Do you remember what kind of things you did for entertainment when you were younger? Take a moment to think about how you spent your free time as a teenager. You probably read books, played outside, made entertainment from nothing at all. And why? Well for one thing, the internet likely wasn’t in existence/a dominant source of entertainment in your home. Times were different, the digital world we know today was only just kicking to gear, and the result was a notion of self-entertainment that relied heavily upon imagination.
So how is this relevant to the travel industry, and where does the concept of imagination come in? More on imagination later. The main point we’re trying to make is that the young people of today are different. They’ve grown up in times of incredible technological advancement. And as their power as travel purchasers looms on the horizon, it’s becoming more and more clear that their behaviour, attitudes and expectations are completely different to generations of years gone by. Sure, every new generation has its quirks, but as the focus shifts from millennials to Generation Z, travel operators will need to adapt for this emerging customer base more than you might think.
The relationship between Generation Z-ers and travel is and will be linked by technology. As a generation that’s grown up alongside rapid advancements in all things tech, the connected world has certainly left its mark. Teenagers today are the most tech savvy generation around. On top of that, having grown up in the immersive world of social media, advanced video games and platforms such as Youtube, this is a generation that takes technology and innovation for granted. For teenagers all over the world, these incredible advances have been a part of their lives for as long as they can remember. The digital world that they spend so much time in is all they’ve ever known.
Attention spans are at an all-time low - just eight seconds for Generation Z-ers according to some research. This means that things happen quickly. Content is engaged with and judged in a flash. Generation Z has been exposed to and shaped by the concept of instantaneous results and reactions. Just look at Snapchat, along with the growing popularity of memes and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it video content on platforms such as Facebook and Youtube.
But that’s not to say that the teenagers of today are a bunch of mindless kids who can’t focus on something for any longer than a goldfish can. That would be completely the wrong way of approaching this and missing the point entirely. This is instead about Generation Z’s ability to process information:
Mimi Turner, marketing director at The Lad Bible said the following:
“People talk a lot about this generation having a short attention span. That’s exactly what grown-ups say when they don’t understand something. This audience are extreme navigators of superior efficiency. They are machines at knowing what they want. They are highly sophisticated decision makers. They are efficient and marketers and brands need to catch up with that.”
In the opening to this post, we touched on the importance of imagination to the travel industry. Travel is, of course, driven by ambition, by a passion for exploration and a desire to experience new places. The imagination is where all of these wonderful emotions collide to form concrete goals that can be aimed at and aspired to.
The digital natives of Generation Z are set to have an intriguing relationship with travel and imagination. On the one hand, the next generation is touted as being more globally-minded than even Millennials. This suggests that travel will be a priority. But having said that, there’s an argument that the close relationship with technology we’ve talked about could be a barrier to those travel aspirations we currently take for granted.
Why could this be? For starters, take a moment to appreciate how immersive and all-encompassing the digital world of technology is becoming. With the latest games, you can already explore the world (and beyond) in high definition with your friends by your virtual side. Technology isn’t (yet) an adequate substitute for the real thing, but how many teenagers are spending their days gazing longingly at pictures of Paris or Rome or New York instead of entertaining themselves via different means? The short answer is not many. You might even say there’s so much damn entertainment around that travel will fall down the list of priorities. After all, if you can have fun, a social life and experience new things through a screen does often expensive travel take a backseat?
Speaking with Campaign, Gerry Whiteside, co-director of P2 Games neatly summarises this debate. Previous generations have seen our imaginations shaped through books with a beginning, middle and an end. The infinite nature of the internet is both an opportunity but also pretty darn frightening. As Whiteside says, "There is a fabulous opportunity for children to be more creative as a result of technology. But I also have a feeling that whenever their device’s battery runs out, the next generation will only find time for daydreaming while waiting for it to recharge."
In the next year or so the first members of this generation are going to be in a position to make travel decisions and exercise their enormous spending power around the world. So what does this tidal wave of tech-savvy youngsters mean for travel operators? And how can services and offerings be adapted to connect with the most connected generation ever?
Clearly things need to change. In a recent piece in Travel Weekly discussing how to make travel products appeal to the next generation, Miles Morgan admits that “As an industry, we have one of the most engaging products – holidays and holiday destinations – but we fail to cut through and engage people enough to grab their interest.”
The way we see it, there are two ways that travel operators can switch things up to appeal to younger customers. The first involves the way that products are marketed, and the second the medium through which that marketing happens. Now, that may sound like the same thing said in two different ways, but there’s a distinction. Honest…
Even in the travel industry, taking customers and their willingness to travel for granted is a big mistake. As we’ve discussed, with the next generation of travellers it may take more persuasion than normal. That persuasion needs to be carefully planned and well thought through. Most importantly of all, it needs to be tailored to suit the behaviour and expectations of young buyers. We’re talking short-form video content through mediums such as Snapchat and Youtube; content that’s simple, shareable, visual and inspiring. Easier said than done, but the first generation of truly digital natives have got plenty of distractions to flick between. Travel operators need to cut through the noise.
They’re a social bunch too, so community driven content that encourages a relationship between your brand and each individual is the way forward.
And then we get to the mediums through which this marketing should happen. This is where we fight fire with fire. As much as we’ve been saying that digital technology poses a risk to the travel aspirations of members of Generation Z, the irony is that technology can also provide the solution. For example:
You might want to tap into fast-growing messaging platforms to offer a more personalised service. This is a generation used to having instant access to solutions and information. Anything less than that kind of speed is likely to put them off from dealing with you on a repeat basis.
The real world should never pale in comparison to the virtual world. Travel offers so many opportunities and experiences that can change all of our lives for the better. If it takes a little technology to prove that and get Generation Z-ers interested, then that’s no problem. Why not create virtual reality travel content around your products to make them more enticing and immersive to a younger audience?
Being internet-savvy entails that this is a customer group that can spot cheesy campaigns from a mile off. Instead, members of Generation Z are far more likely to listen to the advice of their peers and people whose opinions they respect. Subtly tapping into the power of market influencers, whether it’s Youtube stars or Instagram giants, is definitely worth considering.
Away from the techniques of marketing, one simple way to appeal to the next tech-savvy generation is to make your products as tech-friendly as possible. Generation Z is used to viewing the internet as any other utility - just like running a tap for water or turning the heating on. If you can incorporate this level of connectivity into your trips, along with other digital touches, from contactless payments to electronic keys, biometrics and (hell, why not) robot butlers, you'll appeal both to their imagination and their love of efficiency.
We're incredibly proud of the travel marketplace platform we've built from scratch. One of its key features is that it allows you to build a marketplace that's community driven and packed with relevant content from sources your customers will trust and engage with - Certainly one way to appeal to the Generation Z travellers on the horizon. Get in touch with us today to find out more and get started on your own travel platform.