By Peter Latham, trends expert from leading international insight and research agency, Verve
Against the backdrop of a bleak economic forecast, most young people will find a way to survive this cost of living crisis and the next once-in-a-lifetime societal emergency. Maturing in an era of financial recession, climate crises, volatile job markets and an oppressive global pandemic, Gen Z is becoming familiar with skirting the traditional, safe, middle ground to find its own alternative routes to success.
Young people are creating spaces where they feel safe to explore their own routes to, and definitions of, success, which in turn helps them cope and potentially thrive with the limited resources they have available.
The question for financial brands is not about whether ‘the kids’ will be alright; it is about who they will trust and depend on when the dust settles. Which brands and businesses will be involved in their lives when they start planning for the future?
The implications of ignoring these shifts include missing out on the next generation of potential customers, as well as improving the customer experience for everyone.
The huge consumer changes we are experiencing are creating demand for new tools, processes and solutions which more intimately understand our needs, providing transparency and flexibility in managing our lives and ultimately working harder to make our limited resources stretch further.
Older generations are already equipped with Monzo accounts (28% of users are 34+), scrolling through TikTok for home and financial advice (14.5% of users are 50+) and funding younger people’s lifestyles through platforms like Patreon or OnlyFans (the average paying user for OnlyFans is 35-44 years old – generating $5 billion in revenue for creators).
As providers create new propositions in the financial space for Gen Z, they should be considering these tools for other demographics, as they could often benefit too. Alternate solutions to modern problems
For this generation, the first issue to address is surviving in the short term. Topics that dominate news headlines currently address savings and cutting luxuries – the rebalancing of what we consider to be our essential spending.
For Gen Z, essential spending is rooted to healthy living, a balanced lifestyle and a good amount of socialising, while the cost savings come from avoiding eating out, shopping or getting takeaways. [PayPal]
The providers who enable us to flex and adapt in the current climate aren’t financial providers. For example, ‘buy now, pay later’ (BNPL) solutions have become the option of choice in retail spaces – this business model, which is funded by retailers, is replacing the credit card. [Financial Times]
This trend has already dominated eCommerce platforms, as one in three UK consumers use BNPL services. Tech brands are entering the arena – for instance, Apple’s new ‘Apple Pay Later’ service. With Apple Pay accepted in more than 85% of shops, it offers a powerful new tool for young consumers who want the latest products and services and need help spreading the cost. [Apple]
We’re seeing similar patterns from Amazon Prime Day hardware or travel providers specialising in BNPL services – all solutions which are at point of sale, rather than originating from your bank. [Financial Times]
As a traditional financial provider, when you demand that customers come to the bank (in person or digitally), as opposed to being in the spaces where people need the most help, you risk being cut out of the decision-making process altogether.
The role of financial comms
Beyond stop-gap solutions of spreading costs, consumers need to have a good understanding of the financial world. This encompasses everything from having a savings plan and financial literacy skills, understanding what is currently happening with our money every month, knowing how to save for the bigger expenses and how to use resources most effectively – in a way that aligns with our values.
The world of finance isn’t set up for Gen Z lifestyles. It is anchored to traditional milestones like dual incomes from married couples, 2.5 children to provide for and a steady 9-5 office job. However, as Gen Z deviate further from these social structures (by choice or necessity) – the metrics, measures and financial services in place simply aren’t fit for purpose.
Alongside the specific financial barriers, such as freelancers struggling to get a mortgage, there is a range of softer factors deterring younger people from financial spaces – from advertising and comms often aimed at traditional nuclear families, to the awkward user experience of digital channels.
Most traditional advice encourages conformity to the homogenous middle rather than the rougher, explorative edges where Gen Z do most of their work to get by. By ignoring the vibrant needs and perspectives of this curious and passionate generation, traditional banks are not providing the solutions this demographic seeks.
Financial sector disruptors
New providers are emerging to disrupt the sector, focusing on addressing the imbalances within the system and offering viable, attainable solutions to young people thinking about their finances.
Cleo helps customers understand their own finances better, through a conversational AI which offers insights from customer’s financial data in the form of a messaging app.
Keebo is the first open banking credit card, founded on the principles that banks use outdated metrics to approve credit, in an industry which is rooted in stigma and reckless spending.
This is a particular problem for women, minorities and non-binary customers who have previously had to decode the white, middle-class male perspective on finance – often feeling alienated by the process. Your Juno was created to bridge the gap for underrepresented communities in finance, creating a platform to upskill and empower everyone with educational content that is tailored to be more representative of the Gen Z experience.
This type of thinking is emerging in almost every facet of finance, from learning the fundamentals of money management and everyday banking accounts, to building good credit and investing for the future. New providers such as Owwn and Shares are meeting Gen Z customers at their level of understanding, and communicating using more relatable lifestyle terminology, for example using words such as ‘crew’ and ‘awesome’ or even tapping into relatable subjects like ‘saving for some new Doc Martens’. These platforms help young people understand finance and investments by providing a space to share ideas with like-minded individuals.
Web 3.0 economy
As consumers navigate the challenging economic climate, many look for ways to create extra income. Following on from a generation of Etsy makers, Depop traders and gig economy travellers, the next wave of side hustles will be focused on cryptocurrencies, NFT and virtual metaverse goods.
Twig is a circular economy platform that helps online traders navigate the web 3.0 green payments infrastructure, as an alternative model to selling on places like eBay and Amazon.
TulipShare is an activist investment platform which allows customers to invest in a way that aligns with ethical values, and creates a platform to leverage a large number of small shareholders, providing a cohesive voice to the businesses they fund.
Zelf is the bank of the Metaverse, which creates a marketplace for digital goods and provides a service of instant money with no apps or banks – the card is provided in 30 seconds from a messenger app which is the main hub for all interactions and transactions within the business.
Web3 is going to create space for Gen Z to find new revenue streams in an impending time of need.
Putting consumers needs first
Challenger brands in finance first untethered themselves from physical banking locations. Now we are seeing them shift from app spaces and taking over messaging apps and retail payment pages.
Whether providers will shift from screens altogether and manifest in voice assistants or metaverse spaces, the channel is less important than the consumer need they are meeting.
It is essential financial providers put consumers first, by:
- Understanding their lifestyle needs
- Communicating in relatable terms
- Solving financial problems at the point of purchase
- Minimising the cost by working with product and service providers
While the younger generation does not control the majority of wealth in the country today, they are actively pioneering the newest approaches in the financial landscape and will define how our future tools and services develop. Financial providers need to keep up to remain relevant – this goes well beyond singular trends or gimmicks – to provide a more intimate, flexible and relatable experience for customers of any age.