Boards have woken up and begun to focus on attracting, retaining, engaging and rewarding millennials but let’s get ahead of things. The next key group that boards and companies need to think about is Gen Z.

I recently had the opportunity to read an amazing book by the world’s leading Gen Z and Millenial expert and researcher, Jason Dorsey, titled Zconomy.

Here are some insights I gained: Gen Z is anyone who is about 25 years old or younger and they already in the work force and their influencing and buying power is something that all companies need to proactively account for in their social and marketing strategies.

The reason it is especially important for boards to account for this growing demographic is that their influence and reach is far greater than expected. Gen Z is very direct when engaging with brands and has an outsized voice and influence.

A great example of Gen Z engagement and influence in the marketplace is the 2017 Twitter engagement between Wendy’s and 16-year-old Carter Wilkerson who tweeted the company and asked, “how many retweets do I need to get for a free year of chicken nuggets?”.

This tweet went viral and launched one of Wendy’s most successful ad campaigns dubbed “Nuggs for Carter”. Celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres and companies like Google GOOG +2.1%, Amazon AMZN +3.5%, Apple AAPL +3.6%, and Microsoft MSFT +1% joined in on the fun and retweeted to show their supporter for Wilkerson’s quest for chicken nuggets.

The goal was to achieve 18 million retweets, but Wendy’s gave Wilkerson the year of free chicken nuggets when he achieved 3.4M retweets.

The key takeaway here is that Gen Z is very external on social media in pressuring brands to listen, engage, and have a conversation on social media. Most brands are just not geared to have “conversations” with their consumers and perhaps it’s time to look at your companies social media team and create an organization with the pre-arranged/pre-agreed guardrails of how to have these conversations and be sure that your brand has a voice that’s resonating with all. Gen Z is going to impact your brand and strategy even if they are not a customer or employee.

Gen Z is engaging in activities that boomers, Gen Xer’s and perhaps millennials are not engaging in.

For example, have you heard of e-sports? This is where teams and individuals play and compete in various video games. These virtual sporting events amass huge audiences and the prizes are often hefty cash awards which can be funded by fans who buy monthly “battle passes”.

16-year-old Kyle Giersdorf made international headlines after winning the inaugural Fortnite World Cup in New York and taking home a $3 million dollar prize.

According to market researcher NewZoo, esports revenues will surpass $1 billion in 2020 for the first time — without counting broadcasting platform revenues. Globally, the total esports audience will grow to 495.0 million people in 2020, Newzoo said.

We see startup companies having a huge success in the gaming marketplace. For example, Roblox has seen huge success as a platform that allows its users to develop or play millions of different online games. It has over 100 million active users each month and this has sprouted other revenue streams from merchandise and virtual/real life events.

Gen Z gets all their info on social media using various platforms such as snapchat and twitter, they learn how to do things using YouTube videos and more recently, they enjoy the new short form video platform that TikTok offers.

Gen Z is not a generation that places value on having cold hard cash in their wallets. In fact, many are moving away from carrying a traditional wallet and instead are relying on the virtual wallet app on their cell phone. They transact using apps such as Venmo, Cash, Zelle, and of course, Apple Pay.

Gen Z may never own a car and 9/11 is something they learned about in history class, not something that shaped their world viewpoint like the millennial generation.

The digital natives in Gen Z have never lived in a world without FaceTime… beepers and landlines are not even a distant memory for this generation. This generation does not see texting or typing on a phone as a grand novelty but rather is increasingly more comfortable speaking commands to their devices. For companies this means that voice enablement should be a key part of a digital transformation strategy.

Gen Z is going to be the fastest growing generation in the work force in two years. Here are a couple of amazing facts about how connected Gen Z is to their cell phone:

–        According to Zconomy, 31% of Gen Z can’t comfortably be away from their phone for 30 minutes.

–        Gen Z girls spend 10 or more hours a day on their phones.

Given all of this, perhaps it’s time to ask your marketing organization (which may be peopled by baby boomers and Gen X) to share the “social first” way the company is engaging with consumers and re-evaluate how the company tracks its effectiveness with millennials and expand the tracking to encompass a broader set of generational diversity in order to increase their readiness to engage with Gen Z.

According to the 2019 Mary Meeker Internet trends report, Images are increasingly the means by which people communicate, as technology developments like faster Wi-Fi and better phone cameras have encouraged a surge in image taking. More than 50 percent of Twitter impressions now involve posts with images, video or other media; Twitter used to be text-only.

This shift in the means by which younger generations are communicating should prompt a discussion on what is the best medium for companies to communicate with their expanding target audience base.

For large legacy companies in retail, hospitality, travel, financial services, healthcare to name a few, rethinking your go to market and keeping the strategy contemporary will be an important step to take to ensure the company’s longevity.  For boards interested in learning more on generational trends and how Gen Z will impact the future of your business, I highly recommend reading Zconomy.

I think is an important question for boards to ask management to share an update on the coming year ahead. Staying contemporary and relevant is the biggest threat to traditional businesses who don’t shift early enough with how they engage with their future consumers, customers, and employees.