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Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center

Move over millennials

New and improved technology continues to influence people’s lives in how quickly they find and share information and is not showing signs of slowing down. It is imperative companies consider future customers.

By Andrea Graves

For more than a decade, one of the most important demographics marketers have been talking about is the importance of Millennials, the group after Generation X and Y and before Generation Z. This population represents those who are typically born in the early 1980s through the mid-1990s or early 2000s, although there are no precise dates for when the generation begins and ends. At the present time, Millennials have surpassed the Baby Boomer Generation as the largest living population in the U.S. and have become a segment that cannot be ignored.

It is necessary for companies that produce and sell food products to research the priorities and buying behaviors of this highly populated generation to help ensure sales and longevity of their brand and products. How are food processors changing the way they do business for the next generations?

New and improved technology continues to influence people’s lives in how quickly they find and share information and is not showing signs of slowing down. It is imperative companies consider future customers. This includes the population following the Millennials. This population is becoming known as the Alpha Generation or those born after 2010 to 2025, which is estimated to be a total generation population of about 2 billion.

Interestingly, this generation starts the same year the iPad was introduced and Instagram was launched. Alphas will grow up in a world accustomed to smartphones and touchscreens, and will not know what it is like to use a physical keyboard. They can post and search for anything at any time and do it quicker than any generation before them, even at an early age. Social research experts and best-selling authors, such as Mark McCrindle and Dan Schawbel, have predicted Alphas will be the most technology dependent group and the most globally wealthy generation ever.

Following are some characteristics of the Alpha Generation.

Shortened attention spans. One thing marketers should think about is the shrinking attention spans of Alphas. The 1-3 minute videos often used in social media today will need to be only 8 seconds before gaining an Alpha’s attention. Advertisers will need to be more creative to meet this short time span to persuade an Alpha consumer to buy their products.

Building Relationships. Since Alphas will be exposed to technology their entire lives, it is predicted they will be more educated and more dependent on technology than any other previous generation. This could cause the Alpha Generation to have more of a challenge relating to people in person and forming relationships. In the past, successful brands spend a tremendous amount of time building good relationships to show their brand has value, resulting in repeat business and loyal customers. If the business maintains a strong relationship with a customer, the customer will in turn reach out to their network and promote the brand. This is not something money can buy; relationships are the key.

Mobile Purchasing. Generation Z, or what will ideally be many of the parents of Alphas, is showing the strongest tendency to spending most of their disposable income online. According to Cooper Smith of Business Insider Intelligence online magazine, a 2013 study found males to spend an average of 9 percent of their total income by purchasing products online. In that same study, 40 percent of men age 18-34 expressed they would like to ideally shop and spend all their income online compared to women with only 33 percent. The results show companies should continue to have a strong online presence to get an Alpha’s dollar.

There is no doubt food processors will need to change the way they do business in the future to survive. Being aware and keeping an open mind are the first steps in planning for the years to come.