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For Generation Z the digital experience is the human experience

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Credit: WP Engine

Today your digital life is every bit as important as your analog life because everything starts online, from the way people connect and interact with one another to how they do business or entertain themselves. The digital experience not only informs our human experience, it is inseparable from it.

Gen Z is responsible for this generational shift in attitude. Those born after 1996 have been digital natives their whole lives and consequently have far higher and different expectations when it comes to the types of digital experiences they will engage with.

If you represent a brand or an agency and you haven't started thinking about Gen Z, your competition most certainly has. Members of this group of consumers already control at least $50 billion in spending power, they've started entering the workforce and by 2020 they will make up the largest bloc of consumers in the world.

For WP Engine, understanding this evolution in the digital landscape being driven by Gen Z is critical to ensure our customers' future success. Digital informs everything they do. Fifty-four percent of Gen Z believe the people who build and manage the internet are more important than politicians, and 64 percent of them would rather have unlimited access to the internet than a college degree.

To explore Gen Z's relationship with digital, we commissioned an annual international study to explore the ways Gen Z behaves, buys and builds online. This year's results, which were made available last week, track some patterns from last year's study, while others signal entirely new trends and illuminate new areas. Overall, our goal was to present marketers and agencies with a starting point for meeting Gen Z where they are today, and help marketers and creatives figure out what to do once they get there.

We found that reaching Gen Z means businesses of all stripes must embrace the new digital-human experience or risk obsolescence. For example, we found that 67 percent of Gen Z believe websites will know what they're looking for before they do anything. Forty percent said they would stop visiting a website altogether if it didn't anticipate what they needed, liked or wanted. This means a huge majority of Gen Z expects predictive personalization to be part and parcel of the websites they interact with. If it's not, many of them will take their business elsewhere.

We found that 47 percent of Gen Z believe websites will become more human in experience by exhibiting emotions when they visit and interact with them. Thirty-eight percent said they would forgo privacy concerns and provide data if it meant they could prioritize a personalized experience. Sense a theme here? This generation, more than any generation before it, expects digital experiences to be deeply relevant, anticipatory and seamlessly intertwined with their physical experience.

Today, marketers only have seven seconds to get the attention of Gen Z before they move on to something else—with millennials, it's 12 seconds. Because they've been digital natives throughout their lives, Gen Z has almost no patience when it comes to slow websites or mobile applications. They have infinite choice at their fingertips, and they will move on.

Overall, we found that Gen Z is ushering in a new digital standard, one that requires brands and agencies to engage quickly—with emotion and entertainment, in new places and through new technologies, and authentically in a way that is true to their brand.

At WP Engine, we've built our digital experience platform around the belief that WordPress is the best content management system for catering to Gen Z, precisely because it can help businesses go to market faster and because its open source nature means it can natively integrate with any emerging technology. Closed, proprietary software solutions are becoming archaic. We believe open source levels the playing field for marketers and technologists who hope to capture a younger, evolving audience with new digital expectations.

We also understand that as a brand marketer or an agency, your job is to convince stakeholders to move at a faster pace than they might be comfortable with. We hope you find this study serves as an actionable roadmap to begin thinking about Gen Z and the new role digital experiences play in all of our lives. You can find the study at wpengine.com/gen-z-us/.

At WP Engine, we're dedicated to this ongoing study of the new digital reality, how it's become the human reality and the generational shifts that are informing it. By understanding how Gen Z behaves, buys and builds online, we can better assist others who are trying to reach this new generation of consumers and the unprecedented buying power and influence they wield. Businesses that are able to adapt to this new reality have a bright future ahead of them. Those that fall behind, unfortunately, will become obsolete.

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WP Engine is the WordPress Digital Experience Platform that gives companies of all sizes the agility, performance, intelligence and integrations they need to drive their business forward faster. WP Engine’s combination of tech innovation and an award-winning team of WordPress experts are trusted by more than 90,000 companies across 140 countries to provide counsel and support, helping brands create world-class digital experiences. Founded in 2010, WP Engine is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and has offices in San Francisco; San Antonio; London; Limerick, Ireland and Brisbane, Australia.
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