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Kid influencers in a digital world

Nick Richardson, founder and CEO of The Insights Family, looks at the growing muscle of a new bunch of influencers: the digital-first kids. He unravels their growing influence on purchase decisions across categories in markets like India.

As influencers become the new norm of marketing, a subset of influencers – kids – is becoming even more powerful. This generation of children, who grew up in a world of unprecedented access to devices and technology, feel as comfortable existing in the virtual world as they do in the physical. Moreover, they are expecting a seamless integration between the two. And their comfort with the digital medium is making them take part in many category decisions.

It might be expected that kids would have influence over kid-centric purchases, such as toys or TV subscriptions, which contain their favourite shows. However, kids are influencing their parents’ consumption habits that do not necessarily concern them – such as the purchase of a new car, or even household appliances. It is a trend that is not so new by itself but as brands increasingly pivot to become family brands and digital takes centre-stage in their lives, marketing and content strategies need to be adapted to reach these new young stakeholders in the form and shape that they like to consume. Let’s unravel this fast-growing influential cohort.

Kids: the future consumers with digital-first preferences

A large part of kids’ identity now lives online, whether that be on a social media feed or materialised through digital purchases. For these kids, a cosmetic skin they purchased a fortnight back is as much about self-expression and personality as the t-shirt they put on the same morning. Kids don’t just influence their own money either. With families spending more time together during Covid-19, a child's say in household purchasing decisions is greater than ever.

With UNESCO reporting that close to half of the world’s students are still affected by school closures more than one year into the pandemic, the amount of time children spend digitally continues to soar. As a result, children’s attitudes, behaviours, and consumptions are changing, and the pandemic has only accelerated this trend. Kids are spending more money online, and children even as young as 6 are spending increased amounts of money on apps and in-app purchases.

Kids: influencers across categories aided by their ease of technology adoption

Kids are also early adopters of new technology. For example, some children not only know what cryptocurrency is but also own and use it. Across the world, tweens in India are most likely to think bitcoin will be the ‘next big thing’. There has also been a quarter-on-quarter increase of +32% in teens reporting to use or own digital currency. While new regulation might cast doubt over the future of cryptocurrencies in India kids are curious and want to learn more about digital currency and technology. In terms of cryptocurrency, only a few years ago no one understood what bitcoin was, let alone how blockchain is supposed to work. Now, arguably, we might see in the future that kids would rather choose a crypto wallet over a piggybank.

It is not just cryptocurrency that brands need to consider. Kids, tweens, and teens are increasingly spending money online with many different and convenient ways of making electronic payments. This includes diverse options, such as Paytm, Amazon Pay and PayPal.

Such strong levels of interest are likely to be due to India’s large IT skills base (IT/Computing is the number one career choice for kids aged 6-9 in 2021) and an abundance of smartphones.

Furthermore, with an increased interest in coding, a generation of truly tech-savvy young is emerging. It has been interesting to see how brands are creating new products for this need. For example, LEGO offers a range of toys that enables kids to develop their coding skills such as the LEGO Boost series, which lets children create models and bring their creations to life with simple coding commands.

Or the Kano Computer Kits which allows kids to build their computer by following simple graphical instructions.

Kids: the next-gen retail consumers and also independent shoppers

This cohort is shopping independently to a degree that we have never seen before in previous generations. Increased freedom, as well as access to smartphones and finance systems, is driving young customers to seek direct-to-consumer (D2C) retail. As e-commerce becomes an even more important cornerstone of sales in the internet age, more brands are opting for a direct-to-consumer approach. While major FMCG brands in India may not yet be invested significantly into D2C retail, up and coming brands are finding resonance with teenagers.

With young generations showing interest in digital payments and technology, it is possible India has the potential to be a future global digital powerhouse in the area, growing the share of ‘organised retail’ in the economy.

Whether it is digital currencies, a push for sustainability, or changing the world of content creation, across the world tech-savvy kids are driving change and innovation. Their voices are becoming stronger and more relevant. As children’s influence on their parents and brands continues to grow every day, understanding what attitudes kids hold provides a window into understanding the next generation of consumers.

The author is the founder and CEO of The Insights Family, a global market intelligence company.

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