Young Consumers in the New Marketing Ecosystem: An Analysis of Their Usage of Interactive Technologies

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Recently, corporate executives have begun to realize Facebook, MySpace, instant messaging, cellular telephones, chat rooms and other forms of electronic media have emerged as a new "marketing ecosystem" that is fundamentally transforming how corporations sell to young consumers (Chester & Montgomery, 2008). According to Wilson and Field (2007) "connectivity is a constant of the Gen Y lifestyle, reflected in the skyrocketing popularity of online social-networking sites; furthermore, "Savvy retailers, including American Apparel, Victoria's Secret and Reebok, are using these sites to market to consumers, but also to gain feedback and insight from an audience that is hard to reach through conventional methods." Edelson (2008) confirms this by saying "Victoria's Secret created the Pink brand to appeal to younger customers while protecting the sexy image of its core brand." It is no secret tweens, teens, and young adults are a major demographic for Victoria's Secret brands. Because typical consumption habits of young people can be described as characterized by "hedonism, visibility, and open-mindedness" these retailers attempt to match their messages with these characteristics, which has been successful for retailers like Victoria's Secret (Featherstone, 1991). The most competitive apparel retailers understand that selling handbags and accessories to young customers requires they be always electronically connected to them.

Interactive technologies (IT) allow content to be shared and modified in real-time, and as such, facilitate advanced communication and customization (Fiore, Kim, & Lee, 2005). Young consumers are using a multiplicity of IT, apparently in evermore evolving forms, yet, much different than older people. Zaphiris and Sarwar (2006) compared a newsgroup of teens to a newsgroup of seniors and found teens were more highly connected, had more messages sent and received, and had a higher reciprocity. In contrast, the senior newsgroup had a handful of dominant people who managed to make others in the newsgroup dependent on them for communication.

Logging onto a social networking site like Facebook or sending instant messages to friends via cell phone or mobile computer are quite commonplace to the millennial generation. Blais et al. (2008) found young people who used instant messaging were associated positively with qualities of most aspects of romantic relationship and best friendship. To the contrary, young people who frequently visited chat rooms were negatively related to best friendship quality.

Young consumers use IT to exchange ideas, share information, and build romantic relationships and friendships (Blais, Craig, Pepler, & Connolly, 2008). These young consumers often profile the intimate details of their lives through some form of IT (Williams & Merten, 2008). Some are engaging in high risk-taking behaviors online and/or electronically, including having cybersex (Delmonico & Griffin, 2008). Much to the chagrin of their parents, some of these tweens, teens, and young adults are using various IT to engage in salacious conversations which can affect their purchasing behaviors--and Victoria's Secret is already benefitting based on these young consumers' values. Social structure and preferences, which include knowing how young people relate to IT products they use, are imperative to market researchers trying to sell products to them. It would be helpful to marketers to compare factors associated with young consumers' perceptions of their usage of the various IT associated with social and academic networks they maintain.

LITERATURE REVIEW AND HYPOTHESES TESTING

Arthur, Sherman, Appel, and Moore (2006) reported five key findings that contribute to the understanding of why young consumers adopt interactive technologies. These five findings are: 1) the opportunity to express their identities, 2) social interaction, 3) immediacy and constant entertainment, 4) discovery, and 5) the ability to create and record. …