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

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Executives from some of the largest companies are calling the interactive technologies (IT) young people are using "the new marketing ecosystem." Very little is known about the perceptions tweens, teens, and young adults have of their usage of these IT. In addition, marketers whose segmentation strategies are for products specifically targeting young consumers need to understand just how these young consumers are using the various technologies to share information. The most sophisticated apparel retailers know that to sell products to young consumers means they must be connected to them electronically at all times. In order to better understand young consumers' IT usage, tweens, teens, and young adults completed 428 useable surveys pertaining to their perceptions of their own usage of IT for social and academic networking purposes. Four factors labeled 1) Immediacy, 2) Entertainment, 3) Social Interaction, and 4) Self Expression explained 63 percent of the variance in perceptions of usage. One-way analysis of variance tests revealed several significant differences. Recommendations are made to marketers to help them strengthen their segmentation strategies for products targeting tween, teen, and young adult demographics.

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 socialnetworking 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. Biais 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 (Biais, Craig, Pepler, & Connolly, 2008). …