Generation Z is getting a lot of attention these days, as the cohort is expected to outpace millennials, and comprise 32 percent of the world’s population, according to Bloomberg. This powerful group of 7.7 billion consumers was born into a digital world. A much-reported claim is that Generation Z has an attention span of 8 seconds.

It may seem that to reach younger consumers, your website should mirror this lightning-quick attention span, but in reality, the reverse is true. Members of Gen Z — and to a large extent, millennials — constantly get slammed with every conceivable stimulus. As a result, they have become extraordinarily skilled at editing out fluff and looking for signs that a website offers an engagement experience worth their time.

To reach Generation Z and millennials, fast becoming “older consumers” with marriages and babies to think about, you need to throw out any old notions of websites and make sure your site focuses on engagement instead of hype.

Members of Generation Z make buying decisions quickly. Old-fashioned, over-the-top advertising hype turns them off. They’re looking for information and a reason to stay on your site.

Time to Reconsider?

To engage next-generation customers, refresh your thinking these five ways:

1. Stop thinking of your site as connected to a desktop.

Generation Z people are in school and were born into a culture in which mobile phones are their primary means of communication. Millennials in the workforce are heavy mobile device users and expect to have an online shopping experience, on the go, which is satisfying and efficient.

Taken as a group of target customers, multi-device users outnumber mobile-only and desktop-only users combined. As a result, think of your screen experience with these consumers as one that needs to avoid confusing, jumbled elements that take up time but add little or no value.

Millennials and Generation Z people love YouTube. Millennials, specifically, prefer to watch YouTube rather than traditional television. More than one-third of Generation Z people in a survey said they wanted to be a YouTuber to achieve self-expression, fame and creativity.

This group wants control over their video and audio experiences, so auto-play videos or music simply annoy them. They want to spend their brief time on a site to quickly judge if you have anything relevant to offer them.

If your auto-play slows down page loading, you can bet they will lose enthusiasm, if not interest. Use videos that reinforce your relevance and launch them with audio muted. That gives your customers control and helps keep them on the site.

3. Be creative but smart.

Our next-gen customers are more sophisticated and technology-savvy, so make sure your website design matches this level of experience. They are used to a staggering amount of stimuli via their phones every day, so design must be colorful, unique, multi-textured and attention-grabbing.

Lend excitement by look and feel, and don’t make common mistakes like adding so many fonts and styles that the site ends up looking hyperactive. Look for examples of sites with high-impact designs that immediately pull you in.

4. Don’t script away your customers.

Edit your use of JavaScript so you don’t slow down page loads to the point of losing site visits — or having irritated mobile device users click off while taking a class break or running to a bus.

Work with your Web team to have them place the scripts at the top of the jQuery library and combine all the other code or functionality into a single function that runs “async” when the document is ready.

This will cause the browser to render a page simultaneously with script loading. Customers may like the idea of chatting with your team or looking at a calendar, but if they have to do at the expense of page speed, you lose the benefit.

Generation Z customers still expect you to have all the basics covered in a satisfying, effective website.

An NRF-IBM co-sponsored survey revealed that 49 percent of Generation Z customers said the ability to quickly find the right product was most important for them when shopping.

Sixty-eight percent said a wide choice of products was the most important factor when choosing where to shop, and 55 percent said they would like the ability to design products that no one else owned.

Good navigation, a solid selection of buying choices and offering product customization, where possible, will enable you to move these customers to a sale.

Shopping Integration

These five practices will set you on the right path to capturing the estimated US$44 billion in spending power of Generation Z. However, you also need to be aware that Generation Z has not forgotten about physical stores.

According to the NRF-IBM study, members of Gen Z will decide where to make a purchase based on how well you cover the basics, the essentials of superior product choice, availability, convenience and value.

If you are solely an e-commerce entrepreneur, you must compete with physical stores for the same valued customer. If you are a multichannel merchant with an online and physical presence, you need to integrate your sales approach to ensure your customer sees both selling experiences as equally satisfying.

One other important consideration is the next-gen customer’s need for individualization. E-commerce businesses can think of Generation Z, but within that cohort are individuals, each and every one of whom wants to be valued as a unique customer.

You will have a greater chance of success if you offer them rewards programs and incentives that are tailored to their personal interests, such as sustainability, sports or aspirational desires. It is not a one-size-fits-all game, and this generation is taking individualization to the next level.

Kush Shrivastava is senior director at Yahoo Small Business, where he is responsible for product management and business functions, including marketing, sales, business development, design/UX, developers and communications.

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