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Four Things Channel Partners Must Know to Sell Tech to Generation Z

By Stephanie Dismore, Vice President and General Manager, Americas Channels, HP Inc.

Every few decades, a new generation moves to the forefront of the global market, and brands scramble to reach the up-and-coming generation in authentic and effective ways. Currently, those under 20 years of age are the buyers of the future, and they are making their product preferences loud and clear.

Stephanie Dismore

Known as Generation Z, this group is already making massive waves in the market. Nearly 70 million strong, Gen Zers represents 25.9 percent of the U.S. population – already this is larger than Millennials, which account for 24.5 percent of the population. Projected to be one of the most influential generations ever, Gen Zers already boasts nearly $100 billion, and have a profound influence on the purchasing decisions of their parents. Their interests and desires will inform what brands build and how they sell it for years to come. Perhaps most significantly, Millennials are all about the experience. While Gen Zers are also invested in the experience economy, they prefer a cool product (60 percent) to a cool experience (40 percent). This is a major wake-up call for anyone who designs, markets, or sells technology to Gen Zers – products will need to be integrated in a way that captures cutting-edge functionality while also contributing to unique experiences.

For channel partners who want to tap into this market, here are three key insights about what Gen Zers want in technology:

Technology that is simple and integrated

The first true digital natives, Gen Zers have been immersed in technology since birth—the first generation that does not remember a world without the internet—creating new expectations for how technology works and how they interact with it. According to a report by Goldman Sachs, nearly half of Gen Zers spend 10 or more hours connected each day, so they are exceptionally comfortable online. This means they are looking for technology that is intuitive, connected and seamless.

Whether it is the product itself or the experience of purchasing it, technology must ensure zero friction between the users, the brand or the product. Of course, speed is important, and elements such as loading times need to be fast. But what is truly important: users must be able to find what they are looking for easily. PayPal is a great example: the content on its mobile site mirrors the desktop version and has just two layers of simplified navigation. These seamless and integrated interactions are what younger generations seek.

Today, on average, kids get their first smartphone around age 10—with some getting their hands on the tech as early as age seven. Of course, most have been on a smartphone since they were old enough to walk. An estimated 96 percent of Gen Zers own a smartphone, a number that is sure to grow, so designing products and marketing must start with a mobile-first approach.

Technology that co-creates experiences

For Gen Zers, like Millennials, co-creating and sharing experiences with brands is vital to understanding its products and platforms. Take for example HP’s Digital Artistry House at SXSW, which drew more than 5,000 people in a single day. Attendees could interact with prominent art influencers and get a portrait of themselves created using one of HP’s ZBook x2 tablets or have their photo turned into an AI-morphed work of art.

One study revealed that 80 percent of Gen Zers say creative expression is important to them. Not only culture consumers, but they are also culture creators, posting original videos and being highly-active and engaged on social media.

The Gen Z audience looks for brands sharing its values: 53 percent of Gen Zers say purchase decisions are influenced by what a brand stands for. Gen Zers are exceptionally diverse, non-conformist, and aspirational. While both Millennials and Gen Zers want to make a positive impact, Gen Zers have a particularly strong penchant for social causes, with 60 percent stating a desire to change the world, compared with 39 percent of Millennials. Technology can be a visual representation of a brand’s commitment to particular causes, and brands that reflect and support their values will matter to Gen Zers most.

Technology that delivers real value

Naturally entrepreneurial, Gen Zers are more pragmatic than Millennials. They want technology that provides value and empowers them to augment their daily lives, in lieu of fancy features. Voice-activated engagement is growing, with many teens already using Google Home or Amazon Echo in their daily lives. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020, 30 percent of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen. This means that eyes and hands are available to do other activities while the person is browsing. Immersive technologies such as augmented and virtual reality are also massive opportunities enabling consumers to engage with products and brands in more profound ways.

Gamification is another Gen Z-friendly way to engage—as long as there is a reason for it. Think of fitness trackers that make wellness fun, marketing campaigns like Domino’s incorporating gamification into their mobile pizza ordering app, or Target’s Wish List app encouraging children to navigate through a 3D animated game while dragging and dropping desired toys into their Santa list.

Gen Zers are influential technology consumers today, and their preferences will drive how technology is developed, marketed and sold for many years to come. To effectively engage them, it is imperative that channel partners understand their perspectives and motivations, so they can accurately identify technology appealing to them. By doing so, the channel will strengthen existing revenue streams and build new ones among this up-and-coming market.

Stephanie Dismore is vice president and general manager, Americas Channels, at HP Inc. In this role, Dismore is responsible for leading and managing all aspects of HP’s commercial and consumer channel sales in the U.S.; spanning distribution, national solution providers, regional VARs, public sector, and SMB partners in the commercial channel, as well as retail partners in consumer electronics, office product superstores, regional retails, e-tail and specialty channels.

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