Back in February, we conducted a survey that was that focused on the consumer habits and lifestyles of mobile phone users across the globe. Garnering more than 120,000 responses, the questions focused on mobile phone etiquette and consumer patterns in 15 countries. To my surprise, the most consistent differences in results were not geographical, but generational.
According to our survey results, mobile devices have replaced cars, clothes, and other devices as the ultimate status symbol for youth. When asked what they perceive to be the first thing people notice about them, 82% of under-18 global respondents said it was their phones, compared to just 48% of the 18+ respondents. In the U.S. those numbers were 67% and 45%, respectively -- perhaps only signifying that in developing economies, greater disparity exists between the haves and the have-nots.
When it comes to mobile phone etiquette, we found that a generational gap also exists in the way that mobile phone use is perceived in social settings. In the United States, where there were about 5100 respondents, the younger generation was far less likely to feel self-conscious about using their phone in social settings. Sixty-six percent of those under 18 said they had never been criticized for using their phone in social settings, because their friends were on their phones also. Compare that with only 52% of 18+ respondents who responded the same way. Globally, that gap grows even wider, with the numbers shifting to 80% and 50% respectively.
So we know that the next generation of mobile users is significantly broadening the parameters of socially acceptable phone use. But we also learned that those under-18s are changing the way we make consumer decisions. Eighty-two percent of global respondents under the age of 18 said their phone is the first place they turn to when researching a large purchase, before their desktops or TVs. Compare that with 52% of respondents ages 18 and up. Again, in the U.S., this gap narrows a bit (72% and 57% respectively), but this is probably because in developing nations like India, the mobile screen is often the only screen people have access to.
Brands would be smart to take advantage of this information and design their marketing strategies to reflect these changes in consumer habits. Mobile-friendly ad campaigns are no longer supplemental -- they’re necessary. And the second piece of the equation, so often overlooked, is the power of using sharable formats to increase the efficacy of campaigns. Kids are all over social media, and we shouldn’t underestimate the power of shareability.
But if kids are spending so much time staring at their mobile screens, it would also be wise to consider what it is they are looking at most of the time. To that end, here are the top ten mobile search items in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2013:
2. Justin Bieber
4. Kim Kardashian
6. Taylor Swift
9. Jennifer Lawrence
10. Angelina Jolie
Based on this, I think we can surmise that either Justin Bieber has somehow managed to transcend the generational divide, or that a greater number of young people than adults are using their phones to search for information. Please, let the latter be true.