The image of a youngster, glued to their mobile phone, talking a mile a minute about the latest celebrity will be a familiar sight to many parents.
They will be relieved to discover then that, according to research seen exclusively by Marketing Week, their offspring is not alone but part of a growing mobile trend in the youth market.
According to the research into girls aged between eight and 18 years old, mobile phones are their most important piece of kit and the centre of their communications.
The research, which was carried out by media specialist Carat Global and online fashion and games community Stardoll Network, reveals that a quarter of 16- to 18-year-olds claim they cannot live without their mobile phone. Almost a quarter of 16- to 18-year-olds regularly access the internet via their handset, with 19% of girls in this age bracket regularly posting updates to their social network via their phone.
Chris Seth, general manager at Stardoll, says: “Mobile needs to be more of a priority for marketers. With so much multitasking going on, they should ensure campaigns have a mobile element. There’s an opportunity, especially for retail, in location-based marketing. Mobile is the one medium they always have with them. Location with an offer element attached is a major opportunity to drive footfall and trial and purchase to get more reach and awareness around an offer.”
With nearly 80% of 13- to 18-year-olds now owning a mobile phone, according to the study, this has become a major marketing channel, with different devices offering distinct advantages.
Caroline Vogt, head of insight at Carat, explains: “While girls in this age group are strongly attached to their mobile, they are also very cost conscious, which can impact their likelihood of using mobile internet. For instance, the BlackBerry instant messenger service is popular among some teenagers because it’s free. This illustrates how the device, and any unique benefits and services it can deliver, can continue to play an important role [in deciding which handset to purchase].”
The study reveals that web access for this demographic has become more mobile in general, with ownership of laptops now higher than PCs.
Vogt comments: “As girls get older, they become more mobile and their social relationships become more important in defining who they are.
They demand constant connectivity. For a teenager not to have a mobile phone now would probably lead to their social exclusion.”
The study reveals that media in general forms an intrinsic part of life for this generation, who have never known a time without email, mobile phones, online chat, internet searches, social networking and computer games.
Seth adds that brands need to understand this multitasking audience. “Marketers should combine media channels in order to benefit from synergy across platforms such as gaming, internet, music and broadcast channels,” he says. “It also raises the importance of brand consistency across different channels.”
More than a quarter of girls say they use the internet for more than four hours a day and that it is the one media they feel they cannot live without, with TV coming behind internet, mobile and MP3 players for use among the 16- to 18-year-old age group.
Vogt says that it is interesting to note the “depth of relationship with the internet and how it falls away and is replaced by mobile as girls get older”.
Online video is also a popular medium among this demographic, especially in the UK and Brazil where Generation Z girls have viewed the most online video compared with the other nine markets in this study.
Furthermore, the rise of bitesize content, made popular by platforms such as YouTube, has not stopped this generation from being able to focus on longer form content, with 30% of eight- to 18-year-old girls regularly watching TV shows online for longer than 10 minutes.
This demographic attaches great importance to online shopping, which comes second only to spending time with friends. The survey reveals 13% of eight- to 18-year-old girls regularly buy products online and around the same number regularly post ratings or reviews on websites.
Vogt says: “The fact that it’s so popular among those aged 12 and younger illustrates that commerce is already very prevalent at a young age.”
While gaming is strongly associated with the youth sector, the study indicates that girls are a huge untapped market, with almost half of the 16- to 18-year-olds surveyed saying they never use portable gaming devices.
However, gaming is more popular among younger girls, with 35% of those aged 12 and under owning a portable gaming device and almost half regularly playing online games by themselves, while 30% of Generation Z girls across all age ranges regularly play social games online.
Vogt believes there is room for growth with the female market, but it will depend on getting the appeal right for both gender and age. “Younger girls are showing the strongest interest in all types of gaming but social gaming appears to unite across all ages,” she says.
Despite scare stories of online predators and the rise of cyber bullying, two-thirds of Generation Z girls say they feel safe online and this is constant across all age groups. Bullying from other children does register as a fear among the 12 and under age group, but this declines with age.
Vogt says: “It doesn’t surprise me that they feel safe online because it’s a very natural behaviour to them and they’re more adept at understanding a lot of the subtlety of the internet, more so probably than their parents.”
Although few parents tell their daughters which sites they can and cannot visit, 36% of Generation Z girls say they sometimes use the internet with their families. Seth says: “This shared experience element is higher than expected. Brands and marketers are presented with an opportunity to reach household audiences for a wider range of brands.”
But for brands to stay relevant for the next generation of consumers, they need to stay ahead of the digital curve.
25% of 16- to 18-year-old girls claim they cannot live without their mobile phone.
16% of girls aged 12 and under regularly access the internet via their mobile, compared with 23% of 16- to 18-year old girls.
12% of girls aged 12 and under regularly post updates to their social network via their mobile, compared with 19% of 16- to 18-year-olds.
WE ASK MARKETERS ON THE FRONTLINE WHETHER OUR ’TRENDS’ RESEARCH MATCHES THEIR EXPERIENCE ON THE GROUND
Head of products and services
The data is broadly in line with what we would have expected, although we would have forecast higher numbers to claim they can’t live without their mobiles.
We would have also expected the data regarding accessing the internet via mobile to be somewhat higher. The reason is that it depends on whether a customer is aware that they are accessing the internet when, for instance, they are using applications.
According to Twitter, 40% of all its access is on mobile. There’s no reason for us at O2 to think that the teen or tween audience would under index in comparison to that and equally Facebook has seen enormous growth in mobile.
Some of the key things for this demographic are our priority products and our links to music through the O2 and O2 Academies.
From the marketing side, the proposition is very much around affordable smartphones on pay as you go, promotion of social networking and having that embedded within the phones. We have very teen and tween-friendly tariffs, which allow customers to use heavy text and social networking type products.
This year, we’re developing some very interesting ways to interact with O2 on leading social networks. It will enable customers to have a deeper, richer experience with O2.
As a family brand, our focus is on short form video content. It can range from the duration of a music video, which is two to three minutes, up to ten minutes. We tend to find that there’s a greater appetite for clips that are either ’behind the scenes’ or music videos or things that extend the narrative, the believability of what’s happening on air, through to online.
To a large extent video content is about driving back to the Nickelodeon channel. The top-performing clip this year so far is a music video for [TV show] Big Time Rush, which is promoting their music video and also pushing viewers to buy the song on iTunes. It’s moving the audience around from TV, to online, to purchase and on to other destinations.
Games are a big traffic driver for Nickelodeon. We don’t have any social games on our site, they tend to be more casual games that relate to specific brands or extend the narrative of the show.
Some are collaborative two-player games, but they tend to be single player. Games and video are the bread and butter of what we do online.
Senior product marketer
Improving online safety will help give parents the confidence they need to let their kids explore the internet responsibly. This will help brands with a teenage audience engage with them and it gives them the opportunity to build up brand advocates at a younger age.
Brands looking to engage with teenagers online need to provide a creative experience in a safe environment.
The 2010 Norton Online Family Report shows that kids in the UK spend 24 hours a week online with 55% saying they have had some sort of negative experience online.
All parents want their children to feel as safe as possible online when they explore the internet, which can be a wonderfully creative and educational environment. Many parents are concerned about what their children are doing on the internet, but can feel uncomfortable broaching the subject because they are not particularly proficient online.
We’ve developed a new [clothing] range for a retailer whose core audience is 14 years old. We are also launching a kid’s range on our online store and in selected retailers next month, which will be mini-me versions of our own graphics. Our perspective has always been that from eight years old and upwards, a child wants to wear what their older siblings are wearing. As far as they’re concerned, they’re an adult. They want to buy cool stuff that looks good and they’re very conscious about brands.
I would have expected to see more of this demographic regularly purchasing products online. The older girls are more frequent online shoppers, but I suspect it’s probably that younger girls don’t have the cash. I would have also thought that those posting ratings and reviews would have been higher. Girls in the games community, for example, are voraciously active on forums and communities.