How to Plan Events for Gen Z

June 15, 2016

Millennials have been the focus of research and event marketing (including ours) for years now, and there are new articles (either praising or criticizing the generation) on a daily basis. But if you’re looking to plan for the future, the Gen Z demographic should be a strong consideration; they are emerging as one of the most diverse and influential generations.

Millennials were predicted to be one of the largest disruptions to the economy, but Generation Z is shaping up to be just as significant. Growing up their entire lives with technology, social media, and in the aftermath of a recession they are going to be much different than Millennials.

“Forget Millennials; I want to know what Gen Z wants because they’re going to start showing up in my hotels in three to five years.”- Michael Dominguez, senior vice president and chief sales officer at MGM Resorts, and co-chair of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition

Marketers are beginning to lay the foundation to adjust to the needs, wants, and expectations of the upcoming generation that will soon be buying tickets to shows and concerts, attending events, and traveling. The first wave of Generation Z is graduating high school and starting to lay the groundwork for their futures. Their time as decision-makers is emerging quickly and it’s essential to event professionals to consider their mindset.

Understanding Generation Z

While the age range of Millennials is much broader, including people born in the 1980’s through the early 2000’s (though the dates are debatable), Generation Z began in the mid-nineties and is still growing. Generation Z already consists of over 2 billion people and makes up about 26 percent of the United States’ population.

Millennials are a bit more cost-conscious and frugal than their parents were; this is likely a result of their upbringing occurring largely in the recession that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Gen Z was raised in a similar climate.

However, it’s been noted that Generation Z approaches their purchases differently. Instead of simply spending less money and being careful with their money, Generation Z is looking for value in a purchase, such as delivery options or included services.

They research the product or service to find an offering with the highest value, the most “bang for their buck.” Generation Z puts much less emphasis on the brand than they do the experience. This could be a very likely cause for the emerging trend in experiential events. They are liable to change or switch brands if they find products or services of higher value or quality at a more reasonable price point.  The products and services are of more importance than the brand itself.

Many times brands will use celebrities to attract attention to their brand; Generation Z doesn’t easily fall for this common marketing ploy. Generation Z puts less emphasis on celebrities such as musicians, actors, or singers. Instead, they are fans of YouTube personalities that are famous because they are more relatable, and their influence is something attainable. When thinking about organizing or marketing an event for Generation Z, make sure to use their power figures, as Gen Z is skeptical and untrusting of large brands and celebrity personalities.  

Generation Z communicates through visual messages and images and in short bursts. Generation Z uses social media platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Vine. Communications are quick and rather than doting them with a short attention span, consider it a filter. In a matter of seconds, they can determine to pursue or abandon what’s in front of them. They’re processing their interests at a much quicker rate and communications need to be adapted to this thinking.

Gen Z and the Events Industry

How do you plan events for Gen Z? Over and over again, research on Gen Z states that want to spend their money on experiences that can be shared on social media with people. Meaning that Generation Z is going to be spending a lot of their money on events such as concerts, festivals, shows, and other experiences. This need for an experience boosts the promise of a strong future for the events industry. Organizations within the events industry need to adapt to Gen Z’s wants, needs, and expectations; they want to spend their money on experiences instead of products.

Generation Z wants to collaborate and share knowledge with others and these desires line up with the goals of many events. It’s an audience that is passionate about social change, interacting with a global community, and enjoy unique experiences. All of which can be incorporated into events in order to satisfy the wants of the generation. It’s important to note their habits have evolved from those we’ve come to expect of Millennials.

For example, Generation Z likely won’t use their email address for much more than a piece of information to log in with (and only if they can’t log-in with Facebook). They tend to see email as an outdated communication tool and likely will not check inboxes frequently. This means that many event marketers will have to rethink the entire way they market their events. Generation Z is about three times more likely to open a push notification than to open an email.

Gen Z and Venue Requirements

Just as venues have adapted to the bandwidth needs of Millennials, they’ll likely have to adjust again for Gen Z.  The primary focus being the speed of Wi-Fi connections, we’ve talked before about the frustrations of having a better connection using mobile data, and this will only increase. Venues need to be able to support the lifestyle and technology usage of Generation Z and do so by competing with the potential advent of 5G.

As mentioned, Generation Z’s spending habits involve them looking for the added value. When shopping, they are looking for the best price-point, free delivery, and other services available for the stated price. The same mindset can be applied to venues and events; Generation Z is going to want an “all-inclusive” venue or event ticket that includes everything they need for a great experience at a price-point that matches the value.

Generation Z may be young, but they are already huge foodies and enjoy a wide range of food items that go beyond the basic event food offerings. Gone are the days where a hot dog and chips suffice.  Generation Z prefers home-cooked meals and avoids processed foods, GMOs, and other unnatural food sources. It’s important to cater to these preferences in the world of food and beverage as around 30 percent of Generation Z’s money is spent on food and drink. They also prefer to be able to order food online and be able to get exactly what they want and forgo the possibility of human error in the communication.

Generation Z’s are very conscious of man’s impact on Earth and sustainability. Since Generation Z is pro-active about doing what they can to maintain the Earth, they will foreseeably choose venues based on how “green” their operations are and how much they contribute to the community around them. Venues can adopt greener practices in order to attract future Gen Z attendees and event planners.

Adapting to the Generation 

Generation Z is ambitious, and they are quite self-aware of the impact they can have. As they begin to enter our markets and the workforce, it’s important to help foster their desire to learn, network and interact on a much broader, global scale. The events industry needs to prepare for this highly visual, social, and technological generation, as they will soon be molding the world with their innovations, technology, and ideas.

We’re curious what you think, what do you think of the emerging generation? Where do you see the biggest impact in the way events will be marketed to this young generation? Leave your comment below!

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