Are You Ready for Gen Z?
Imagine a time when there was no internet, no laptops and no mobile phones…Generation X, born between 1964 and 1979, often referred to as Digital Immigrants, introduced computers for the first time and initiated the path toward digitalization. Viewed as the renaissance of entrepreneurship, they created labels and brand names, wanting things and wanting them immediately but were not technologically sophisticated. The next generation - Generation Y or Millennials - born from 1980 to 1995, are referred to as Digital Natives, having unlimited access to information through the internet. This generation has also grown up with mobile phones, e-commerce and social media making them tech-savvy and immune to traditional marketing and sales pitches. Then came Generation Z, born from 1996 to 2010, who have never known a world without internet and mobile phones. They are globally focused, visually engaged, educationally transformed and socially defined, integrating technology seamlessly into all parts of their lives like the air that they breathe. Of the world’s 7.7 billion people, Millennials or Gen Y and Gen Z will comprise 64 percent of the total global population by 2020. When a new generation come of age, joins the workforce, and is able to make financial decisions on their own, there is a need for new products and services that meet the needs of this generation. Let us call them Artificial Intelligence (AI) Natives.
The global enterprise apps market size in 2018 is north of $170 billion and by 2024 it is expected to be worth over $287 billion, a forecasted CAGR of 7.6 percent over this period according to Global Market Insights. As Gen Z enters the workplace, we can expect more and more existing enterprise digital applications to be revolutionized to AI-enabled applications, resulting in massive productivity improvements for businesses, for governments and for citizens. The reason behind this revolution is that the expectations of AI Natives are very different from that of Digital Natives. The below comparative examples show the stark differences between the two. Digital Natives use applications to order or do a certain action while AI Natives expect the applications/services to be aware of the current situation and anticipate the need of the user on its own.
Gen Z – the AI Natives – expect technology to seamlessly integrate with their active lifestyle
Example 1 - Communication: For Digital Natives, emails are organized according to the time and conversation in a sequential manner. But AI Natives expect the emails to be organized according to the contextual information of the email and urgency of action required.
Example 2 - Shopping: Digital Natives use Amazon to search and order goods even though it might be a repetitive order. On the other hand, AI Natives expect Amazon to notify the user of the replenishment of goods and only request purchase approval. It should also take in to account the usage behavior of the individual.
Example 3 - Payments: Digital Natives use Apple Pay or a digital wallet to pay for goods and services. AI Natives expect Apple Pay or a digital wallet to automatically pop up a request for payment approval if the store, goods or services are part of the routine behavior of the individual.
Example 4–Online Retail: Digital Natives use online e-commerce like Macy’s, Nordstrom, etc. to order clothes. They check the product at home and return the product if it is not to their liking. AI Natives expect personalized augmented outfitting online so they can decide before ordering.
Example 5 - Transportation: Digital Natives use ridesharing apps like Uber, Lyft, etc. to order cab/taxi service by making multiple decisions and selections such as current location, destination, type of vehicle, fair price, etc. and then they have to wait for a few minutes before the rideshare service picks them up. AI Natives expect ridesharing services to understand the individual’s need, usage pattern, desired destination, estimated time of arrival, etc. and proactively notify the user for ridesharing service and only request the user for confirmation.
The Digital Natives drove the need for high-speed internet services and the enterprise applications that helped them to be more productive and live a more convenient life. They grew up with mobile phones that quickly became the most essential device for communication, creating extensive social networks around the world. E-commerce was established through secure payment gateways, giving people easy access to a number of items ranging from groceries to electronics to connected lifestyle products and enabling them to buy these things from the comfort of their homes. The democratization of services through the cloud brought down high infrastructure costs and gave way to on-demand services, allowing customers to pay only for the things that they use. They established multi-billion-dollar industries in the process of digitally transforming the world while fading out those industries that could not keep up with digitalization. For instance, news agencies had to quickly switch to online publishing to survive digitalization since many or most people were not interested in printed newspapers anymore. Though this generation incorporated the process of automation for repetitive tasks, to get something done one has to still take a certain action or a certain set of actions.
Since AI Natives depend on technology so heavily in their daily lives, they demand simpler, more secure, intuitive, personalized, location and context-aware, intelligent services that they can trust, as illustrated below. They want real-time information and thus want real-time services with self-X (X–adapting, organizing, securing, ordering, paying, etc.) capabilities which only selectively ask for permission to get something done. While Digital Natives may adjust, operate or program their devices, AI Natives expect devices to adjust, operate and/or program on its own, with artificial intelligence and other technologies working behind the scene.
How to develop products and services for Gen Z?
The success of a product or service will depend on its usefulness and the value it provides its end users is ultimately driven by technology and its data architecture, design principals, user interface and user experience. Thus, they should be included in the process of developing, improving, and innovating products and services for Gen Z.
Gen Z – the AI Natives – expect technology to seamlessly integrate with their active lifestyle. To make this possible, products and services should be capable of analyzing each individual’s interaction and experience and adapt the product or service accordingly so that it becomes relevant and part of that individual’s lifestyle. They also expect round-the-clock operation and availability of these products and services and that they should be able to depend on them whenever and wherever.
AI Natives also demand that these products and services are able to self-adapt based on a user’s likes, dislikes, location and context. They rely more on intelligent products and services than any other generation that came before them. It is vital that these products and services are trusted to functions where and when it is required.
The key to the development of products and services is their data-driven architectures powered by machine learning and behavioral learning mechanisms along with an active data loop back mechanism towards the OEM and/or service provider. Data collected in the backend (data center or cloud) from these products and services will be further analyzed by powerful AI engines and by the human supervisors of these products and services. Using an end-user’s behavioral data combined with metadata from all other users at scale will help local AI engines learn and continue to improve over time.
Enterprise applications and services as we know and use today were developed by the Digital Natives, but will soon be replaced with smarter, more intuitive and more intelligent ones for AI Natives as Gen Z start to enter the workplace. It will mimic a human assistant in terms of personalization, will act as the 6th sense for an individual, and will work 24/7 behind the scene for your benefit. It will improve your daily operations, enhance your productivity, and increase the quality of your life. Great opportunity and exciting times are ahead of us.