|Teens hate email, love instant message; favor Google and the
majority feel they have a direct influence over the family's
buying cycle for travel and consumer goods...a recent focus
group uncovers what this means to advertisers.
"A Couple of Chicks" invited 125 High School Hospitality Tourism
Students to be part of a focus group on Search Engines,
Communication trends and Travel. Watching my own daughter who is
almost 15, it is becoming apparent that the next generation of
consumers are adopting distinct opinions and habits early on. I
have been constantly observing her behavior when it comes to the
effect of online marketing and her impressions of the travel
industry and the Internet as a source for research and purchase.
Given this group of individuals is not far off from being the
next giant consumer base, I wondered if her peers had some of
the same sentiments as she did regarding this topic.
If you have a teen running around your house, you will
intuitively agree with the opening statements along with the
remainder of the results presented here. However even those of
you with teens may be surprised, as I was, with some of the
answers as we take a look at a "teen's view" of the internet,
and what it means to the future of marketing. The focus group of
High School students took an identical survey covering topics
related to the travel search process over the course of 5 class
periods with the aid of www.surveymonkey.com. Survey Monkey
calculated the results accurately in an unbiased way. After the
survey each group was presented with an inside look at a
searchers behavior as we interactively examined a sample search
process that we call "Planning a Family Vacation Exposed!" Stay
tuned for that article expose coming soon!
At 58%, the majority of the participants from this High School
were 16 year old males with the remaining 41% females.
Participants ranged in age from 14-18. Our research begins with
how many computers in their homes had online internet access. (I
have had the discussion with many people that had the impression
that my home housed more computers than the average, given my
chosen profession) Interestingly the results showed I was not an
anomaly, kids today are connected fast, and command ownership
over multiple computers.
Here comes the real meat, some of you who are scanning this
might miss the good stuff, so read on because this gets good!
Just over 89% stated their computers were on a high speed
broadband connection. Students who have 1 or 2 online computers
tied at 34% each, with 19.5% owning 3 and an incredible 12%
housing more than 3 Internet connected computers. "We need our
own" a number of kids responded, "Our parents have their own and
there is one for the kids." Teens with multiple siblings echoed
those sentiments stating the same reason for multiple Computers.
Wireless networks were another reason why having multiple
computers is easier and cheaper than ever before.
When questioned if the wireless networks had a security key,
most teens did not know. A few savvy Gen Y's knew that they had
security keys, as their families had already been victims of
identity theft with intruders hacking into their network.
Security seemed to be a topic they hungered for more information
about, as they readily admitted there is no one speaking to them
directly regarding security issues over the internet.
When it comes to Search Engines, Google wins the race with Gen Y
hands down, with a remarkable 85% claiming it as their favorite
search engine, with Yahoo at 10% coming in second, and MSN
securing only 4.5% of the territory. However the results were
almost reverse when verifying what was the most commonly used
home page. Yahoo was a more engaging home page for teens, as it
allows them to customize their own content, with horoscopes,
sports scores and news on games and movies. They readily admit
that even though Yahoo has a search bar, they go to
www.google.com when they want to search for something.
Think the younger generation is impatient when they are
searching? A surprising 53% said they go to as many pages as
they need until they find the answer, with only 18% sticking to
the first page. With 79% of the teens stating they have never
clicked on a sponsored ad, they told me that most of what they
see on the first page is some sort of advertising. Hard for me
to believe but they have figured out the deeper you dig, the
closer to the "truth" you get! At least that is what they
believe as 46% responded that they felt that most of the results
returned, whether paid or natural, were some form of advertising.
"When I am not with my friends we talk over Instant Messenger,"
was a statement I overheard numerous times during the day. With
65% of the students participating said they always use IM to
communicate and 28% said they use it sometimes, only 5 % of the
focus group said they never used IM. "I love IM!" claimed one 15
year old girl, "You get instant responses where email takes too
long, it's more like I am just talking to my friends." You
parents are most likely all too familiar with the communication
method of choice for this generation!
"IM is better than 3-way calling," another boy volunteered,
"I've had as many as 10 conversations going at once! It's also a
great way to meet new people." The students were equally split
percentage wise at having 1 or 2 email addresses but claimed how
much they hated spam. With hotmail being the number one choice
of teen email, they told me how they quickly check their email
then open up IM to see who is on. It has become the gathering
place for Gen Y to hang out after school.
What about cell phones? An overwhelmingly 70% own a cell phone,
however only 44% said they use Text Message sometimes, where
only 21% of the group always used it. Text messaging seemed to
be favored by girls over boys, where a number of them claimed to
have the ability to text message without looking. "We do it in
class all the time," stated one of girls age 14, "I can hold my
phone under my desk and send a message without looking at the
keys." In looking at multiple travel search related questions on
the survey, Expedia has clearly done the best job of building
their brand with Gen Y. Over 56% said their families had booked
a vacation on Expedia with Hotels.com coming in second at 28%.
Identical statistics were cited when asked if they had ever
visited any Travel Websites. From a marketing perspective, teens
were not at all familiar with Travelocity, Priceline, Hotwire or
even the ability to book travel on Brand sites. In fact over 73%
recorded they did not have a favorite hotel brand.
What does this mean to the present and future of online
advertising for travel and tourism?
66% of the teens claim they have an influence over where their
family travels, stating price and location equally as
determining factors. One of the teachers revealed the following
insight. "I have the students build their dream vacation on
Expedia. What they find out is that it is not as easy as it
sounds. When I ask them to write down the phone number of the
hotel, they are surprised when they can't find it. Most of them
never realized if you went to the hotel direct, Expedia wouldn't
make any money."
So what will happen when teens start to book their own travel,
not to mention their influence on travel purchases now? Brand
sites were their lowest choice at 9%, with Search and Third
Party Intermediaries tying at slightly below a third. What was
the clear winner in the category? Word of Mouth. This follows
the trend we are currently seeing in the current generations of
travelers. The popularity of www.tripadvisor.com and other
online review portals seemed to hold more credence than
traditional advertising or content.
How will online marketing change as we begin to adapt to the
needs of this new generation? Already they are bonafide
consumers with 58% of the focus group admitting they have
already made their own purchases online with almost 40% having
made a purchase on EBay!
My recommendations on how to use this information; Brands and
Third Parties have a long way to go to begin to build a loyalty
with this base of future consumers. When was the last time you
saw anything directly marketed to this demographic by either of
the above? That being said, it is clear that a new form of
marketing must be embraced. Now that Pay per Click and eblasts
are perceived as "traditional marketing" to Gen Y, Interactive
Marketing will be the direction to go moving forward.
Gen Y and their predecessors Gen X, want to be engaged, want to
customize their content and are still willing to have direct
advertising; but only if it is relevant, and they have chosen to
These trends are currently being discussed by top industry
leaders who are saying things like; "Consumers today are armed
with iPods, TiVo machines, Blackberries, search engines,
broadband connections and other digital technologies, and they
have gained unprecedented control over their media, content and
purchasing options. As a result, marketers are facing an
increasingly complex web of challenges," says Geoff Ramsey, CEO,
Gary Stein, senior analyst for Jupiter Research recently
presented an address on "Effective Internet Marketing in a
Global Market Place." Stein noted that "8 out of 10 potential
customers will go to sources outside their control, such as
blogs and online reviews, and smart marketers need to make sure
they know what is being said."
Does this make Content Syndication and Blogs the next generation
of marketing tools? What it really boils down to is not the
method of how the message gets there, but is the trigger that
determines the purchase. Closely working with your web analytic
partner to keep current with you customer buying cycle will
clearly provide you the answers as to what differentiates the
research stage from a transaction, and how to use that
intelligence to more effectively target this future generation
of consumers, and stay attuned to changes in the current one.
"A Couple of Chicks Distribution Marketing" would like to thank
the students and teachers of Our Lady of Mt Carmel Secondary
School in Mississauga Ontario, for their participation in the
survey and focus group. All information in this article was
reproduced with the permission of those participating. Mt Carmel
has invited "A Couple of Chicks" to return in 2006 to perform a
similar study with the next semester's students.
About the author:
Patricia Brusha and Alicia Whalen are the co-founder's of
www.acoupleofchicks.com , a newly "hatched" Internet Marketing,
Distribution & Revenue Measurement Company. A Couple of Chicks
E-Distribution Marketing specializes in using Creative, on-line
Distribution tactics and tracking Technology to help you reach
your customers. Look for part two of this article series, which
will explore the relevancy of understanding the search process
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