We live in a time where there are four generations at play:

Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964)
Generation X (born 1964 to 1981)
Millennials (born 1981 to 2001)
Generation Z (born 2001 to 2020)

…all with very different expectations of technology and retail.

Late Millennials and Generation Z are generations who do not remember a time before the internet. They have grown up always connected, everything is on-demand, 24/7.

Traditional nine to five working hours will not compute. The ability to choose their own working hours at times of the day that work for them will become more apparent, supported by a company emphasis on productivity. The comments made by Mark Goldspink at the Retail Bulletin Omnichannel Summit last week regarding decision fatigue are perhaps an indication for this direction.

With the rise in AI, demand for humans to be active when our consumers are active will become less necessary. AI will answer frequently asked questions, serve up advice and support resources across a variety of mediums. It will also filter, optimise and redirect customers to their desired resolution whether this is a product or a human advisor.

AI is not the dawn of the end of the world, it isn’t Skynet and Terminator. AI will assist us to deal with repetitive enquiries, data mining, testing and capturing those leads and opportunities that would otherwise be missed.

This will free up time and open up job opportunities for us to provide a better quality of service. Immersive experiences bringing tech into the theatre of sales and retail, continuing to push boundaries.

Traditional management structures will need to be overhauled. Hierarchical and command and control models will become old hat and replaced with structures that favour leadership, change management and fluid communication.

Although I write this in future tense, it is already happening. For example, gamers are now businessmen. Creating games, selling customisations and modifications for in-game/in-app purchases. They choose the times they work, engage with their customers online through video and playing the games. They live and work doing something they love and what their customer base demands.

Generation Z will have access to learn code and write software as readily as the pre-Millennials had access to paint, music, Technic Lego and ball games.

Generation X saw the birth of computers but the practicalities and the realities of doing that for a job were not widely obvious. Computers were something for scientists and I hesitate to say ‘Geeks’. Then design came along and the Apple Mac. Onwards with media, video, games and as the day-to-day life possibilities unveiled themselves, propelled by the birth of the internet and online retail, we now live in a technological age accelerating faster than we can comprehend or attempt to predict any further than 12 months.

In 20 years time we will look back at how businesses used to be run and laugh – seeing it as we now see the tech in the 1960s. With our mesh of incompatible systems working in parallel, multiple data silos, marketing departments unable to analyse and respond to the data efficiently and departments out of sync with each other’s strategies. We will even laugh at the broad and glaring inconsistencies of our omnichannel retail approach.

We are frantic in retail to understand, adapt and change. On the whole it is fair to say we are doing a great job. But this hard work now will simply become the default base platform for the professionals in the Generation Z to step onto and take forward.

It is our responsibility now to work through these challenges and develop technology to be streamlined and able to grow out rather than up, according to Simon Evans, chief technology officer at Amido. It needs to be easily scalable, everything should be compatible and capable of efficiently processing the massive amounts of data we receive into conclusions we can respond to, while always ensuring a paramount importance to privacy and security.

This is what they expect… Yesterday!

Should we be planning to restructure our businesses to accommodate Generation Z?
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