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Jay Richards: ‘How your small business can win over Generation Z’

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Jay Richards: ‘How your small business can win over Generation Z’

The spending power of Generation Z is increasing, with many of this diverse and socially conscious generation making their first steps into today’s business world.

Generation Z includes people born after 1995, now in their late teens and early twenties, establishing themselves in the workforce and as consumers worldwide.

The demographic could make up more than 20% of the global workforce in the future.

If you own a small business, you need to understand ‘zoomers’, making them easier to serve and employ.

Jay Richards, the co-founder of Imagen Insights, owns a business that allows brands and agencies to crowdsource qualitative and quantitative feedback, ideas and insights from Generation Z.

Imagen Insights does this by using technology to gather insights from about 8,500 members of Generation Z based in 57 countries around the world. This is growing by 2000 per month.

Jay says: “60% of our community is female, 35% black, 25% Asian, 20% from a low-income background, 20% from the LGBT community, and 10% disabled. When we say we’re diverse, we truly are.”

In this article, Jay talks about how small businesses can reach Generation Z, in order to hire and bring the younger generation into their companies, by understanding what drives people in this age bracket.

Here’s what we cover:

Understand what Generation Z is made of

Generation Z expects you to be diverse

Generation Z wants hybrid working

Turn challenges into opportunities

Invest in the right technology early

Jay says Generation Z is an interesting demographic you can’t sum up in neat little boxes. However, there are specific characteristics that businesses should think about when engaging with this audience. These people are:

Digital natives

You need to be engaging with them directly in the digital world, even in places that businesses haven’t traditionally targeted, such as online gaming platforms such as Twitch or social media platforms such as TikTok.

Activists

They care about change in the world, which means they may belong to movements such as Black Lives Matter, communities driving change such as LGBTQ+, or groups surrounding the environment and climate change.

If your business is looking to back a cause, make sure you honestly believe in it and can commit to it for the rest of your existence as a brand.

Co-creators

They can create by themselves on platforms such as TikTok and YouTube, sharing content across the world.

A great way to engage with Generation Z is to co-create with them and ask them what they want to see from you as a business.

Jay says: “Whether you’re in a Discord group or Reddit channel, Generation Z engages with people from different demographics all around the world.

“Generation Z believes in individualism to its further extent, where everybody can have their own way of existing.

“Diversity is just a standard. So as a business, having diversity should be the standard way of doing things.

“It’s not where you need 10 years to get there—you should be making strides to move the needle as soon as humanly possible.”

As a black man with a business centred around Generation Z, Jay understands that Imagen Insights needs to hire people from diverse backgrounds.

“We don’t require degrees,” says Jay. “We understand that getting into university may be challenging for people from certain backgrounds.”

Jay advises businesses to promote job positions in place from a variety of different places—don’t rely on the same sources repeatedly.

If you always pick the sources you know best, you may get a pool of similar candidates that lack the diversity you’re looking for.

Look for places and communities where people from different walks of life may be hanging out.

That may well be online.

Take the initiative, and you may well find candidates that differ from the people you’ve used to, which is great if you’re looking to change the dynamic of your business.

Jay says: “Get out there and look for places where you can place adverts that can attract people from different backgrounds, whether that’s race or social-economic.

“Technology means that there’s no reason we can’t have workplace diversity. The internet makes it much easier than it ever used to be.

“We can’t play ignorance. You could go into a platform like LinkedIn, ask a question on how to get diverse talent, and get thousands of responses.”

When it comes to the working world, many of us have had to turn up to the workplace every day. However, the pandemic has turned things on their head.

Although many people are going back to offices and other workplace, working from home is now normalised.

Workforce members of Generation Z are naturally comfortable with remote working. They are digital natives who seamlessly understand cloud-based productivity tools as they’ve been using similar tools all their lives.

However, evidence suggests that Generation Z don’t want to stay entirely remote, as they may feel they are losing early career advancement opportunities and the ‘buzz’ of a busy workplace.

Recent McKinsey and Company research says 18 to 29-year-olds are most interested in a hybrid work setup, working two to three days a week at home and the rest of the time in the main workplace.

Before coronavirus, Imagen Insights was looking to purchase office space, but a co-working setup suits the business much better from a practicality—and sustainability—perspective.

Jay says: “We’re a small team of 11, but everybody comes in on different days. A co-working space costs much less, and it’s much better from that environmental perspective.

“There are these small things we can do to try and move the needle when it comes to sustainability.”

Coronavirus was a time of reflection. Jay asked himself questions about whether he was running the business as effectively and efficiently as possible, especially when meeting people face to face.

He says: “It’s crazy to me that I used to ride around London on my motorbike trying to have face-to-face meetings with people.

“I would be getting my sales team on the Tube, running between four or five physical meetings a day.

“Today, you could do one physical meeting a day, do three from the office or home virtually, and have time to spare.”

As well as the growth of remote and hybrid working, the pandemic signalled a time when many business owners have had to change their business models or the way they work and interact with customers.

Although the economy slowed due to the pandemic’s effects in 2020, it was a boon for many businesses in the digital and e-commerce sectors.

Many customers who previously weren’t regularly on the internet discovered they could access various products and services from the comfort of their own homes.

These new purchasing habits are set to stay with us as Generation Z becomes the dominant consumer. There’s undoubtedly a push and motivation for businesses to take advantage of digital and sales channels they may not have pursued before coronavirus.

Jay says: “Coronavirus was an accelerant to our business. Our business grew exponentially.

“I don’t think we would have seen the same type of growth if it wasn’t for coronavirus.

“Everything we do is online. Our platform and community are online.

“A lot of our clients said they couldn’t do focus groups like they used to do, and it was great that we offered a new way to get the information they needed with our insights.”

The technology needed to get rapid insights from thousands of Generation Z people is the backbone of Jay’s business.

For other businesses, particularly in market research, Jay suggests there’s a reluctance to invest in technology, mainly due to the cost.

He believes it can often turn out more expensive not to invest in the right tech at an early stage, in the long run.

He adds: “I’m not talking about the wishy-washy improvement of the business by 5% or 10%.

“If you think it’ll exponentially increase the productivity or output, then invest even if the cost is painful for that year and will cut into your profits.”

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