Move over millennials, the next generation is here. Generation Z are youth born between the mid-1990s and the early-2000s. Unlike millennials who will remember dial-up internet or earlier, Generation Z’ers may have a challenge recalling the time when they were not connected to the outside world via computer or smartphone. This means they look at technology and apps differently — and more often. A recent study found that 12% of youth between the ages of 13 and 17 check their phone every few seconds. It’s up to companies to build apps that will keep this generation engaged. Here are a few apps currently making it work.
A predictable first app to mention, Snapchat is insanely popular among Generation Z. The photo and video messaging app has more than 100 million active daily users, with 45% of those users between 18 and 24-years-old. This demographic uses Snapchat to document every cool, funny, and interesting moment in their lives, leading to a generation that can have vicarious experiences unlike any group in the past. Snapchat taps into two defining elements of Generation Z: a love of selfies and a fear of missing out (often known as FOMO). Through its ever-changing filters in which users can adorn themselves with flower crowns and dog faces — as well as the simple and short-term shareability of pictures and videos through private messages or public stories — Snapchat meets this demographic’s core app desires. Generation Z loves secret identities. That’s perhaps why an app called Whisper is so popular. Whisper users can send messages anonymously and receive replies which are posted publicly or sent to them by a user with a pseudonym. (However, it’s important for developers to consider that secret identity apps like this have the potential to open up a door to cyber-bullying and may need to be monitored heavily.) The messages — also known as whispers — are questions or confessions users may never share in the real world and are displayed to the app’s 30 million monthly users, with replies coming from around the world. While emojis continue to dominate smartphone messaging, an app called PopKey allows users to easily send GIFs in addition. The app installs a GIF keyboard to your phone, so users can easily select a trending GIF. There’s never been an easier way for Generation Z to send a virtual “face palm.”
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As mentioned, selfies are a big part of life for Generation Z, and photo sharing app Instagram can be the perfect outlet for those shots. The Instagram app of today has started to resemble Snapchat, with Instagram Stories allowing users to share momentary glances into one another’s lives. The fact that 76% of teenagers use Instagram shows there’s merit in allowing Generation Z the ability to add filters to their photos and easily engage with their friends, community, and celebrities. Live video streaming app Periscope has also gained traction among Generation Z’ers. If you thought Snapchat was an overshare, think again. Periscope is akin to The Truman Show, where users become famous by live streaming every moment of their life. Twitter acquired Periscope before its launch in 2015 in an effort to capture the attention of younger users, and it worked. One of the reasons Periscope is so popular is that it’s a more authentic look at someone’s day. Unlike Snapchat and Instagram where users can add filters and take hundreds of photos before finding the right one, there’s a level of vulnerability and exposure that comes from a live streaming app like Periscope.
When it comes to music, the apps that are popular with Generation Z are the ones popular with millennials: namely Spotify and Pandora, with respectively, 39% and 21% approval ratings from this demographic. One of the reasons these apps may be popular is because of a user’s ability to curate content, i.e. create their own playlist or station. App developers considering the audio and music industry should consider designing their app as a streaming platform rather than one based on downloads.
Generation Z grew up on the internet, and they understand that there are no (or at least very little) secrets. This doesn’t mean that youth don’t want privacy and security, though. Apps targeting Generation Z’ers should incorporate some element of a confessional or ability to share — but should consider masking that information or the user’s location with some sort of disguise. An element of immediacy will also help with popularity, as Generation Z wants to find out what’s going on in real-time.