Challenges and opportunities in the time of the Generation Z consumer

by | Aug 3, 2016 | Marketing

On July 13, the Canada Media Fund (CMF) released the 2016 Mid-Year Update to their Trends Report. The major takeaway of the report was that the “key challenge” for content producers will soon be consumer expectations. These expectations are fueled by user experiences, something the Canada Media Fund defines as the ways in which “individuals perceive, respond to and interact with the content they consume.” The user experiences of particular importance are those of the Generation Z consumer.

Generation Z to Replace Millennials

Canada Media Fund noted in 2015 that the Generation Z consumer was overtaking the Millennial consumer as the main target of content producers. The emergent Generation Z consumer is between the ages of 13 and 24, and is even more heavily involved in content creation and engaging through social networks than its Millennial counterpart. YouTube, as a platform that enables the co-creation of content, is very popular amongst Generation Z consumers; whereas Millennials are rabid consumers of digital information, Generation Z’ers, no slouches themselves when it comes to their appetite, distinguish themselves through their inclination toward creation.

The report thus recommends that content producers accommodate these technologically savvy teen and young twenty-somethings by offering new ways to socialize and create content.

“Bots are the New Apps”

Another key finding of the mid-year report was that bots are being more heavily invested in than in the past. As Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella is quoted as saying, “Bots are the new apps.”

CMF describes a bot as software, such as Siri or Cortana, which can “automate and perform tasks for people” using voice or text to interact with individuals. Many in the know believe these bots could “define a new era of conversational platforms.”

Technology writer and inventor of the Twitter hashtag Chris Messina describes this era as “conversational commerce”: “(It) largely pertains to utilizing chat, messaging, or other natural language interfaces to interact with people, brands, or services and bots…You and I will be talking to brands and companies over Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram, Slack, and elsewhere before year’s end, and will find it normal.”

Text Marketing to Replace Email

Not only is there an increased interest in bots, but the report also identified a rising interest in the marketing and distribution of content through text. A company that utilized text messages to make sales is quoted as finding that 98 per cent of texts were viewed, compared to twenty percent for similar marketing emails.

Challenges in the International Market

The report also notes that global media giants are increasing their purchases and production of local content around the world. What’s interesting about this is that these efforts are often being met with resistance from the local markets or governments, such as increased regulations or fees. Yet many governments are still trying to determine how to deal with digital services that are being accessed by a global audience. As analyst Andrew Sheehy states, “It seems utterly inconceivable that the TV programming that would be delivered in this new TV industry would somehow shift from being ‘regulated’ to ‘unregulated’.”

Other Points of Interest

More interesting findings noted in this trends report included:

  • The need to focus on increasing interest in virtual reality and online video
  • That blockchains are allowing companies more ability to set prices based on supply and demand
  • Long-tail and niche programming are becoming more valuable with decreased cost of production


The Trends Report suggests that content producers should pay close attention to the user experiences of consumers, especially those of Generation Z. As CMF found, “The range of possibilities, market fluidity and relentless pressures to stay ahead will be very challenging for content creators, producers and distributors — especially in deciphering ways that the User Experience can be optimized in terms of reach and discoverability. Most important will be the question of alignment with the high expectations of the new generation of empowered consumers.”

It appears that some areas that are likely to see change to meet Generation Z expectations are bot technologies, text-based marketing, blockchains, and virtual reality. The report encourages content producers to address these expectations, while also meeting the challenges of a global market.

Chantelle Brule
After receiving her Master's in Communications from Carleton University, Chantelle brought her research experience to Agility's Media Insights team as a data analyst. She's particularly good at what she does.


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