Marketing to Digital Natives

Disney focus groups found that four and five year olds make swiping motions when talking about watching TV shows. Not because they own smart phones but because they see people using mobile devices to watch, and their  parents and older siblings share these devices with them. So, just as they turn pages to look at books they can’t yet read, they swipe to interact with devices they don’t yet own.

Electronic devices are normal for them. They don’t remember the world before the internet.

You probably don’t market to preschoolers, but the first cohort of digital natives is going to college this year. They’re buying food, drink, makeup, books, music, games, and clothes. If you’re not talking to them about your brand now, you soon will be.

What should you know about this market segment?

  • If you’re not online, you don’t exist. If you don’t look good on mobile devices, you hardly exist. And if you don’t come up in search, you’re not going to be found. The vast majority of consumers go online as part of their purchasing decision. This group doesn’t think about whether or not to go online; the lines between digital and physical are blurred. The omnichannel experience is their life. You have to be where they are, no matter what size the screen is.
  • Decision making is social. They’re going to ask their friends’ opinions when they shop, and it doesn’t matter at all whether the friends are physically present. They snap pictures in the dressing room to send to their moms for a vote on whether to buy, they talk about the great stuff they got on Facebook, and they read reviews before they buy. If your website makes it easy for them to share, they will.
  • Flashy stuff doesn’t impress. Talking toys were exciting in the Space Age, but when your toaster talks, you’re not thrilled by a teddy bear with a recording. Just so, digital natives get irritated when a website has so much going on that they can’t get right to the information or action they want. They expect to be in control, so don’t have that video play automatically, don’t take up their time with Flash, and don’t make it hard to find information. Give them games to play, sure, but they get to decide when to play.

If this group is in your target market, it’s worth your while to test your website with them. Your guesses might be wrong.


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2 responses to “Marketing to Digital Natives”

  1. Kim Herrington Avatar

    My family was ahead of the curve when I was a kid—we had internet well before anyone else I knew growing up and I can’t remember a time without it. Interesting to know that today’s digital landscape is changing the way children develop their ideas about the physical world around them subconsciously. I wonder if I did something different because I grew up around computers.

    1. Rebecca Haden Avatar
      Rebecca Haden

      Probably so. My kids had computers before they went to school, too, but a lot of folks in your age group first encountered the internet at school — and maybe not even in kindergarten. Lots of people in my generation first encountered computers at work, and of course we can all remember the world before the internet. It’s amazing how quickly new tech goes from the latest exciting new thing to something we can’t live without.

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