It’s Generation D retailers need to focus on next, according to a report from The Future Laboratory.
Generation D consists of the current group of adolescents aged 12 to 19, a subset within Generation Z, said Tom Savigar, senior partner at The Future Laboratory, speaking Wednesday morning at the company’s New York Futures Forum. Consider everything known about Generation Z — disinterest in gender identification, a demand for authenticity and a penchant for activism — and imagine these qualities in a more actualized form. That’s Generation D.
“At the heart of the dislocated world is a digitally native, visual-first self-driven generation,” said Savigar. “Teenagers are no longer sad souls struggling with puberty, interested in drinking and drugs. They are activists and the ultimate early adopters, a generation that will drive change and create a new consumer dynamic.”
According to Savigar, the youngsters of Generation D are driven by the unstable political and cultural climate they’ve grown up in — an environment the Future Laboratory refers to as the “dislocated world.”
“We’re in this Arab Spring moment,” said Jason Tanz, editor at large of Wired. “A lot of fear and anxiety comes from crisis of meaning — this is what allows warlords or someone like Donald Trump to rise.”
As a result of the chaos, Generation D is driven by activist tendencies to spark change. Much of that will start with sustainability efforts that are already manifesting, according to Future Laboratory.
“Ninety-five percent of American 12- to 19-year-olds said they would prefer to buy brands that are sustainable,” said Savigar. He noted that the concept of sustainability should not stop at the packaging of a product — Gen D values science and technology that mitigate the effects of environmental damage, and damage to people as well. “It’s ‘save the human,’ not ‘save the planet,’” said Savigar on Generation D’s wider sustainability philosophy. He listed Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop beauty product line as an example of a brand following this way of thinking now. Paltrow claims to use food-grade ingredients that are so safe to eat, a human could ingest them if desired.
Generation D looks for deeper meaning from what they’re buying. They’re over having material “stuff,” and instead prefer experiences that “charm and delight.” Savigar noted the Google Small World Pop-Up Restaurant, opened in New York this spring, was an early example. The interactive experience was free, but the catch was that diners could only order food via a language found on Google Translate — and it had to be in one other than their native tongue. The pop-up was designed to “celebrate the universal language of food.” For Generation D, celebrating diversity in cute and quirky ways will be just as important as the subject matter itself.
Generation D’s strong sense of inclusiveness can be played to in physical retail. Savigar pointed to a Starbucks location in Queens that opened this year to support the company’s social initiatives. The store is host to many events that serve young locals in the community, offering job training and skill-building programs. Savigar noted there is a huge opportunity for retailers with physical spaces to use them to drive social change within communities.