Unsurprisingly, when we recently asked a group of young people how much time they spend on their mobile phones, the resounding answer was ‘a lot’. It gives them the power to communicate directly with anyone immediately. Documenting their life is hugely important and uploading a photo or a quick status update from their mobile phone has become a habit (as well as checking how many ego-boosting ‘likes’ they’ve got). 

The recent comScore data showing that young Brits have a higher recall of mobile advertising is not a surprise and is reassuring for advertisers. Digital literacy is higher among young people; 18-24s are more capable and observant when it comes to mobile usage, leading to stronger response.

‘Media Stacking’

In our recent youth marketing insights report, Freshers Marketing, when asked how often they browse online (for example using Facebook or Twitter) at the same time as watching TV, 37% of 18-24s admitted to doing it ‘all the time’ while 48% answered ‘sometimes’. This habit of ‘media stacking’ where consumers use two or more media simultaneously, shows how engaged and connected young people are to their devices, whether the message is from a friend or an advertiser.

The high number of technology brands that featured in our Youth 100 research also reinforces this point. More than 1,000 young people were asked to rate their sentiment towards brands from a combination of sectors and four out of the top 10 most-loved brands were technology brands – YouTube, Wikipedia, Google and Skype. This shows that young people are not only connected to technology out of convenience, communication and usefulness, but that they are also emotionally connected. 

The comScore research also highlights the large gap between 18-24 year old smartphone users and the general smartphone population. Older generations often struggle to manage multitasking and often find digital navigation frustrating and bewildering. Young people are very aware of usability and have a very sophisticated level of media-reading: I recently heard one young person comment that their view of a website is poorer if it doesn’t have a favicon, the small logo graphic that shows up in the browser bar. It is this level of detail that brands need to respond to. 

In-game Ads and Relevant Content

A total of 30% of young people have seen in-game ads – not surprising given the popularity of mobile gaming apps among this audience. They have grown up with the digital economy that provides content in exchange for ads and are generally willing to accept this, rather than pay a premium for an ad-free version. 

More than 56% of 18-24 year old smartphone users in the comScore study have read posts on social networks from organisations and brands. Our own research revealed that 87% of students want brands to entertain, inform and inspire them as well as sell to them. If brands put their name to high quality and relevant content, there is no reason why young people won’t engage with them. Providing you create value to the reader, brands can get their message across. 

We also asked students about their media usage. Marketers often scratch their heads wondering about the realities of mobile consumption. Are students reading their emails on their phones or at their desktops? Surely most social media browsing is done on the go/mobile? The answer right now is not a convenient one: half of students mainly open email and check social media accounts on their mobiles (51%), while half (49%) mainly check from their computer. In addition, they choose email as their preferred way to keep in touch with brands (66%) compared to Facebook (27%), Twitter (8%) and SMS (3%).

Desire for Digital Wallets

We asked students their thoughts on some of the burgeoning new technologies and their likely uptake of them. There appears to be a steadily growing number who would like to pay for products and services using their mobile phone. Over a third – 36% – now say they would like to be able to pay with their phone, up from 30% last year. The idea of paying for things online using Facebook remains unappealing to most students, but has slightly increased in popularity from last year. Just 8% would like to use funds in their Facebook account as a frictionless payment method.

The action from all this data for brands is simple. Impress and inspire young people with your own use of digital. Understand the way that 18-24s consume digital content is different and more sophisticated than those generations ahead of them. And grasp the opportunity to engage now, while your competitors are still scratching their heads.

The Freshers Marketing Report and the Youth 100 Report are available from The Beans Group.