Designing for the Digital Native: Generation Z

While marketers across all industries have focused heavily on attracting millennials, another generation of consumers is coming of age. The oldest members of this demographic are barely out of high school, but the traits and habits of Generation Z are already starting to drive business decisions. The hotel and lodging industry should take note: This is the next generation of guests to come through your lobby.

As digital natives, Gen-Zers are accustomed to having everything at their fingertips, and it can be difficult to capture their attention. (A recent Microsoft study found that people today generally lose concentration after eight seconds.) Because of their digital savvy, Gen-Zers have also experienced a high level of convenience and customization at a young age. This has implications for how hotel brands should approach the design of future properties.

Provide a Blank Slate. Gen-Zers are more interested in opportunities that let them customize their own experiences than they are in choosing a specific style with which to identify. An atmosphere that allows for interpretation will resonate well with Gen Z. This design goal could come to life through user-controlled wall art, customizable music playlists, responsive lighting, and the use of symbolism wherever possible in lieu of text.

Create Bold Statements. With only eight seconds to work with, it’s important to greet Gen Z guests with a bold statement as soon as they walk through the door. This can take the form of an interesting architectural detail, unique atmosphere, a bold work of art, or a pop of color against a monochromatic palette. Creating an attention-grabbing focal point in the lobby plays into this generation’s preoccupation with “FOMO,” or “fear of missing out.” If it’s worth their posting on Instagram or Snapchat, you’ve captured their attention—and that of their friends, too.


Respect Their Need for Instant Gratification. Gen-Zers are digital natives, so they expect instantaneous results from devices and their experiences. They don’t just use a smartphone—they might employ two screens at once. Indulge this need for instant gratification by streamlining processes and reducing wait times that may not seem onerous for Gen Y, Gen X, or baby boomers. Replace a check-in counter with self-check-in tablets. Consider incorporating robotic technology that can deliver food service and drinks. Also be sure your current amenities are working correctly. A Wi-Fi glitch could be a bigger deal to this demographic than you might think.

Go Eco-Friendly. One of the most identifiable characteristics of Gen-Zers is their commitment to sustainability and the environment. They will expect to see sustainable elements throughout the hotel. Infusing these details into your design and operations will earn their respect.

Create Multifunctional Spaces. Public spaces such as hotel lobbies are important to this age group because a large segment of Gen Z seeks opportunities to meet new people. On the flipside, they also need a space to unwind and experience privacy, so a hotel’s public spaces should be designed for multifunctional use. In other words, for every private “nook,” create an area where a group can meet over coffee. Weave private alcoves with access to electrical outlets among more socially driven spaces so a mix of private and public space is achieved.

Provide a Local Experience. Gen-Zers aren’t forming connections to brands like their parents did. Today’s younger hotel guests—and future Gen-Z guests in particular—desire a more local, less branded travel experience. They want to gain a real exposure to and understanding of the local culture. Thus, hotels can provide value by offering a sense of local authenticity. By example, this demographic is more likely to notice—and appreciate—that a hotel provides access to a local coffee shop, not a Starbucks.

When approaching the design of your hotel, it’s important to be forward-thinking and consider the next generation of consumers. With technology playing such a large role in their lives, compounded by weakened brand loyalty, they seek out authentic experiences that cater to their values and are quick to move to the next big thing if they’re unimpressed. By learning what makes Gen Z tick and incorporating this into your design, your hotel will be prepared to grab the attention of this very important market segment.

About the Author
Ryan McBride serves as Creative Director of  The McBride Company, a creative concept and design firm for clients in the hospitality and leisure industries.  

Previous articleThe Tilden Hotel to Open in October
Next articleFirst Hotel Company-Designed Third Party Booking App Launches


Comments are closed.