Bongani Chinkanda, CEO of HDI Youth Consultancy. Picture: SUPPLIED
Bongani Chinkanda, CEO of HDI Youth Consultancy. Picture: SUPPLIED

This year’s Gen Next study, conducted by HDI Youth Consultancy, identified a number of trends in the youth market space that marketers need to be aware of or risk being disrupted. The trends include the rise of voice technology-enabled devices such as phones, smart speakers, cars and even microwaves and toilets, primarily powered by voice assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri.

At the Sunday Times Gen Next conference held in Sandton last week, HDI CEO Bongani Chinkanda said the explosion of voice-enabled devices – and the growing comfort of consumers to talk to digital devices – will result in a paradigm shift from a mobile-first mind-set to a voice-first mind-set, requiring marketers to re-think how they build brand experiences with voice as a primary touchpoint.

The rise of influencer marketing was another trend revealed by the study. Chinkanda said 63% of marketers are expected to increase their influencer budget in 2019. “Using influencers has momentum in terms of budget spend, increased engagement and direct driving of sales,” he said. SA influencers, he adds, earn up to four times more than their international counterparts.

Gen Z – the generation of teenagers and young people up to the age of 21 – is growing up in what can only be described as a divisive and conflicted period, which has shaped their views and mind-sets. Gen Z has distinctly different values, media behaviours and expectations of brands than previous generations, said Chinkanda.

In SA, 56% of Gen Z trusts the brands they interact with. A significant 70% feel they should share feedback with brands after a good or bad experience, 76% believe brands should take a stand on social causes, 61% consider buying from brands that make an effort to improve society and humanity, 73% say brands help them express their identity, and 69% want brands to provide them with experiences.

The big take-out

As the biggest influencers of household spend, marketers need to take note of youth consumer trends.

In terms of artificial intelligence (AI), Chinkanda said that without a deliberate strategy regarding how AI applies to the marketing industry, marketers run the risk of misusing it, falling behind competitors or being disrupted by a newcomer. Referring to the fact that there is still significant fear and a lack of understanding of AI, he said marketers need to become more knowledgeable about AI and consider how it applies to their business in a meaningful way.

SA youth of today are more digitally enabled than previous young people and welcome the internet in their lives, even when it is expensive, unreliable or they can get accessed to it only through shared devices or community provision. “The youth spends a lot of time consuming content online, with 30% of them streaming platforms,” said Chinkanda, adding that the way South Africans consume media is evolving at a rapid pace, which poses serious competition to platforms like DStv.