“Monetary gain is not the only means to measure the success of a business,” analyst Nicola Cooper said during a discussion at Source Africa*. Instead, businesses should use the three Ps as a measurement: people, planet and, last among your priorities, profit.

More than a third (36%) of South African Millennials feel that the purpose of a business is to improve the society, and 69% feel that a business’ success should be measured based on its customer retention and satisfaction, and not just its financial performance.

“Consumers care about people and the planet, and you should therefore too.” Care about human value systems and consider what steps your company can take to humanise your products. These days people will buy a product if it aligns with their beliefs, how they live, what’s important to them, etc. It’s important that your customers trust you and your product. You therefore need to engage with them and tell them about what makes you trustworthy: do you source ethically?; how are your products made (and by whom)?; etc.

A lot goes into forecasting future trends, and analysts have to monitor what is going on in Society, Technology, the Environment, Economy and Political landscapes (STEEP), Cooper adds. You need to keep an eye on the broader picture, and not only on what you see within your own industry. By keeping up to date with STEEP, you will also get an idea of how your customers might feel and what might be important to them.

“Consumers want to hear stories from the brands they love. They want to know where that dress comes from, for example” says Christiaan Gunther, a digital media, marketing and eCommerce consultant. “Companies need to realise what about them is worth hearing, and how they can tell consumers about it. Be authentic!”

It’s important to approach consumers right, Cooper warns. Don’t be an arrogant brand and assume people know about you. Approach your target market as if you were an emerging brand and explain what you are and what you stand for.

Companies also need to acknowledge that you can’t just box the youth into preconceived ideas. You can either acknowledge who they want to be and that they are busy creating themselves a new ID free from race and Apartheid, which is part of so many of the older generations, and cater to them … or you can try and force them to like your company without taking them into account, but they will rebel and reject you.

Understand the “youth”

Everyone is so focused on Millennials (born between early 80s and late 90s), that they might be overlooking the younger Gen Z market. Don’t think of these people as your future customers; they should be your current focus, says Cooper.

Millennials have a DIY ethos and if they don’t have something they’ll make it. They create their own looks, mesh together cultures, mix brands, etc.

They saw global tragedies and experienced the impact and after effects, for example 9/11 and the recession, which hit by the time they would have entered the workforce. This generation grew up in an age where technology and the internet was still developing into what we have now – it had dial up where we now have ADSL and fibre. It also didn’t grow up with a smartphone or tablet in the hand – the first iPhone was only launched in 2007, for example.

Gen Z, on the other hand, grew up with this technology already established. They are called 5 screen kids (because they are constantly connected through devices) and have a “seven second attention span, so keep your messages short,” she advises. They are digital natives and connected from an early age. With instant access to information, they are very smart and can absorb information quick.

Because of this access, they are also exposed to a lot: they have grown up knowing about problems such as the bad economy, are aware of unemployment problems, know about global threats such as terrorism, etc.

But they are optimistic about the future. Gen Z see themselves as activists; people who can change their own world. They are forcing change to create the change they want to see in the world. They are carving out their own future and their own space, and this one has nothing to do with race. It is to do with having their own voice. They don’t want to sit with others and “share the same table – they want to have their own,” explains Cooper.

They are go-getters, entrepreneurial thinkers, and they expect more from companies than previous generations. You need to earn their loyalty.