Mobile youth around the world: regional differences and trends


Around the world, kids make their own decisions on what smartphones to purchase, shop on price and use them much more for advanced features as compared to adults in general. How they use their smartphones as opposed to how the older demographics use them, reveals the differences in how younger and older age groups view communication.

According to a Nielsen report titled "Mobile Youth Around the World", Italian young people lead in smartphone penetration with 47% of 15-24 year olds owning one compared to only 31% of adults in that country over 25 who have them. Penetration with European youth in general is at 28% while penetration with older European adults is 27%.

According to Nielsen the overwhelming majority of the younger smartphone crowd chose their own phones to purchase. Only 16% of them had their phones bought by their parents. The primary purchase driver for those aged 15 to 24 was price, which is consistent with older age groups. However, 21% of Russian youth stated that design/style was the first consideration. Meanwhile, by comparison, only 7% of US adults cited design/style as primary.

Young people in China and the US lead the pack in using advanced data services. 84% of Chinese youth use them for more than just voice and texting compared to only 47% of adults in China. 83% of American kids use advanced data features, which is 32% higher than adults in the US. In both countries the primary usage is for mobile internet access. As well, coming in second and third in both nations were ringtone downloads and instant messaging respectively.

The popularity of text messaging

We know that text and photo messaging is popular among young people. In the majority of markets, messaging tends to skew female (15-24 demo) with a few exceptions. Indian males are twice as likely to use messaging as females and by a small margin this holds true for China as well. In the US and UK, females have a ten percentage point higher rate than males who use messaging.

What seems clear is that young people are using smartphones both to gain access to information from a number of sources online and relay information and communicate with family and friends via data. For example, US teens are sending an average of about six text messages every waking hour and that's up 8% from last year according to Nielsen.

It's no wonder marketers see SMS as a lucrative channel for mobile marketing campaigns to young people. When you've got that much traffic/chatter going on, there should be opportunities to offer youth relevant information which will drive leads and conversions to ecommerce sites and brick and mortar stores.

One has to wonder how much influence younger people will have in the market place once NFC (Near Field Communications) technology is more widely adopted -- allowing people to use their smartphones as debit cards. Combine that with GPS targeted marketing campaigns which make their pitch just at the right time and you've got a great example of the options available to reach out to the cross-channel consumer.  

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