Michael Stanat, Global Research Executive at SIS International Research in Asia Pacific, was published in ESOMAR’s Research World Magazine in October 2012.
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Millennials in the Digital Landscape
Public policy, national budgets, political stability, workplace dynamics, natural resources and consumption habits can change dramatically generation to generation. The ability to understand and engage distinct generational segments can be crucial in marketing strategy and companies such as Pepsi, Apple and Red Bill have built strong campaigns focused on appealing to specific generations.
With the digital revolution, researchers’ role in delivering insights on generation segments has become even more complex. So how can researchers provide more meaningful insight about generations?
Generations are large and diverse, and each has its subcultures, countercultures, niche segments and other complexities. Generational differences matter.
One longitudinal study by Kenexa (2011, n=30,000) surveyed working aged people in 28 economies including Canada, China, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain, the UK and the US. The findings showed that Millennials or Generation Y is born post 1980, were significantly more achievement and affiliation-oriented than Boomers and Generation X respondents. Moreover, they were also more interested in social status, freedom, individualism and diversity than other generations..
Researchers are increasingly finding that customer engagement and brand loyalty patterns among certain age groups are evolving. Generations heavily influenced by the digital revolution tend to be collaborative and multi-tasking, and this impacts their decision-making and workspaces.
Even major lifestyle changes are occurring in the US. Many studies show that Millennials are less interested in car ownership and driving than other generations. Some analysts hypothesize that this is because technology provides the freedom that cars once did.
With rapid technological, economic and societal development, differences between generations can be amplified. In our firm’s research, members of Generation Y in high-growth emerging economies occasionally describe of generation gaps between them and their parents and elders. Tensions can result in rebelliousness, escapism and differences in online usage and career habits.
In addition to uncovering insight between generations, researchers can glean insight within them. Generations such as the Millennials have a diversity of attitudes and behaviors. Traditionally, age-based segmentations are common ways to group people together. Other segmentation frameworks may provide additional insight inside large groups of people and influence analysis of how consumers interact with their world.
One popular framework in the digital space, the Digital Natives/Immigrants segmentation, concerns behaviour and psychographics. Beyond age considerations, segmentation can influence analysis of how consumers interact with their world.
Digital Native, an individual born after the introduction of Digital technology:
- Enthusiastic participants
Digital Immigrant: an individual born before the introduction of digital technology and has adopted it
- Reluctant adopter
- Enthusiastic adopter
Despite globalization, cultural differences still exist and are meaningful. Identity, status, hierarchy, tradition, economic development and consumption can differ dramatically across borders. Moreover, subcultures, distinct segments within generation can display dissimilar and divergent, norms, values, behaviours and habits. Hybrid methods integrating traditional methods with new digital/social media methods can be helpful in providing meaningful cultural insight and reach into where digital stakeholders are.
Some researchers are even investigating beyond attitudinal and behavioural differences to neurological and cognitive differences among generations. Emerging methods in our industry include buzz tracking, prediction markets, biometrics, neuromarketing, apps-based research and mobile methods.
As Generation Y rises on the world stage in a rapidly changing digital landscape, researchers are presented with unique opportunities and challenges. Uncovering differences between and within generations can help us better make sense of these complex dynamics.
Michael Stanat is a global research executive at SIS International Research, and author of China’s Generation Y: Understanding the Future Leaders of the World’s Next Superpower