How CX Has Shaped Gen Z’s Internet Expectations

By sending the right messages at the right time to the right people, marketers showed Gen Zers quite directly that the world was their oyster.

How CX Has Shaped Gen Z’s Internet Expectations

by Brad Anderson

Posted on 08-02-2019

A decade ago, the phrase “customer experience” meant a past-tense, start-to-sale look at an individual buyer’s brand interactions.

The CX term began to take on new meaning around 2011, when chief experience officers started to crop up at enterprises like FedEx and SAP. Most came from general manager, marketing, and operations leadership roles, and they were often the first to hold the new title at their companies.

Around the same time, another trend took hold: Generation Z entered the economy. In 2011, the generation born after 1996 started high school. As this group began earning their own disposable income through after-school jobs, CX was gaining executive-level attention—and these changes directly influenced how Gen Z interacts with the companies they buy from.

CX’s Digital Decision

Although CX includes the in-store experience, executives have understandably spent more time focused on the digital path. Not only is the online portion of the customer journey more predictable and trackable than the physical one, but improving it also requires less upfront investment. It’s far easier to develop and tweak web copy, for instance, than it is to edit a series of television ads. It’s worth noting, too, that younger generations devote more time to devices than their predecessors.

Whatever the ROI of digital and real-world optimization, CX-minded marketers have shaped Gen Zers’ online lives by anticipating their needs and heightening their expectations. By sending the right messages at the right time to the right people, marketers showed Gen Zers quite directly that the world was their oyster. To a degree that prior generations simply don’t, Gen Z expects any-site, any-device, and anytime digital experiences—tailored exclusively to them.

To understand how Gen Z’s online expectations are different than those of past generations, think about how consumer technology has changed since 2011. Back then, smartphones were still novelties, and the web was almost exclusively the domain of desktop computers.

Those device roles have since reversed. Consumers are having more brand interactions on mobile devices than any other medium—including desktop, television, and face-to-face communications. To Gen Zers, a desktop-first site is a relic, much like a landline phone. And they’ve become so accustomed to in-the-moment access, in fact, that they’re suspicious of websites that take more than a couple of seconds to load.

All Content, All Channels

But it’s not just that the CX movement has changed how Gen Z accesses the Internet; once they’re online, Gen Z expects a one-to-one experience. When WPEngine studied the subject, it discovered 68% of Gen Zers would stop visiting a website if it didn’t anticipate what they wanted. More than two in five told the WordPress service that they’d trade their personal data for a more personalized experience.

Gen Zers’ marketer-driven penchant for personalization is likewise reflected in the digital marketing tactics of their age. A Nativo report showed native ad spending grew sixfold in just two years—with the greatest increases in categories, like entertainment and food and drink, driven by young people. The growth of social, influencer, and native advertising all trace to the same thing: a generation that insists on individualized, unobtrusive online ad experiences.

The story is similar even when it comes to scalable digital communications. The Roche UK found that fully two-thirds of Britons in the 16-to-24 age group said they’d be comfortable chatting with a bot about a medical diagnosis. While barely one-third of those 55 and older said the same. For Generation Z, almost no topic is too personal to discuss with a digital personality.

More Than Millennials

Millennials may be the first digital generation, but they grew up during the days of dial-up Internet and banner ads. For Gen Z’s older siblings, waiting for pages to load and ignoring irrelevant content were part of online life.

While marketers have strongly guided the way Generation Z views online activity and marketing content, how those perspectives morph and shift in the future is only partially in the marketer’s control. The rules for marketing to Gen Z are very different and will likely change over time. One thing will likely remain the same, however: the need to deeply know and channel your audience.

For brick-and-mortar retail associates, an unhappy shopper can be addressed in real time. If a customer appears frustrated, the retailer can offer in-the-moment assistance, such as providing a different shoe size, setting up a fitting room, or giving directions to the proper aisle for the product being sought.

But how can marketers address similar frustrations online to provide a better experience? Because in today’s digitally driven world, users expect the same treatment online as they would receive in-store.

Transfering Tactics

Marketers must put their feet in a customer’s shoes to understand buying preferences and motivations. But doing so is more difficult when the experience is online. For example, if a consumer, who has been targeted with a pair of sneakers for a period of time, finally decides to buy them, he’s then looking forward to the purchase. But if the website has a malfunction–perhaps the product page is down or the checkout link causes an error page–he will be nothing short of aggravated. But online retailers can’t visually see that a customer is upset. All the marketer can see is that the person ultimately didn’t make the purchase, without knowing why.

In this day and age, it’s critical that marketers have insight into why a shopper had a bad experience and be able to show empathy when an issue arises, particularly when the brand is at fault. Marketers must be able to understand and measure customer experience, which requires not only knowing how shoppers are behaving on their sites, but how they are feeling when they do it–and why.

Engaging with a consumer online is becoming more critical each day. To get the level of intelligence required to best understand and connect with those consumers, marketers need to take what has long been done on offline channels and apply the same practices online: measure, manage, and improve.

Understanding Motivations And Intentions

Measuring and managing online experiences to understand the “why” behind behavior goes far beyond clicks and hovers. It’s no longer enough to solely rely on piecing together and testing what is working (and not working) on your properties. To understand a customer’s state of mind, marketers must be able to read online digital behavior the same way they would in a physical store. Fortunately, similar to in-store shoppers, online consumers provide warning signs of an issue through digital body language.

Digital body language accounts for every interaction and gesture a consumer makes on a website or app–including what happens between the clicks. It is essential for gaining insight into and benchmarking how users are feeling throughout every online session. Multiclicks, for example, are indicative of user frustration. If a link is broken or a confirmation button is slow or unresponsive, online shoppers might click repeatedly until the page responds.

Another indication of frustration is bird’s nest behavior, or when a user rapidly shakes the mouse around, leaving a jumbled mouse trail that, in session replays, resembles a bird’s nest.

Multiclicks can be broken down into “unresponsive multiclicks,” where the behavior falls on an unresponsive element, such as a paragraph of text or an image, and “responsive multiclicks,” where the behavior falls on a responsive element, such as a link or a slide show arrow. Another indication of frustration is bird’s nest behavior, or when a user rapidly shakes the mouse around, leaving a jumbled mouse trail that, in session replays, resembles a bird’s nest. This often occurs when a page won’t load or consumers are not able to find what they’ve come to the site for.

Through the analysis of 3 million user sessions with its website’s “Get a Quote” form, a major financial services company found that the average completion rate of the form was 77%. For sessions that contained a responsive multiclick behavior, the completion rate was just 17%. For unresponsive multiclick behavior, the completion rate was even lower, at 14%. Reading and understanding the variations of digital body language allowed marketers to understand where users became frustrated or confused on its website. This is critical for marketers to not only ensure individual customers have their issues addressed immediately, but also to benchmark and improve experiences over time.

Through the analysis of 3 million user sessions with its website’s “Get a Quote” form, a major financial services company found that the average completion rate of the form was 77%. For sessions that contained a responsive multiclick behavior, the completion rate was just 17%. For unresponsive multiclick behavior, the completion rate was even lower, at 14%. Reading and understanding the variations of digital body language allowed marketers to understand where users became frustrated or confused on its website. This is critical for marketers to not only ensure individual customers have their issues addressed immediately, but also to benchmark and improve experiences over time.

Marketers need the right data in order to understand and address the pain points that customers experience. Without the ability to read digital body language or understand when and why a customer is frustrated or confused, it is impossible for marketers to create a positive, meaningful experience for each individual shopper.

By acquiring this level of intelligence and creating better experiences, customer loyalty will ultimately increase as does potential revenue. The cost of acquiring customers is high, so it’s critical to maintain and please existing customers via engaging and empathetic digital experiences.

Marketers need the right data in order to understand and address the pain points that customers experience.Learn More

“The Deloitte Consumer Review: The growing power of consumers,” Deloitte, 2014, www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/consumer-business/consumer-review-8-the-growing-power-of-consumers.pdf.

“Gartner Says 8.4 Billion Connected ‘Things’ Will Be in Use in 2017, Up 31 Percent from 2016,” Gartner Press Release, www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3598917.

Gina Casagrande, “Let the Crowd Fuel the Demands for Optimized, Personalized Content,” Adobe Blog, September 27, 2017, theblog.adobe.com/let-crowd-fuel-demands-optimized-personalized-content.

Customer experience has become a brand’s most critical competitive differentiator. For example, a recent Adobe survey found that 64% of Generation Z shoppers and 72% of Millennial shoppers think brands should provide a personalized experience.

Topics: Experience Cloud, Digital Transformation, Trends & Research, CMO by Adobe

Products: