1. WHO THEY ARE
They’re anyone born after 2010, says Mark McCrindle, the Australian consultant who first coined the phrase. And given that these generational labels often have a 15-year span, Gen Alpha will extend to those born in 2025.
Before you ask why you should worry about customer management for people who may not yet be school-age (or may not even be born), you should heed this advice from Shopify: “Founders building brands for the future need to pay attention to the under-12 set now. After Gen Alpha has aged into teens with agency, influence, and disposable income, it will already be too late.”
2. WHY THEY MATTER TO YOUR BUSINESS
Generation Alpha deserve your focus because there will be some many of them. Mark McCrindle reckons that 2.5 million Alphas are being born each week, which adds up to a generational cohort of around 2 billion of them by 2025. By 2030, they could make up over 10% of the global workforce.
Even before they come of age as your customers, colleagues, business partners or employees, Gen Alpha already have power as influencers. After all, their preferences are already steering their parents’ decision-making on anything from what items they buy at the supermarket to what media they subscribe to.
3. THEY’RE THE MOST CONNECTED GENERATION EVER
2010, the agreed starting point for Generation Alpha, was also the year that the iPad and Instagram were born. True digital natives, many of them will have done much of their learning, playing and socializing on screen. For example, research in the UK pre-Covid showed that:
- 21% of 3–4-year-olds had their own tablet and 53% spent nearly 8 hours a week online
- 48% of 3–4-year-olds used YouTube, of which 52% said cartoon were their favorite thing to watch and 15% said unboxing videos
- 35% of 5–7-year-olds had their own tablet and 79% spent around 9 hours a week online
In other words, this generation was digitally immersed even before we all went digital and virtual during Covid-19 lockdowns. This is going to influence the way they work, relax, travel, shop, build relationships, make decisions, and relate to brands.
4. AND THEIR WAY OF CONNECTING IS VERY DIFFERENT
Not only are the Alphas more connected than other generations, they also use technology differently. You’ll see this for yourself if you watch children use a tablet or phone – they’re more likely than other generations to use gestures and voice to interact.
Having grown up with YouTube and the early metaverse, Generation Alpha may be more visual than verbal. Video may be their preferred format for taking in information and projecting themselves to others, and gamification may be a major element in their education. As a result of playing video games from the earliest age, their eye-hand coordination and task-switching ability may be unmatched by previous generations, but the downside to this, say some observers, is reduced attention span and concentration, and low levels of patience: they want stuff now.
In terms of customer management, the implications are huge:
- At every part of the customer journey, brands will need to think how best to communicate with this more visual, hyperconnected, multi-tasking customer base.
- Customer experiences will need to cater more than ever for customers who want instant gratification, and truly integrated omnichannel, on-demand access to brands.
- A generation that grows up with avatars, Web 3 and the metaverse will consider human-machine interactions to be ‘normal’, but the seamless experiences they expect will require expert AI, machine learning and analytics capabilities from providers.
- Training, coaching, incentivization and rewards for those working in the industry will need to reflect these different approaches to learning and communication.
5. BRANDS MUST SPEAK WITH THEM, NOT TO THEM
Parents everywhere complain or worry about their kids being too passive as they spend the afternoon (and night) in front of their screens, but as Shopify points out, “Screen time today isn’t the passive experience of generations past. It is a two-way street where kids can have input, interact and collaborate.”
Whether Alphas are into Roblox, Minecraft, TikTok or other pre-teen favorites, they’re probably using technology more actively than previous generations. In short, they’re growing up as co-creators, emerging players in the creator economy.
Again, the ramifications for brands are significant. These co-creator kids will have higher expectations of brand experiences and are likely to expect, as a minimum:
- active interaction and participation in their relationships with brands
- higher-than-ever levels of personalization and customization
- authenticity – this visually and digitally-literate generation will have an acute nose for content and brands that are ‘fake’ or trying too hard to get down with the kids.
Brands should also remember that any day now, some of these pre-teen co-creators could come up with disruptive ideas that could put you out of business. You’ll need to understand this generation to compete with them!
6. WHAT ELSE WE KNOW
Admittedly, there’s a lot that could change before the younger Alphas become your customers, competitors, workers and collaborators, but there is already stuff we know:
- One of the key traits identified by Mark McCrindle is that Generation Alpha are global: “with access to the internet from an early age, they have been raised with shared, customers, values and experiences.”
- With falling birth rates in Europe and the US, there may be a generational tilt towards Asia and Africa.
- Alphas have grown up in the climate crisis. They may have seen siblings go on ‘School strikes’, heard parents discuss climate change at the dinner table, or experienced extreme weather events connected with it. Their expectations around mobility, diet and consumption will have been molded by these experiences, and their commitment to sustainability and ESG may be harder-wired than other generations.
- They’ve grown up with social media, but perhaps not so much with social contact – particularly during the pandemic. Their comfort zones, in terms of how they communicate with brands or seek support from them, may be different.
7. WHAT TO DO NOW
If you’re the parent, sibling or even grandparent of an under-12, you have a head-start in terms of reading the future of customer management. Watch how they use their phone or tablet or how they choose to interact with their peers or teachers; listen to what behaviors they criticize; analyze what brands and online platforms they like and why – and then translate this into what they will likely want as customers or employees.
Secondly, be agile. We don’t fully know what today’s two-year-old will be consuming in 16 years’ time, but we know it will be different. Research, data analytics, an open business culture and mindset – all these can help brands understand change and adapt to it.
Thirdly, accept that you’ll need help. For example, the digital transformation expertise that’s needed to provide strong CX to Gen Alpha (and Gen Z) probably doesn’t yet exist in your organization and may never do. But this isn’t a problem – outsourcing can provide all the answers.