Gen Z in the UAE Future forward
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DUBAI: Marketers depend on them, advertisers play to their needs and demands and most social analysts believe this is the generation that will influence the future of the digital economy.

We are talking of Gen Z, those who were born after the Millennials and are now enjoying the most favoured status.

In China, which has the world’s largest Gen Z population (with India waiting to overtake it), Generation Z is living it up — compared to their cautious, conservative peers in the West, according to a new survey.

They are pumped up about the future and not worried about their career prospects or international politics.


Population of Gen Z in UAE, according to estimates by BPG Max

According to an annual survey of young people by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, “Gen Z respondents anticipate being slightly happier than their millennial counterparts,” with those in emerging markets in both groups more optimistic about economic prospects and social progress than counterparts in developed nations.

Satish Mayya, chief executive officer of BPG Max, Dubai, says: “Of course Gen Z (also known as the iGeneration) is as important a target audience as any other generation. Having said that, it would be a big risk for any marketer to generalise this generation since they extend from being a 10-year-old to a 21-year-old.”

Often, we see far greater similarities across nationalities, rather than differences. For instance, [in] categories like electronics and gadgets, fashion (with some tweaks at times), international music, etc,” However, there may be exceptions, and it may vary a bit when it comes to categories like F&B, largely due to cultural nuances.

- Satish Mayya | Chief Executive Officer, BPG Max, Dubai, on marketing to Gen Z in UAE

According to estimates by his firm, Gen Z might have a population of around 1.4 million in the UAE.

“However, we need to be careful here to not overestimate this statistic as a large number could still be under-teens where they are still not earning, but could be big influencers for specific categories.”

On the differences between millennials and Gen Z and the strategies to market to them, Mayya says: “The Millennials were largely a product of a comfortable and relatively stable world. They grew up during an economic boom, and thus turned out to be more idealistic. Whereas Gen Z grew up [post boom] ... and thus a large part of them might turn out to be more pragmatic, focused on savings rather than mere experiences.”

Image Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

And is there a composite nature to Gen Z, especially in the UAE with its multiculturalism? “Often, we see far greater similarities across nationalities, rather than differences. For instance, [in] categories like electronics and gadgets, fashion (with some tweaks at times), international music, etc,” says Mayya. “However, there may be exceptions when it comes to categories like F&B, largely due to cultural nuances.”


In broad brush strokes, here are the defining characteristics of Gen Z:

Mega influencers

70 per cent of Gen Zers influence their family’s spending and have businesses scrambling to understand their desires.

(2017 report from International Business Machines Corp. and the US National Retail Federation).

Gen Z is risk averse

Gen Z likes to play it safe: “They are more risk-averse than previous generations in terms of both attitudes and behaviour, according to Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University who has studied the generation. “In psychological terms, it’s a shift toward extrinsic values-money, fame and riches-rather than toward intrinsic values, like relationships and community feeling.”

At the forefront of digital economy

Gen Z are four times less likely to use cash than the general public, according to data from US teen debit-card company Current.

“This generation has grown up with a mobile device that is also a payment device,” said Stuart Sopp, chief executive officer of Current. “They are going to accelerate the adoption of the digital economy because digital payment is native to them.”

Target audience

Gen Z is good news for delivery services, gadget makers and the so-called gig economy. It presents new challenges to educators, event planners, luxury brands.

“Gen Z are bombarded with messages and are a generation that can quickly detect whether or not something is relevant to them,” according to research firm Nielsen Holdings Plc.

The world around them

Gen Zers have never known a non-digital world and have grown up amid events such as the “war on terror” and Global Recession.

Who are Gen Z?

There is no precise date for when Generation Z begins as different entities benchmark it differently but demographers and researchers typically use the mid-1990s to mid-2000s as starting birth years.


Millennials versus Gen Z
■ Globally, Gen Z is set to outnumber millennials this year.
■ 32% of global population of 7.7 billion in 2019 will be Gen Z, nudging ahead of millennials (31.5%).
■ (Bloomberg analysis of UN data using 2000/2001 as the generational split)

INDIA (1.3 billion)
■ Gen Z population will rise to 472 million in 2019
■ 51 per cent more than China’s projected 312 million.

■ In China and India, 70 per cent of the younger group expects to be happier than their parents.”
■ Australia, United Kingdom, Canada and United States (39%), the outlook is much less optimistic.