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We live in a world where the pace of technological advancement is rapidly increasing, as seen through the rise of ChatGPT, Midjourney and other generative AI tools. In addition to this, attention spans are getting shorter, authenticity is critical and technology is seamlessly woven into the fabric of daily life. Product managers face an intricate challenge: how to engage Generation Z (born between 1996 to the early 2010s) – a key target segment for most organisations. Born into a digital universe, Gen Z express contradictions that require innovative approaches to capture their interest and loyalty. The effect of this on change and innovation is becoming critical, with product managers now at the epicentre of enabling exceptional experiences for the customer.

We have created a six-point A to Gen Z framework that give CPO’s, product managers, product owners or any product related people an essential toolkit for developing great products for this crucial market segment. In this feature, we explore the framework from a product perspective and detail what you can do to ensure you don’t get left behind.

Embedding the Gen Z mindset in the product development lifecycle

Involve Gen Z from day one

To truly understand the needs and desires of Gen Z, you must involve them from product inception. User-centric design is not just a buzzword; it’s a necessity. Conduct thorough user research, listen to their feedback and integrate their ideas into your product roadmap. Create focus groups or advisory panels specifically composed of Gen Z members. Make them feel like they’re part of the process, and they’ll be more invested in the product’s success.

Be authentic and transparent with your users

Gen Z’s relentless digital immersion does not dampen their thirst for authenticity. They desire genuineness in a world saturated with curated content, algorithmic suggestions and fake news. For product managers, this means shedding the fluff and embellishment to embrace transparency. Share your product’s journey, roadmap, challenges and even mistakes candidly. Fact-checking content is imperative; Gen Z spot deceptions and crave trustworthy sources.

Prioritise concise and engaging content

Gen Z have a short attention span – just 8 seconds compared to that of millennials of 12 seconds1, a 33% reduction. Information must be delivered in concise and engaging ways – use visuals and short videos, interactive content, gamification and clear headlines to convey key messages quickly and ensure you grab their attention.

Develop personalised and intuitive experiences

Gen Z’s intimate relationship with technology means it’s essential to prioritise a seamlessly personalised experience. In a world where swipes, taps and clicks reign supreme, your user interfaces must be intuitive and swift. Slow websites and complicated navigation will prompt them to move on swiftly.

Sustainability and social impact matter

Gen Z are the leaders of social conscience. They seek products aligned to their core values, whether that be environmental sustainability or ethical practices. Authenticity extends to the ethics of the products they consume. If your product champions these ideals, substantiate it through transparent actions, avoiding mere marketing ploys.

Elevate their experience: luxury, within reach

Despite having less disposable income than previous generations, Gen Z crave premium experiences. Value lies in access, not ownership. Explore subscription models or access-focused approaches that respect their financial constraints, while satisfying their desire for luxury.

Empower your product teams for Gen Z success: a strategic blueprint

Beyond thinking about how you weave these insights into your personal day-to-day product development cycle, think about how you can set your organisation up for success, ensuring you have the right structures and processes in place to keep pace with the demands of Gen Z.

Set up appropriately sized and customer-obsessed product teams

Organisations must invest in strong product leadership and teams of product managers. These will be the driving force of relentless customer focus and will understand changing market dynamics. The power of a great product manager is often underestimated, and organisations leave their product teams too thin for adequate external focus. Gen Z are trend grabbers and if you don’t keep pace, you can quickly be dropped. Product managers should have their fingers on the pulse to react quickly and deliver for their customers, ensuring customer research is baked into processes.

Insight and data-led prioritisation framework

Establish a well-structured prioritisation framework for your product portfolio, anchoring data and insight. Prioritisation should be clearly linked to portfolio strategy, informed by customers and other appropriate data sources, both qualitative and quantitative. When analysing insights, use customer segmentation and personas to gain a better understanding of your customer needs and ensure you are prioritising appropriately.

Develop diverse cross-functional product teams

Product teams should be cross-functional, comprising members with a range of skills with diversity in generations (including Gen Z), gender and ethnicity. This ensures all aspects of product development, from ideation to delivery, are well-covered, while also encouraging empathy and a deep understanding of different generational needs.

Use design thinking to drive user empathy

Apply design thinking principles to create user-centric products. Empathise with Gen Z users, define their needs, ideate creative solutions, prototype rapidly and test iteratively. This approach ensures that the product is not only functional, but also user-friendly and engaging.

Ethical, accessible and inclusive design

Gen Z value inclusivity and diversity. Ensure that your product is accessible to all users, regardless of ability, and is inclusive in its features and content. Be tuned to ethical considerations such as data privacy and social impact – Gen Z hold value here and any lapses can cause serious brand damage.

What comes next?

In the ever-accelerating whirlwind of digital existence, engaging Gen Z requires an intricate dance. They crave authenticity, yet live in a virtual world of imitation. They seek seamless, intuitive experiences, while also valuing social consciousness and uniqueness. To master this, product managers must choreograph their strategies to cater to Gen Z’s transient attention spans, and the paradoxes that define their generation. By acknowledging their need for realness, personalisation and seamless digital experiences, you’ll pave the way for meaningful engagement with the generation that dances between the lines of reality and virtuality.

Lewis Dyke

Read the full A to Gen Z framework to help your organisation better connect with the world’s largest generation.