My sons are 10 and 19, which would put them at the trailing end of the millennial generation.
They are the target of most start-ups in the technology space, maniacally debated in the press and presumed by most CxOs to be the primary target of their transformative digital strategies to drive growth.
But all this focus on the needs of the millennial generation today means we’re overlooking what they will need in the future.
Those aged between 10 and 36 years old will shrink as a percentage of the total global population over the next 80 years. This means that the generation following the millennials will become a minority, thereby less influential on defining technology and business strategies.
Their experience will clearly be different, growing up with a mobile, cloud-based application environment, content available everywhere and personal security being virtual concepts.
But the main point is there will be fewer of them, which means less of an opportunity for technology companies in the future.
Put simply, if you’re a CEO who is following the money into new markets, it won’t be among the new generation because it’ll be smaller; it will be with the millennial generation as they grow older.
From Mobile to Mobility
Millennials will continue to dominate in terms of size of population, but their perspective on what they need from technology will change.
They will be the first generation growing up in a digital industrial economy with expectations of how technology can integrate into every aspect of life.
As they grow older, they will seek technology solutions to the new challenges they face, everything from deteriorating eye-sight, dexterity and mobility.
Across the globe there are laws, business initiatives and technology innovations focused on disabilities.
But as the global population ages, the millennials will drive changes in technology in terms of redesign of interfaces, make smart technologies that assist an ageing population central to business strategies, and drive new innovations that will support a broader definition of disabilities.
For example, think of the current design of your smartphone interface and apps. They are designed for a young generation. Think about the current fascination with driverless cars.
When a large technology dependent generation turns eighty, this fascination will become a practical necessity.
CEOs should actively consider the needs of their most important marketplace, the future digital octogenarians, now.
For now, ageing is something we all have to plan for and those CEOs playing the long game will develop digital strategies that incorporate the ageing millennial global population today.
By Peter Sondergaard - Research Analyst, Gartner