Research & Insight

Understanding Generation Alpha: motivations and priorities

31 August 2023 6 min read
Written by

Ruth Gosling

Understanding Generation Alpha: motivations and priorities

Although many brands are embracing Gen Z, their younger siblings, Gen Alpha, are less talked about. While this audience is still young, they shouldn’t be ignored, as there’s evidence of ‘upageing’ (growing up faster and at a younger age), and that they have spending power and influence beyond their years.

This article provides an overview of this important generation, including who they are, what makes them different from previous generations, and how brands should adapt to meet their needs.

Who are they?
The term Generation Alpha was created by Australian research firm McCrindle in a 2008 report and refers to those born from 2010 onwards (the year of the original iPad and Instagram) – the last of whom will be born in 2024. They’re the younger siblings of Gen Z and the children of Millennials. 

While Generation Z before them grew up with technology, Generation Alpha doesn’t remember a time before advance technologies and AI, including smart speakers, smart watches and on-demand streaming services.

They’re sometimes referred to as ‘Generation C’ due to the impact of the Covid pandemic on their formative years, or ‘Generation Glass / Screenagers’ due to the use of screens from a very young age to calm, entertain and educate them.

What makes them different?
McCrindle’s 2020 report into Generation Alpha provides some insight into how they differ from previous generations and those to come. What sets Alpha apart is their use of technology, different learning and work styles, and engagement with marketing influencers.

It goes without saying that such a large group of individuals will have a wide range of needs, attitudes and behaviours, and should not be seen as a homogenous group. And as such a young cohort, more time, and further data, is needed to fully understand them.

Based on a review of insight, we’ve identified seven emerging themes associated with Generation Alpha.

Ahead of their time:
Generation Alpha are growing up fast. Not only in terms of physical maturity, but their use of advance technologies, social media and spending power are all ahead of previous generations. While Facebook, TikTok and Instagram have a minimum age limit of 13 for account holders, almost half (46%) of Generation Alpha have an active social media account.

Research from GWI shows that they have an increasing influence over their parents’ purchases of toys and food, and increased access to spending money – with kids aged 8 to 11 in the UK now receiving an average of £19.33 a month in pocket money. This increase in financial freedom is supported by the rise of apps such as GoHenry, which aim to promote financial independence by giving kids greater control over finances.

Socially aware:
Like Gen Z before them, Gen Alpha have strong awareness and engagement with social issues, including race, gender diversity, sustainability and climate. From our work with this generation, we’ve observed not only a deep concern about these issues, but a responsibility to act.

Research from GWI shows that top concerns among this generation include equality, helping people, and protection from bullying.

A study by Wunderman Thompson found that, like Gen Z before them, Alphas want to make a difference in the world, with 59% saying they’d like to save lives somehow, and 51% wanting to use technology to make a difference. This desire to make a change influences their spending habits – two-thirds (66%) say they want to buy from brands that have a positive impact on the world.

Brands will need to show that they’re truly ethical, putting morals above profit, to engage with this generation, who are weary of greenwashing.
Shaped by COVID:
While the full implications of the global pandemic on this generation are yet to be understood, both positive and negative impacts have been observed. On the negative side, increased screen time and isolation has been linked to shorter attention spans, social anxiety and mental health issues. However, it has also been argued that this generation will be more resilient and independent because of living through Covid.

Either way, it will have a profound effect on how they view the world and their expectations for the future – for example, from observing their parents working from home, this generation will be highly focused on flexible working practices and wellbeing at work.

Shifting educational and work styles:
Generation Alpha will have a greater level of former education than any generation that has come before. Their learning style will be less structured and more hands-on. Despite this increased level of educational attainment, research among parents suggests a life skills deficit among this generation, with lower proficiency in practical skills, assessing risks, and setting and achieving goals.

This generation is likely to have greater job mobility and multiple careers, including entirely new industries. 

A strong sense of (digital) community:
This generation is the most digitally confident, having been raised on screens, with Covid further contributing to their use of digital technologies for education, entertainment and socialisation. They’re increasingly using devices without parental supervision – with 53% now using a mobile phone without parental monitoring, and 36% having unsupervised access to games consoles.  

A sense of community is important to them, with a quarter (26%) saying that social media helps them to feel closer to their friends. Increased use of community platforms such as Discord and Reddit gives creates opportunities for Gen Alpha to connect with those with similar interests to them.

The growth of gaming platforms such as Roblox also appeals to Generation Alpha’s sense of community, giving them the opportunity to actively co-create, rather than passively consume content. 

However, this strong level of digital engagement doesn’t appear to be replacing face-to-face interaction. Recent GWI research found that a greater proportion of 8-to-11-year-olds see their friends in person rather than talk to them online, and that post-Covid, they are increasingly meeting up to play games with friends.

Wunderman Thompson found that children would prefer to split their time equally between the indoors and outdoors (47%).

Concerned about data-sharing:
As the first generation to be born into a world where data sharing is a common occurrence, Generation Alpha have grown up with an understanding and awareness of the risks associated with this. They’re likely to want greater control over their personal data, and to take steps to protect their privacy. Many already have a ‘public’ social media profile, alongside a ‘private’ one, only shared with close friends. 

The importance of influencers:
Generation Alpha has a wider pool of potential influencers than ever before, with friends and family being complemented by social media platforms, programmatic advertising and on-demand TV. While friends continue to have the greatest influence over purchase decisions (28%), this is closely followed by influencers / bloggers on social media (25%). And over half (55%) of kids want to buy something if their favourite YouTube or Instagram star is wearing or using it.

Many influencers are not much older than Gen Alpha themselves. Popular ‘kidfluencers’ include Ryan Kaji, a YouTuber with over 34 million subscribers to his toy review channel Ryan’s World, and Nastya, with over 106 million subscribers, whose videos of songs and roleplay have been dubbed into multiple languages.
What does this mean for my brand?

Getting things right with Generation Alpha can have huge benefits for brands. Firstly, this is a huge global market – the largest generation so far, predicted to reach two billion individuals by 2025.
Secondly, their spending power will continue to grow, so appealing to them at a young age will reap benefits in the years to come.
Our top tips to increase engagement with Generation Alpha are:
Talk about, and more importantly act upon, the issues that they care about: this savvy generation won’t be fooled by greenwashing or empty words. Brands must truly demonstrate that they care and are willing to act. An example of this is Mattel, which has increased its range of sustainable toys from four in 2020 to 33 in 2023. This includes the new ‘Barbie Loves the Ocean’ collection, three dolls made from recycled ocean-bound plastic. The company has committed to making its entire product line from 100% recycled, recyclable or bio-based materials by the end of the decade.

Create engaging, interactive experiences: remember that this is a two-way relationship, and Generation Alpha are keen to interact with brands rather than passively consume content. Roblox’s partnership with Ralph Lauren is an innovative approach to this, offering digital clothing to purchase within a winter alpine village experience. 

Develop an influencer strategy: think about the right influencers to connect with your audience, and which channels are likely to resonate best.

Focus on delivering a seamless, quick, purchase experience: this generation has high expectations, having grown up with advanced technologies, and with Amazon as the gold standard of customer service.

Embrace digital content: traditional media is likely to be less effective with this generation. Instead, brands should focus on short, engaging video content, given their strong use of digital channels and their short attention spans. For example, Lego, undoubtedly one of the most successful brands among this age group, has a strong presence on Instagram and YouTube, as well as creating its own platform, Lego Life. Aimed at 5-to-9-year-olds, this platform enables them to play games, watch videos for inspiration, and share their Lego creations. The popular Brickit app takes this a step further, using machine learning to instantly scan piles of bricks and gives you ideas of what to build with them. This appeals to the desire for instant, interactive, problem-solving expected from this audience.

Want to learn more?
If you want to understand in more detail on how your brand or business can appeal to this generation, we’d love to talk to you.

Our insight team has a wealth of experience in undertaking research into the attitudes, needs and experiences of children and young people. As a Market Research Society Company Partner, we follow a strict code of conduct and ensure that research solutions are designed with the needs of the audience in mind.
Our team is expert at creating brands, websites, experiences and campaigns that resonate with a range of target audiences, including Generation Alpha.

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