How 'generation Alpha' is already embracing the metaverse - and what that means for retailers

Virtual concerts, digital trainers, augmented reality applications: for Generation Alpha, the physical and online worlds are naturally intertwined. Do not underestimate the impact on retail, says Maarten Leyts, author of 'Generation Alpha in Beta'. Are you prepared?


Gigantic impact

No generation will have such an impact on our society as Generation Alpha, the generation born between 2010 and 2025. This is still greatly underestimated, says Maarten Leyts, CEO of Trendwolves, the trend and marketing agency that has been specialising in youth culture for 15 years. His book 'Generation Alpha in Beta' will soon be published by Lannoo Campus.


"Of the 8.5 billion people who will inhabit the earth by 2030, 2 billion will be alphas. That's huge." It is a generation that will face great challenges in an ageing society: "They will have many of the burdens on their shoulders, which also means that they will live at home longer, get married later and have children later. Diversity is a given for this generation: they live in a multicultural society, often in newly formed families."


Virtual playgrounds

But above all, their familiarity with digital technology is a game changer. "When Apple launched the iPad in 2010, many parents saw it as an educational tool for their children. Since then, every second two children go online for the first time. 40% of the new internet population are children. Corona reinforced that: children flocked to online playgrounds like Minecraft, Adopt Me or Roblox, where they could meet each other virtually."


The metaverse, the virtual world that Mark Zuckerberg is planning to build, is actually already a reality in the minds of this generation. "Teenagers meet up in gaming environments such as Fortnite, where they could, for example, catch an exclusive performance by Lil Nas X. On a platform like Ready Player Me they create 3D avatars, on Decentraland they buy digital assets. We should gradually start getting ready for the digital wardrobe... In the 'sneakerverse', augmented reality trainers are offered that you can only wear in that virtual world. Brands like Gucci and RTFCT are already responding to this."


Be prepared

This generation of children grew up with e-commerce: food, toys, clothing and shoes being delivered to their homes is the most normal thing in the world for them. Alpha will also be a very enterprising generation: these children are already constantly exchanging, buying, saving... and paying with tokens, which can be compared to crypto currencies. Creativity continues to play an important role in youth culture but is now also technology driven: young people want to distinguish themselves with their avatar, form a unique identity. Within various networks you can see that young people are making great efforts to distinguish their avatar. "For this generation, the world is becoming truly phygital: online and offline are intertwined."


And that future is no longer so far off: "Within seven to eight years: that's nothing. You have to prepare now. An important part of the market is becoming child-driven."



Maarten Leyts will talk more about the impact of Generation Alpha on the retail world in the 'Gamechangers' programme at the RetailDetail Night. The end-of-year event for the retail sector takes place on 25 November in Shopping Stadsfeestzaal in Antwerp.


In the afternoon there will be thematic pre-programmes, in the evening there is a plenary session with the retail year overview by Professor Gino Van Ossel, keynotes by INNO and Albert Heijn, followed by a walking dinner with plenty of networking opportunities. Via this link you can find more details about the programme and you can order tickets for this event.