Just as marketers have begun to get a handle on communicating with Gen Z, the next cohort has already arrived to take their place. Born between 2010 and 2025, this means the oldest among them has only just started middle school. However, the characteristics, trends and lifelong habits that will come to define Gen Alpha have already started to form. With nearly three million members being born each week across the globe, it’s past time to meet Generation Alpha.
What’s in a Name?
The term “Gen Alpha” was coined in a 2008 survey from social researcher Mark McCrindle. If the nomenclature sticks, we can expect Generation Beta in 2025, followed by Generation Gamma and Delta. Some of the other monikers that have been suggested over the years include terms referring to the groups interconnectivity, such as the “Onliners,” “Generation Surf,” and “the Technos” or future-focused terms, like “Regeneration and “Generation Hope.”
Overall McCrindle describes his chosen name as the “start of something new.” He rejected the label “Generation A,” as too simplistic by just going “back to the beginning.” Instead, the move from the Greek to the Latin Alphabet is forward-thinking for the first generation to be wholly born into the 21st century, and the one that will ultimately shape the future.
Gen Alpha are the children of millennials and the younger siblings to Gen Z and thus, have taken on some of the traits of both, while simultaneously carving their own paths. Following global trends,, they are expected to grow up as the wealthiest, best-educated and most technologically immersed generation of any in history. Staying in school longer with a higher proportion earning master’s degrees or higher will increase overall wealth but hamper their initial earning years.
On the family side, the newest generation is increasingly moving past the traditional nuclear family. Single-child households are more popular than ever and Gen Alpha kids are more likely to spend some or all of their childhood in living arrangements without both of their biological parents. The U.S. specifically has seen a higher share of foreign-born children and/or parents, reflecting an overall increase in racial and ethnic diversity.
Another inescapable characteristic of Generation Alpha is the relationship to technology. The group has also been referred to as “Generation Glass,” a nod to devices like the iPad, which was released the same year as their start date, 2010. The omnipresence of tech in their younger years will likely shape this group in good ways and bad. On one digital and virtual experiences have the power to transform daily life for the better and lessen inequalities in healthcare, education, transportation and more. Natalie Franke, the head of community at the business management platform HoneyBook, told Huffpost she predicts an “unprecedented rise in creativity, education and self-care with Gen Alpha spending more time exploring their passion, prioritizing mental wellness and seeking education for the simple joy of learning,” due to tech freeing up more time from menial tasks than ever before. On the other hand, we’ve already seen technological innovations lead to unintended side effects, like shorter attention spans and impaired social formation. The greater integration of VR/AR tech into Gen Alpha’s daily lives will be matched by increased concerns over privacy and negative behavioral outcomes.
While the twelve and under set typically doesn’t have a lot of their own money to spend just yet, don’t count them completely out, as marketers have already begun to craft messages tuned to Generation Alpha. According to an “Understanding Generation Alpha” report from research firm Hotwire, children have become powerful decision makers, especially when it comes to technology purchases. In the U.S., 81 percent of parents reported their kids’ desire played a role in these types of decisions. For marketers, this makes Gen Alphas critical gateways to getting their message heard. In general, Gen Alpha has moved away from TV and towards short-form content and new tech offerings. For this reason, advertisers are increasingly looking to reach them via voice-activated assistants (Alexa, Google Home), apps like TikTok and even VR platforms.
Another trend is brands harnessing Gen Alpha’s purchasing power to build lifelong loyalty via child-centric offerings. One example is Fitbits’s Fitbit Ace activity-monitoring device for kids, which is relatively cheaper and easy to upgrade to the Adult version a few years down the line. This trend goes hand-in-hand with increased activity in the subscription and direct-to-consumer space. The idea of Generation Alpha growing up used to and comfortable with the idea of paying a monthly fee or ordering products right to their door because their parents do is referred to as the “trickle-down effect.” Vox even points out that toddler and baby-focused brands have shifted from a brash and bright child-friendly color scheme to more minimalistic aesthetics to appeal to the Instagram mom and dad crowd.
Finally, if you’re at all concerned about the future of influencers, don’t be, as Generation Alpha has more than started to make its mark. The popularity of child influencers and entertainers on Youtube and other platforms has proven that these individuals will still have a powerful role to play in marketing to the next generation. One example is Ryan’s World, a Youtube channel featuring 10 year-old Ryan Kaji that has amassed more than 45 billion views. While it started as a home for toy review and “unboxing” videos, Ryan’s empire now extends to include multiple physical product lines, mobile apps and games and a television series on Nick Jr. Look out for continued integration between sponsored and organic content, and any regulatory responses it may spur.
Looking to the Future
Researchers and marketers are continuing to keep a close eye out to see how these social and purchasing trends might evolve in the future. Many members of Generation Alpha might not remember a time before the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, with some anticipating this becoming the generation’s defining event, although it’s still too early to say for sure.
To provide some context and a look into the future, Gen Alpha is expected to make up 11 percent of the workforce by 2030. They’ll excel in careers like AI Specialist, Virtual Reality Engineer, Blockchain Developer or maybe Space Tourism Agent. Their globally connected world will be powered by technology like 5G, biometrics, autonomous vehicles, quantum computing and aerial ridesharing. While these innovations and Generation Alpha as a whole might not have crossed your mind yet, it’s never too early to start thinking about how your brand can best resonate with its future customers!