Lessons from Gen Z on the future of an AI-driven web

WP Engine's Fabio Torlini offers some recommendations for digital businesses to consider AI when targetting Gen Z customers

August 4, 2021

4 Min Read

AI has become a crucial part of popular culture and awareness across generations, with opinions ranging anywhere from caution to optimism.

But there’s one key audience for businesses to engage, and that’s the nascent group of Generation Z (born between 1996 and 2015), which accounts for 40 percent of consumers and is fast entering the workforce.

Here’s the view on AI from Gen Z, and some recommendations for digital businesses considering AI as a viable part of their future web experiences.

Meet their great expectations

Research by WP Engine and The Center for Generational Kinetics found that Gen Z has the highest expectations for emerging technologies in the future, with countless proof points.

Around 80 percent of Gen Z believes all software and websites will incorporate digital learning/AI capabilities in the next five years. 40 percent of Gen Z, which is more than any other generation, will leave a website if it doesn’t predict what they like, want, or need.

In fact, 55 percent of Gen Z believes the Internet will be so predictive, it will determine what they do on a daily basis. Moreover, 68 percent believe all websites will soon "talk" to one another, creating a personalized experience across every site, application, and even appliance.

What this all means is that for Gen Z at least, personalization through predictive technologies on the web is a desirable quality for a trusted brand. Gen Zers, who are born-digital and raised on social media, expect digital experiences that anticipate what they’re looking for to create tailored customer journeys based on their interests and needs.

AI is the driver behind this level of personalization, allowing companies to better understand their customers and personalize content at scale. In doing so, businesses can develop deeper customer relationships over time, grow consumer loyalty, and boost metrics.

However, while over half (51 percent) of Gen Z believe that AI will have a positive impact on the world, there’s clearly more work to be done. To further build trust we need to understand more widely the demands for AI and predictive technologies, many of which are shared not just by Gen Z but in fact all audiences.

Follow a values-based approach

The opportunity for AI and technologies such as predictive personalization is realized when a business successfully aligns its AI applications with its brand values and ethical structure.

From WP Engine’s research on AI on the web and the values-based approach, there are many ways in which UK businesses can achieve this alignment.

For example, businesses should focus on transparency.

They can take inspiration from the open source community, like the one where WordPress has thrived in, which demonstrates the colossal benefits in building transparency and trust between consumers and system designers. 92.7 percent of UK consumers feel it is very important for organizations to be transparent about how businesses are using their data to create personalized digital experiences.

By keeping the user at the heart of objectives and being transparent with them about the use of their personal information, businesses will be able to gather quality customer data, build better AI, and build trust all at the same time.

Alternatively, businesses can focus on confronting bias. Over half of consumers surveyed (54.5 percent) view AI as an opportunity to overcome human bias.

Just over 80 percent of business decision-makers agree that AI provides an opportunity for examining organizational bias, while 79.5 percent agree that AI provides an opportunity to examine data-related bias.

Bias can be interrogated from within the organization and in historical data sets: by revealing patterns of bias in historical data when trying to use that data to inform decisions and strategy, businesses can change how they operate based on flaws and patterns over a long period of time.

Civilising the web

AI will help businesses and brands to meet consumers' increasing demands for personalized experiences on the web, which are ushered in by Gen Z but are increasingly shared by all generations.

A digital transformation strategy that values transparency and tackles bias will ensure that personalization serves to both unlock business value and build trust in AI on the web.

Fabio Torlini is SVP and the managing director of WP Engine. He leads the company's strategy, revenue growth, and operations in the EMEA region.

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