Ethnographic Research is Key to Gen Z Innovation Strategy

While you’re busy tailoring your innovation strategy to Millennials, your competitors are looking toward the future – and that future is Gen Z. This generation was born after 1995 and “make up a quarter of the U.S. population and by 2020 will account for 40 percent of all consumers.” And they’re an entirely different demographic with its own unique needs, as each generation typically is. Want to reach them? You’ll need to understand them.

“While generational research is an inherently messy process—older generations study “the kids” to figure them out—much of the recent research is awash in normative preconceptions, biases, and stereotypes.” Are you able to separate fact from fiction about this Gen Z? Let’s see if you’re ready to succeed in the next decade and beyond:

First, some facts: They’ve grown up digital and as a result, they have an 8 second filter (likely less by the time you’re done reading this). That doesn’t give you lots of time to capture their attention. And that’s if you can even find them online, as they jump from platform to platform staying two steps ahead of their parents’ prying eyes. They’re living virtual lives, where they’re pretty much always connected – but don’t think that means they “like” online.

“Gen Z feel torn: They need social media to build their personal brands but resist being defined by technology. They seek social validation and inclusion but are looking to differentiate themselves professionally. Companies that understand this tension will provide Gen Z the tools they need to reconcile and better manage their personal and professional brands, both online and off.”

Privacy is a huge concern, and companies innovating for this generation will walk a fine line between creating smart connected products with those that don’t feel invasive. Doing so will require a finely tuned innovation strategy, with lots of accompanying field work to accurately and economically capture user experience and design needs.

Iteration will also take on new meaning, as looking for the release of the next, best thing will also be an ongoing expectation. With iPhones coming out faster and virtual reality transitioning to augmented reality before the former is even fully realized, keeping pace with this group will require next level ethnographic research, for sure.

What is ethnographic research? It’s a “human-centered immersion technique of observing people in their natural setting (in home, at the office, at the airport, in a store…) to discover unmet or unknown needs. These discoveries then serve as the inspiration and guiding light for ideation and solution development, so we know our innovations will solve real problems for real people.”

So planning to spend time at the mall, laser tag places, online forums and anonymous apps may not feel like a normal place to be right now, but someone should be paying attention to how these kids communicate and what’s important to them. Otherwise, you’ll be playing catchup in a few short years.

Check out our paper exploring other key Gen Z insights for more on the right innovation strategy for designing for Gen Z – and feel free to reach out for additional info around ethnographic research and capturing your user’s experience for your product designs!

Gretchen Hoffman

Posted By: 

Gretchen Hoffman

VP Marketing