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Generation Z and the rise of the Chief Digital Experience Officer

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Credit: WP Engine

Millennials often get a bad rap for killing off conventional products like fabric softener and mayonnaise, but their successors, Gen Z, are about to blow up something even closer to home for many readers: the marketing organization as we know it.

That's because Gen Z's expectations for the digital experience are anything but traditional. This generation has grown up fully connected to the web. Their tech fluency is establishing a new digital standard, and brands and agencies will have to find new ways of engaging with this generation if they're going to remain relevant.

Finding those new forms of engagement begins with the way Gen Z interacts with the internet, an area where they expect to see major changes in the near future. Gen Z believes the following technologies will be incorporated into digital experiences within the next five years: AR/VR (78 percent), voice (79 percent), biometrics (80 percent), virtual digital assistants (72 percent) and AI/machine learning (ML)-powered sites (79 percent). For marketers, getting ahead of these expectations and implementing the right strategies is crucial.

But marketers won't be able to do it alone. Reaching Gen Z successfully means reimagining the marketing organization in a way that strikes a balance between art and science. It means bringing engineers into the marketing department. It means integrating new technologies with insightful creative strategies to draw this generation in.

It also means rethinking the chief marketer's role in a way that blends the digital world with traditional marketing methods. Gen Z doesn't differentiate between marketing and technology, and neither should you. In fact, continuing to draw a line between the two will put you at a disadvantage.

Take, for example, predictive personalization. The vast majority (68 percent) of Gen Z believes websites will know what they are looking for before they volunteer any information, and 47 percent will take their business elsewhere if a website doesn't anticipate what they need, like or want. The challenge for you as a marketer is making sure your website, app or digital experience is able to meet this expectation of personalization with predictive technology solutions.

You also have to be certain your digital experiences are optimized for speed and performance. You now have less time than ever to capture the attention of Gen Z—eight seconds—before they move on to something else. Breaking this down: World-class sites load in about two seconds, which is why we're seeing the increased adoption of technologies that speed website loading like accelerated mobile pages (AMP) or progressive web apps (PWAs). But even in a best-case scenario, this means you only have six seconds to make an impression. How will you do that?

Gen Z wants the answer to be entertainment. Entertainment is their prime reason for accessing the web, and as they shift their attention to consumer content, they want the entertainment experience to follow them. They also want that experience to be more human—60 percent of Gen Z expect sites will become more human by exhibiting emotions when they visit and interact with them.

For years, we've thought of technology as robotic and impersonal, precisely because it was focused on delivering information. As Gen Z prefers their digital experiences to entertain them, another challenge for marketers is keeping up with the latest technology while putting a human lens on it. To bridge this gap, you will need your engineering counterparts.

For brands and agencies, creating the predictive, high-performing, entertaining and emotive digital experiences needed to satisfy Gen Z's digital expectations will require the integration of new martech solutions but also new platform and business systems. This is where you will need quick, agile help from engineering. The net result will be a blend of R&D and marketing that creates a new type of digital organization.

Gen Z will not only end up changing the way we all interact with the internet, they will be responsible for reshaping the marketing organization as we know it. To meet these new challenges, chief marketing officers and chief digital officers will increasingly share and have overlapping responsibilities. Eventually, many companies may end up combining the positions into one: the chief digital experience officer.

Is your organization ready for this new digital standard?

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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 150 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, California; San Antonio, Texas; London, England; Limerick, Ireland; and Brisbane, Australia.