If mobile developers are responsible for creating the worldwide app internet, then Generation Z, the world’s first truly “global generation,” are the first to consume it fully. They might live oceans apart, but Gen Zers cohabit the same mobile games, browse similar e-commerce apps and communicate with each other via the same social media. What's more, they tend to favor apps that share similar characteristics globally: apps that are easy to use but fun; apps that give them freedom to share on social media without being harshly judged; and—at least for those apps requiring purchase—apps that offer the greatest value for their market price.
Keeping this in mind, we bring you some tips on designing apps for the iGen.
If you’re going to build an app, make sure it doesn’t take up too much space on “Z” phones. Apps take up precious memory, and it’s a privilege for any app to take up residence alongside Gen Zers' photos and videos. In fact, research from Roko Labs indicates that an app taking up too much space is one of the main reasons Gen Zers delete them from their phones. If you create an unwieldy app with slow loading times, bulky SDKs and too many ads served, your app will be the first on the chopping block.
But when it comes to apps, size obviously isn’t the only thing that matters. Gen Zers want apps that are engaging and easy to use. In China, the mobile game Honour of Kings has more than 55 million devoted fans — most of them under the age of 25. In fact, it turns out the fantasy roleplaying/combat game is so popular among young people in China that it’s sometimes perceived as a threat to work or studying. As one 23-year-old girl explains it, “I’m out of work at the moment, so apart from when I’m eating or sleeping I play Honour of Kings non-stop until the system kicks me out.”
You’ll notice similar worldwide trends among Gen Zers when it comes to social media privacy. In a world where social media reputation can make or break a Gen Zer’s reputation in real life, these trends shouldn’t come as any surprise. Case in point: American teens love of Snapchat and its ability to make messages disappear instantly once seen. Gen Zers use the app up to 11 times per day on average to keep up with their friends. This is very different than earlier generation' preference for Facebook and Twitter, which are less anonymous. American Gen Zers still enjoy the notion of breaking the Internet with the collective weight of their likes, favorites and Instagram selfies, but they’re cautious about how they share that information.
So, this is a tricky nut to crack. Gen Zers seem to share a dislike for apps that aren’t free to download. But not everything on the iOS App Store comes for free. In fact, there are some paid-for apps that hold a strong allure for college students. Paid apps like Evernote, iStudiez Pro Legend and Quizlet Go all help students get through the day-to-day mechanics of studying. Similarly, apps like Tinder, Bumble and Hinge help students find dates on- or off-campus, but the best features of these apps are frequently ones they need to pay for in order to unlock.
So what influences them to purchase?
One way of getting students to splurge on apps is by offering exclusive incentives for apps they need or want to buy. Think of how Amazon, the second-most popular app for teens and collegiates, rewards students with its Amazon Prime Student. Kids can save money when buying university essentials like groceries, music and the latest in flash-factor electronics—and still have extra in the bank to pay their tuition.
Gen Z is finicky — so don’t take this all as a one-size-fits-all approach. See what the Zs are loving, what they’re hating on, what’s trending via your social channels and identify any gaps exist where an app might help. The more you get to know Gen Z and what makes them tick at the personal level, the more educated and better suited you’ll be to create the best app to reflect your brand.
Apps have taken the world by storm — and they show no signs of abetting anytime soon. Moreover, the most successful of mobile developers have created apps that bear the same intrinsic, universal qualities that Gen Zers crave: simplicity, shareability without being held up to the spotlight on social media — and value.
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