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What teenage social media usage says about future consumers

Published by on September 2, 2014

(Image Courtesy of Shutterstock)

Teens are valuable customers, and they’re not like the generations of teenagers that have come before. Traditionally teens are early adopters with disposable income. In the past, if a brand wanted a few of those disposable pounds they would need to saturate the market with slick advertisements and marketing messages. Today’s teens, however, are very different.

Modern teenagers don’t let media or big brands dictate their buying experience. Instead, they seek recommendations from friends and family, as well as take a deeper look at what they want individually. They’re marketing savvy. They make up their own minds about new trends and decide what to follow and what to ignore.

As they age, these teenagers will become gatekeepers. Powered by social media and continuously evolving technology, they will speak loudly, especially with their money.

So, what will the consumers of the future want from brands?

Future consumers will… Demand that brands are technologically savvy. Today’s teenagers and Millennials are heavily tech-dependent. These are the first truly digital generations. Millennials, for example, check their smartphones 43 times a day. According to the “Teens and Technology 2013” report from the Pew Research Internet Project, 93% of teens have a computer or access to one. Future consumers will have grown up with technology at their fingertips. They will expect brands to be on the same level and “speak their language.” Brands should consider investing in new technology for the retail market, such as touchscreen ordering kiosks.

Future consumers will… Want brands to relate to them personally. Mr. Youth’s “Class of 2015” study interviewed more than 5000 incoming college freshmen in 2011 and found that these youths wanted to buy from and build relationships with brands that help them express themselves. Future consumers will want brands to communicate with them on a more personalized, individual level. Marketing communications will need to become more authentic as these consumers won’t want to feel “sold” to. Brands will need to ramp up social listening strategies in order to find individual customers and respond to their concerns and questions on a personal level rather than addressing them in broader context like a blog post.

Future consumers will… Think that brands should have values. The “Class of 2015” survey also showed that teenagers weren’t concerned with status, celebrity endorsements, or how expensive something was. Today’s teenagers hope to make the world a better place and they don’t define success through wealth. Future consumers will be brand and marketing savvy. They will want brands to share their philosophy on life, which focuses on quality, self-expression, originality, authenticity, and aspiration. Brands that haven’t already done so will need to add their mission statement and brand standards to their website, social media, and other marketing materials.

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Future consumers will… Ask for customization. Research from Technomic in 2013 showed that in the foodservice industry, specifically in hamburger restaurants, customization options were fueling growth – 64% of consumers said customization was important. Research suggests that teenagers present themselves in different contexts online, so it’s clear that customization doesn’t stop at menus – it bleeds over into all aspects of life. If they’re customizing themselves, they’ll certainly expect brands to offer them options unique to them.

Future consumers will… Need brands to be mobile-ready. Currently 78% of teens have smartphones that allow them to access the Internet and social media and, according to the January 2014 Mobile Technology Fact Sheet, 34% of all cell phone Internet users go online exclusively using their phone. Brands that operate without a mobile strategy should be warned: your time is up. As cell phone use continues to climb and more innovations are made within the “Internet of Things,” consumer’s mobile demands will increase. Mobile apps will be considered the bare minimum and they’ll need to be robust. Don’t just deliver coupons – use beacons to target customers as they wander by brand-relevant locations. Businesses looking to take advantage of this should ramp up their mobile marketing strategies and begin developing innovative uses for mobile technology, perhaps incorporating connected devices and leveraging the growing power of the “Internet of Things.”

To reach the consumer of the future brands will need to forget about hype. Instead, they should focus on telling authentic brand stories, develop a true appreciation for individualism, and work to foster genuine connections with consumers. Anything less and brands risk future consumers shaking their heads and saying, “That company just doesn’t get it.”

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Categories: Social Media