Generation Alpha Steps Up to the Plate

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Members of Generation Alpha were born after 2010, so the oldest members of this generation are about to enter their teen years. They’ve been dubbed “mini-millennials” because of the similarities in purchasing behavior between this demographic and their millennial parents. (Not unlike the similarities between Gen Z and their Boomer grandparents.) As the most educated generation, Generation Alpha is already highly opinionated and activists, with a fully developed position on most current issues.

In a 2019 survey published in Business Wire, Gen Z ranked as the demographic that’s the most concerned about environmental and social issues. Right behind them, Generation Alpha wants all people to be “treated fairly no matter what they look like” and to make sure that “everyone has enough food to eat.”

[callout]Generation Alpha wants real time in app personalization from online retailers on social media. Retailers that drag their feet on providing this run the risk of failing to connect with this influential demographic during their formative years –– missing out on positive, lifelong brand sentiment and loyalty.[/callout]

But how does this translate into their purchasing behavior? Let’s take a look at how people, the environment, and access to social media has shaped Generation Alpha… and what retailers can do to appeal to them.

They’re Already Overstimulated and Demanding Personalization

We’re talking about a generation that has had a very different life experience than those preceding them. Researchers report that many members of Generation Alpha will never use cash or own a car. Similar to Gen Z, Alphas lead highly digital lives — and there are a lot of them. Sociologist Mark McCrindle says that an estimated 2.5 million Alphas are born globally every week and expected to number 2 billion by 2025.

Personalized, curated offers are the norm for Gen Alpha consumers. Like their Gen Z siblings, companies that inundate Generation Alpha with marketing messages will be judged as out of touch with this cohort’s lifestyles and purchasing needs. Unfortunately, this means that many retailers’ marketing investments are already being deployed a way that’s counterintuitive to generating positive consumer sentiment with Generation Alpha.

Gen Z guides household purchasing decisions and they set the precedent for the level of real time personalization that retailers need to provide. Being addressed by name, with their purchasing preferences taken into account is the bare minimum. Generation Alpha, however, wants real time in app personalization from online retailers on social media. Retailers that drag their feet on providing this run the risk of failing to connect with this influential demographic during their formative years –– missing out on positive, lifelong brand sentiment and loyalty.

AI Will Create New Immersive Experiences

With the stress of technology’s influence, it seems paradoxical that next gens need a reprieve from technology but actually want more immersive technology experiences. The difference is in how technology is being used. Mass advertising detracts from Alpha’s life experiences; retailers like the North Face and Mattel are using technology to create experiences that next gens want that are physical, highly social and celebratory in nature.

Generation Alpha has had to make a conscious effort to commune with nature. It’s a priority for them, along with mental health. Savvy retailers have caught wind of this information and are using it to create unique phydigital experiences like The North Face Summer Base Camp, a two-week online camp with hands-on video-guided activities for kids, such as “Geometric Designs with Nina” and “Survival Skills with Manoah.”

Generation Alpha are also big sports fans. Morning Consult reports that 1 in 3 kids born from 2013-2017 watch sports on TV or a streaming network. Online competitive games such as Minecraft –– that utilize AI and allow kids to be active while escaping in the digital realm ­­–– will be particularly popular.

Online Influences Value-Driven Consumption

Generation Alpha has been immersed in technology their entire lives. With the oldest member of Generation Alpha just turning eleven, it’s fair to say that these kids don’t know a world without technologies that most of us would consider advanced. We often talk about the negative impacts of technology exposure, but some of the benefits of technology exposure to the collective consciousness are arguably positive. The up-close-and-personal glimpse that the internet gives next gens into the life experiences of others has led to an increase in global awareness, compassion, and sustainability.

Not only is Generation Alpha diverse and compassionate, but they’re also ready to take action to create change. Alphas witnessed the power of social activism during the 2020 pandemic. The #blacklivesmatter and the #metoo movement showed them the power of social media to bring about social change. Generation Alpha is more racially and ethnically diverse than any preceding generation. They’re being parented by millennials – the first group to really see the change that voting with your dollar can make.

So, what does it look like to market to Generation Alpha? McCrindle reports, “They\’re unusually visual in how they consume content, highly networked in how they socialize, and global in their outlook and perspective.” Sustainability is also table stakes. Eco friendly versions of popular games like Mattel’s completely recyclable, cellophane free, “Nothin’ But Paper” Uno game are just the beginning. Sustainably made AI virtual applications are, ultimately, the future of both gaming and retail marketing to next gens. They will live in the metaverse, seamlessly traveling between virtual and physical realities. McCrindle adds brands “can no longer design products for them and push them at them. They want a seat at the table.\” The desire for collaboration, inclusion and having a voice are legacies of millennials. Adweek reports that “global marketing giants are already in awe of Generation Alpha\’s might and using all their powers of social listening to tap into what they\’re thinking.”

As Generation Alpha Matures

Expect Alphas’ purchasing behavior to continue to favor value-driven shopping. This means that retailers need to look at production, as well as marketing, to create a transparent, ethical supply chain. As Generation Alpha is more diverse than any generation that came before them, they have a vested interest in brands that support inclusion. They will live on a planet ravaged by climate change, so they have a vested interest in sustainable brands. And as they grew up with technology influencing every aspect of their day-to-day lives, they’ll have different ideas about marketing etiquette than their predecessors. To ignore emerging Alphas is to ignore your future. They are going to continue to shape our global culture and physical world.

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