Solve this riddle: I am always connected — but avoid social situations. I demonstrate a firm attention to detail — but have the attention span of a goldfish. I freely give out personal information — but demand it be protected. I distrust corporations — but communicate to them as if they were family.
Who am I?
If you guessed a Millennial, you’re on the right track. But these characteristics are more appropriately attributed to members of Generation Z — the first generation of digital natives, born beginning in the mid-90s through the 2000s, set to bloom into the consumer market. And, given that they are to make up a whopping 40 per cent of all consumers by 2020,  with $44B in buying power, this is one group your organization needs to prepare for — especially when it comes to data protection.
How does Generation Z share digital information?
As digital natives, Gen Z’s do not know life without being connected to the digital world. And, since most of their life is already online, some even making their first digital selfie appearance via an uploaded ultrasound from the womb, they are much more comfortable with having even their most intimate details available at the click of a mouse. They are ‘always on,’ with some members of Generation Z checking their social media a hundred times a day or more, and this is reflected in how they share digital information.
According to Echoworx data, the level of comfort which Generation Z share personal information online is at-par with or even exceeding those same metrics for Millennials. For example, 56 per cent of Generation Z are not opposed to publishing their credit score on social media. This same metric is considerably lower for Millennials, with 44 per cent being comfortable, and continues to decline through older generations.
Are Generation Z gullible? Or just faster?
The average attention span of a member of Generation Z is 8 seconds, according to data from the Digital Marketing Institute. And, as digital natives, they crave instant gratification for the price of personal data — without much consideration for long-term consequences or questioning what their details are being used for. But, on account of their low attention spans, Gen Z’s are experts at filtering and retaining information presented to them.
So, are they gullible? No. But this doesn’t necessarily mean they are responsible. And their lightning quick digital speed can lead to sloppy practices when it comes to protecting their data. For example, according to Echoworx data, nearly half of Gen Z’s change their digital passwords regularly. Compare this same figure to Millennials, where nearly three quarters of them regularly update their online login credentials.
Are Generation Z reckless with their personal digital data?
In order to understand the point of view of a Gen Z, you need to look at things from their perspective. For example, would you trust your parents with your SIN? Would you ask your sister for advice on the best way to peel an apple? If you answered yes, simply substitute your family member with an online influencer or one of your favourite brands. If you are always on, you live online.
And you trust people you care about to point you in the right direction. This is why Gen Z’s are so comfortable providing details for or taking advice from brands or influencers.
When you look at it from this perspective, readily divulging personal information online is not as crazy as it sounds to older generations.
And older generations are not perfect either. According to a recent Gallup Poll, nearly a quarter of Americans were victims of cybercrime in 2018. This is despite the claim of 71 per cent of poll respondents who worry about cyber crime and the two thirds of Americans, according to data from the American Bankers Association (ABA), who are taking measures to protect sensitive data.
Digital trust is a fragile game to play
Unlike its offline equivalents, digital trust carries its own hubris of sorts in that if it is easy to get, it’s even easier to lose and nearly impossible to get back. In fact, according to Echoworx data, over three quarters of Generation Z consider leaving brands after a data breach. So how do you play the game?
According to Deloitte, consumer expectations online are at an all-time high and your customers demand control over their personal data. And a full 69 per cent of customers do not believe organizations are doing everything they can to protect their data. But, according to data from the ABA, nearly half of Americans continue to trust traditional industries, like banks and healthcare.
While some might view this newfound fascination with personal data collection to be detrimental to conducting business — your organization should view it as a competitive differentiator. If your brand goes all-out in a quest to protect customer data, employing best proactive practices, such as a personalized and cusotmer focused encryption experience for sensitive documents in transit, your customers will take notice.
By Nicholas Sawarna, Sr. Content Marketing Specialist, Echoworx