Meet Generation C: The Connected Customer

Marketers, educators, parents, it seems that almost anyone in the Generation X or Boomer demographic is scratching their heads trying to figure out Generation Y aka the Millennial. After all, it’s the first generation to seemingly possess digital prowess as part of their DNA. And, it’s the first generation to receive both a birth certificate and a social profile or presence upon delivery into this world.

A study published in 2011 by security company AVG and Research Now surveyed  2,200 mothers from around the world and found that 81% of children under the age of two currently have some type of digital footprint. 92% of U.S. children have an online presence created for them by the time they are 2 years old. In many cases, a digital presence is born before the child, with sonograms (23%) actively published and shared on social networks and blogs.

With every day that passes, Gen Y becomes far more important to the economy than we can realize. Yet the gap between how Gen Y communicates and connects and how businesses, educators, governments, et al. approach them is only widening. I often wonder whether or not we are simply trying to talk to ourselves in our approach when in reality, we are talking to strangers. This is important as without understanding what’s important to them and why, without learning their behavior or decision making cycles, or without empathy, we cannot reverse engineer nor create a meaningful and engaging journey. We cannot create bridges from where they are to us nor can we expect them to use them.

How well do you know Gen Y?

Here are some interesting points for discovery that get us thinking beyond what we think we know today:

59% update their social status in class.

29% find love through Facebook while 33% are dumped via TXT or Wall posts (SRS) – abbreviation for seriously

Millennials watch TV with two or more electronic devices

Only 11% define having a lot of money as a definition of success

Gen-Y will form 75% of the workforce by 2025 and are actively shaping corporate culture and expectations.

Only 7% of Gen-Y works for a Fortune 500 company as startups dominate the workforce for this demographic. Gen-Y expects larger organizations to hear their voice and recognize their contributions…increasing the need for an intrapreneurial culture.

Millennials trust strangers over friends and family. They lean on UGC for purchases.

They are 3x as likely to follow a brand over a family member in social networks

66% will look up a store if they see a friend check-in

73% have earned and used virtual currency

Gen-Y believes that other consumers care more about their opinions than companies do – that’s why they share their opinions online.

Gen-Y’ers are more connected on Facebook than average users managing a social graph of 696 Facebook friends versus 140.

If knowledge is the key to enlightenment, then perception and imagination are windows to engagement and relevance. We can learn all we want about Millennials, but if we can’t translate that into meaning or substance, we will continue to miss opportunities to build lasting relationships.

The gap isn’t just widening because of the growing pervasiveness of Millennials in our economy. As I introduced in The End of Business as Usual, anyone who places increasing emphasis on technology as part of their daily routine, in many ways, their behavior mimics that of Millennials and as a result, they prove elusive or immune to traditional marketing and service. In the book, I refer to this class of consumer as “the Connected Customer” and their behavior is noticeably dissimilar to that of their traditional counterparts. The connected customer is the stranger you must get to know as in comparison to the customers of the past, this group is only growing and it’s traversing demographics. As such, the connected customer becomes what we can or should now refer to as Generation C where the “C” represents connectedness.

Introducing Gen-C

No longer can we blame it on the youth. We must blame, if anything, the disruption of technology. Nowadays, age ain’t nothing but a number. It is how people embrace technology, from social networks to smartphones to intelligent appliances, that contributes to the digital lifestyle that is now synonymous with Gen-C.

A recent study published by Nielsen brings Generation C into light. In just one image, we can begin to comprehend the disruption of digital revolution on society. Call it the social economy. Call it the mobile or the app economy. Call it the connected economy. Whatever we call it, this incredible transformation that we’re witnessing, is indeed nothing short of a digital revolution.

The Last 10 Years

274 million American have Internet Access, which is more than double that of 2000.

81 billion minutes spent on social networks and blogs

64% of all mobile phone time is spent on apps.

42% of tablet owners use them daily while watching TV.

For the first time, the numbers of laptops have surpassed desktops within TV homes.

Women Rule Gen-C

In 2009, I discovered that in social media, women rule. As you can see in Nielsen’s report, women too rule Gen-C.  Specifically, they rule social media and online video and TV viewership. With smartphones, men and women are tied in adoption. With tablets however, men rule.

Gen-C, By the Numbers

If you compare Nielsen’s graphic with that of IBM’s research on Social CRM, you can appreciate the full dimension of Gen-C as every demographic, in their own way, is adopting disruptive technology. And, it’s only becoming greater.

Platforms for Digital Access

Every digital experience has its springboard. Whether it’s a PC, tablet, smartphone, and soon, a connected TV, our ability to every platform unifies the 5-C’s of engagement, create, connect, consume, communicate, and contribute.

274.2 million Americans have Internet access

169.6 million visit social networks and blogs

165.9 million people watch video on a PC

70% of time using tablets is spent while at home versus 30% on the go

Content accessed on tablets is 1) News at 39%, 2) Sports at 34%, and Books at 31%

On smartphones, 117.6 million visit the Internet

App usage peaks at 5 p.m. among adults

Smartphones are used by 44% of all mobile subscribers in the U.S.

Video Continues to Kill the Radio Star: Engagement is Cross Platform

Nielsen found that consumers increased their online video consumption by 7% from Q3 2010 to Q3 2011. As you can see in theimage below, online and mobile video consumption is significant.

Younger demographics watch less TV and watch video more online and on mobile devices.

With each generation, TV viewership rises with age.

Connected Customers are Multitaskers

Nielsen also shared the engagement habits and online activity of connected customers. As consumers watch a program, they are online with 1) 57% checking email, 2) 44% surfing the web, and 3) another 44% social networking.

When asked what they were doing while online during TV, some very interesting answers emerged. 29% looked up programming information related to the show. 19% looked up product information related to an ad. And, 16% looked up coupons or deals related to the ad.

The Top 5 Sites Visited While Watching TV

1. Facebook

2. Youtube

3. Zynga

4. Google

How Gen-C Spends their Connected Time

On PC’s and mobile devices, Gen-C is always on. Nielsen found that during October 2011, Youtube was the top destination for all online video content, accounting for nearly half (45%) of American’s total streaming time.

Social networking represents 21.3% of all time spent online using PCs.

Online gaming accounts for 7.7%

Email, in many ways still the largest social network in the world, represents 6.5%

55.8% of mobile phone time is spent in miscellaneous apps, with Angry Birds most likely accounting for a notable share of that time (just kidding).

Text messaging continues to test the limits of thumb dexterity and the ability to find new ways to abbreviate our vocabulary at 13.4%

Browser usage represents 11.1%

Social networking equals 5.5%

Interesting that email and IM are among the bottom of all mobile functions at 5.3%.

From e-commerce to Mobile Commerce

As Nielsen and so many other research reports herald, mobile commerce is influencing transactions and decisions. Mobile is just one of the many channels for emerging commerce including social, F-commerce, and more importantly, syndicated commerce. 29% of of mobile consumers use their phone for shopping-related activities and more than 50% visit daily deal sites daily.

Mobile shopping activities include:

38% compare prices online while in shopping in a store.

38% browse products through websites or apps.

32% read online reviews of products.

24% search for or use online coupons.

22% have purchased a product.

22% scan barcodes for product or price information.

18% use location-based services to find retail locations.

My favorite state isn’t related to what people are doing, but what they would do if businesses innovated in their approach to commerce.

27% of male and 22% of female consumers would use their mobile phone to make payments in restaurants and shops if they could.

This is an EmerGen-C

Connected customers or Gen-C is only becoming more pervasive in society and ultimately your economy. If you look back at the Gen-Y behavior list and replace the words “Millennial” or “Gen-Y” with “Connected Customer” or “Gen-C,” the similarities are uncanny. Now’s the time to recognize how your customer landscape is shifting and to what extent traditional and connected consumers discover and make decisions differently. The customer journey is far more complex than ever before, where new touchpoints not only emerge, they introduce a new customer journey.

With connected customers, decision making is no longer signified by a simple funnel, nor can business models support decision making before, during, and post transaction across these distributed, but connected platforms. This is a time for augmented engagement strategies to cater to different types of customers differently not only based on behavior, but also based on their expectations, needs, and also the platform they use to connect, communicate, and make decisions.

Please consider ordering The End of Business as Usual today…

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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