Generation Z (born after 1994) is the first generation with no concept of life without a mobile device at their disposal. They have never known a world without the Internet. They are mobile centric and can be characterized by four traits:
- Fluent in five screens, with an emotional attachment to one
- Don’t need legacy tech
- Are great at filtering data
- The best generation at multitasking so far
They are also extremely social – digitally, that is. In fact, 22 percent of their social network is comprised of people they’ll never meet face-to-face. This is an amazing statistic when you think about it, and it only reinforces how interwoven mobile devices are in the lives of this digital-savvy generation.
On-demand is in their DNA
The mobile acuity of incoming students has led to another characteristic: They’re accustomed to summoning the world with just a tap or a swipe using services like Uber, Grubhub, Airbnb, et al. Everything is delivered right to their door via the phone in their hand.
Smart home, smart campus
Today, one in five U.S. adults has access to a smart speaker, and 74 percent of consumers have used voice search in the past month. Every day, more and more homes become “smart homes” where lights, locks, thermostats, garage doors, etc. are controlled by phone or voice. In fact, kids as young as 1 year old understand voice commands, and news stories are popping up everywhere about children saying “Alexa” as their first word. Given their lifelong exposure to mobile technology and familiarity with virtual assistants and app-controlled smart homes, students naturally expect the same level of technology campus-wide when they arrive at college.
Finally, students are accustomed to – and expect – a frictionless experience. Think about transportation, parking, dining, and shopping. It’s now possible to quickly and easily manage every step of their experience — search, select, check out, and pay — on a single device. As these students arrive on your campus, be prepared to address their desire for the frictionless experiences they’re used to.
Schools must have a mobile-first mentality
Now, all of this doesn’t mean you need to go out and change all of these systems tomorrow, but having a plan is a must. The technology is here, and the students who love it are looking for campuses that offer it. Which begs the question: What happens when the students who grew up in these homes hit your campus? Will they struggle? Will they stay? Or will they come at all?
Students are consumers, and when it comes to accessing and paying for goods and services on campus they want it anytime, anywhere, any channel. Our work continues to evolve and we’re focused on integrating these always-on, always available, frictionless experiences. As for me, that knock at the door is dinner. “Hey Alexa – submit this blog post and set the table.”
Director, Product Strategy
Ryan Audus is the Director, Product Strategy for TouchNet. In his role, Ryan is responsible for product strategy, pricing, research, and technology requirements prioritization. Ryan began his career with TouchNet in 2001 as the first Product Manager for the TouchNet Bill+Payment Suite. Since then, Ryan has worn several hats within the TouchNet organization, including Manager of Product Management and Security and Compliance Administrator. Prior to TouchNet, Ryan worked for SportVision as a multimedia producer. Ryan also led Product Management for PopStar Networks, a digital signage solution provider. Ryan is a graduate of the University of Kansas, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in education.