See video coverage of BLLA’s Executive Women’s Conference where Key Note Speaker and Futurist Anne Boysen dissects the topic in more detail here.