In the beginning there was the internet and it was all about the young. As new devices and platforms created a huge shift in the way consumers engage with media for information, entertainment and social connectivity, younger age groups led the way.No more!
In fact much of the current growth in digital consumption is coming from older consumers, who are rapidly catching up. With younger groups now hitting saturation levels for key elements of
digital consumption, the fastest growth can now be seen among the more numerous, older and wealthier consumers.
The latest analysis of Kantar Media’s TGI data from the UK, India, Brazil and Turkey shows just how rapidly they are catching up. Looking at the time period 2006-2012, internet usage in India grew fastest among those born in the 1960s. The 2012 data indexed 417 against 2006 numbers (TGI India).
Social networking is another area where the older generation is fast catching up with the youngsters. In India for the time period 2008-2013 the growth in having a social networking account has been faster for those born in the 1960s (20 times) as compared to those born in the 1990s (six times). And among those who access internet, the percentage of the older people with a social network account at 69 percent almost equals the younger generation at 75 percent.
Right across all four markets, digital has become main stream and older consumers are becoming the dominant group. In Great Britain the figures reveal that online shopping is progressing towards becoming a universally popular activity across all age groups. Even among the 55+ age group, 50 percent are now comfortable with purchasing online.
A similar story can be seen with smartphones. In the UK, take-up in mobile internet capability over the last two years has shown the fastest growth among those aged 55+. The same picture can be seen in Brazil where 15 percent of those in the 55+ age group now have mobile phones with internet capability.
This switch from young to old represents a massive opportunity for brands. Not only are older consumers far more numerous than younger age groups, in many cases, they also have higher levels of disposable income.
A prime example is the rapid success of tablets, which has been driven not by young consumers but by the affluent. The top 10 percent of the population in terms of socio-economic level (SEL 1), who generally have the highest income, have been the key to the success of tablets. This is clear in the UK, where penetration of tablets reached 12 percent in 2012, but reached 36 percent amongst SEL 1. The same pattern is also seen in Brazil and Turkey.
Brands that might have previously relied on traditional media behaviour among an older target need to be thinking about digital for almost every age group. As traditional media has suffered from the increasing number of platforms that are now available, only one platform has thrived â€’ digital.
The evidence is clear from Latin America. Across the region, the percentage of people who say that they pay attention to any specific medium has dwindled between 2006 and 2012 across all generations for all channels except the internet. Among those born in the 1990s, claimed levels of attention (always or almost always) to the internet at 28 percent are now second only to TV
with 45 percent.
There are, of course, differences in the way groups of different ages use digital channels and brands need to understand these to ensure their message is targeted.
For example, British people born in the 1960s and 1970s are the most likely to use online banking services. Furthermore, travel and holiday websites are most popular among those born in the 1950s – they are 24 percent more likely than average to visit such sites.
In Brazil, people born in the 1970s and 1980s are most likely to use online banking and visit travel websites. In India close to a third of the people born in the 1960s and 1970s access internet for utility bill payment and to make travel reservations. Among those with mobile internet access the 60s generation is four times more likely to use internet for online banking as compared to the 90s (Source, TGI India).
What brands need to do is accept that all their audiences are moving into digital and plan accordingly. By understanding their new behavior online, they will be able to offer services and messages that resonate with each target group.
What they can no longer ignore is the fact that older consumers are rapidly catching up with their younger counterparts.
By Sagar Seth and Deepa Mathew, GBD, IMRB International