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Young and not so reckless; how to engage digital natives over the longterm


By Giles Longhurst, General Manager, Consumer Insight

January 11, 2012 | 3 min read

There is a well trodden customer strategy within many businesses: get them on board early and keep for them for life. Simple really, except that the two fundamental strands are now harder than ever. The younger generation today is more cautious of financial commitment and spending across all sectors compared to just a few years ago. What’s more, comparing offers online is second nature and young people, in particular, are adept at swapping suppliers and brands to get the best deal.

Before suggesting how marketers can address this issue, we should back track and look at some real evidence. According to the You Gov debt tracker which helps inform Experian’s Financial Strategy Segments, there has been a four-fold drop over the last three years in younger groups taking on large financial commitments without considering the consequences. This prudence was also evident in some of my recent work in the insurance sector which proved, categorically, that younger drivers are claiming 20% less than the so called middle aged ‘safe bets’ due to their awareness of potential financial penalties. These and many more indicators are showing a real shift in behaviour: the younger generation is becoming the most cautious of all.

Against the backdrop of the current economic climate, the younger generation has been able to adapt the most – partly because this group is, on the whole, unburdened by large mortgages and so has the capacity to change spending behaviour and be fleeter of foot in managing outgoings. Despite the pressures on incomes, disposable income is still there - but you are going to have to work hard to get at it now. I may be being over simplistic but it seems to me that, as marketers, we used to think that marketing to this group was all about something being shiny and new, ‘be the first to have’ etc and let the cost appear way down the page. However, if this group is, or forms part of, your target market, those messages will need to change. More than ever, here is a group that is looking for value - not just today but in the long term. The messages will have to work harder to be relevant to their specific interests, show how you will add value to their lives before they will ultimately add value to yours. Thankfully they are out there right now telling you what you want on all the social media sites, it’s time to gather that information and work out your key value message!


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