Among marketing researchers and behaviourists, the work of Deborah Roedder provides a strategic foundation for understanding Gen Alpha’s formative and cognitive development stages vis-à-vis consumption decisions and behaviours.
The work explicitly reveals how the generation learns, understands and exhibits consumption tendencies, and buying behaviours at certain stages of life. In fact, Roedder’s Consumer Socialisation Theory (CST) enunciates what happens to the generation at the perceptual, analytical and reflective stages of their growth and the connection with the Learning Mechanism in terms of modelling, reinforcement and social interaction.
Thus, the process shows how Gen Alpha’s skill acquisition, learning process, and attitude formation take place which form the foundation of their buying behaviours and patterns.
It is not surprising to see the generation members who are in their tweenhood consumption patterns and decisions from what they learnt in cartoon networks, video games, social media, TV adverts, and family members or celebrities they are accustomed to or with strong affinity (not necessarily biological parents many times).
These premises have strong implications for marketing communication decisions of organisations to gain the attention of the segment.
The big question today is what organisations are to look out for in this segment as they grow to become important consumers in the near future.
Importantly, according to Mark McCrindle who coined the name Gen Alpha, studies have shown that over 2.5 million of the generation are delivered every week globally, and with an estimated population of over 2 billion by 2025, surely Nigerian market will share a significant portion of the population.
There are certain peculiarities and ‘market senses’ (in Nigerian parlance) about the segment that the previous generations lack, even not Gen Z with all their digital savviness and social media proclivity.
Gen Alpha is a segment that is greatly influential and easily influenced. Organisations need to understand that the segment’s influence is sophisticated in that they vertically and horizontally exercise their influences, and are likewise influenced in consumption behaviours. Equally, what they learn pre-tweenhood will for a long time shape their buying decisions and behaviours in the future, and parental influences on the segment’s buying behaviours and decisions are not blanket like their millennial parents, but minimal and selective.
Gen Alpha will enforce consumer rights in their buying behaviours and this is important to Nigeria’s manufacturers who occasionally experience this from a handful of educated and exposed older generations.
Studies have shown that the segment will become the most educated consumers in the market, hence social and ethical considerations in purchase decisions will be seriously embraced across products and services with less consideration for sentimentalities; personal belief and social learning might prevail over parental discretionary.
Technology in its diversity will dominate the sources of learning, information, exposure and social learning about products among the segment, and this locus will unarguably determine the flow of information on attitude formation, attitude change, brand preference, product knowledge and awareness, etc. in the market.
With less restriction on child advertising in Nigeria, it implies a good opportunity for organisations that serve the segment to ‘catch them young’ with maximization of communication tools that are reachable to them, and the messages and contents should embrace ‘brand succession’ as they advance in ages and generation cycles.
The idea of brand succession needs to underpin product design and product development for an organisation to remain for a long term in the family budget for the segment, and even in their personal decision as they advance in ages. Many video gaming and digital cartoon firms have understood the strategy in the name of brand varieties.
From personal experience, one sector in the Nigerian setting, in all its operations, that is yet to integrate or recognise the Gen Alpha when compared to other economies is the restaurants and eatery business in the hospitality industry. In reality, the action may not be disconnected from the low outdoorsy and eat-out culture among the older generations. However, Gen Alpha might be different because they are influenced by brand culture, and the failure of the sector to recognise this may portend danger in the near future.
Gen Alpha is a strategic part of the future and marketing cannot do less but begin to recognise their sophistication now.
Ayo Oniku is Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Lagos.