The way people access information is constantly changing. The invention of the printing press saw books made available to huge swathes of the population who previously had no access, and the dawn of the World Wide Web has driven information consumption into overdrive. And it’s still growing. In January 2015, the total digital universe amounted to 212 million consumers in the U.S., a 6% increase on 2014.
Each generation grew up with a different technology. Many in their thirties will likely not have had a computer in their school, while many of those leaving high school today will have had ready access to tablets, laptops, smartphones, and all manner of learning aids. The Millennial Media Report interrogated the relationship that each generation has with technology and how they are accessing the information they need online. The report looked at three age groups - Millennials (adults aged 18-34), Generation X (35-54), and Baby Boomers (55+) - drawing a number of insights which could be leveraged by businesses looking to target their promotional vehicles on various platforms.
The rise of mobile should come as no surprise to anyone, with seemingly everyone on the street now glued to their smartphone. This is particularly true of Millennials, who are abandoning desktop devices in their droves. The way Millennials divide their time online, according to the report, is balanced heavily in favor of mobile devices. They access the internet through their smartphone 59% of the time. Meanwhile, 31% access the internet through the PC, and just 10% of the time do they do it through a tablet. Twenty percent of millennials access the internet exclusively using mobile technology, compared with 9% of Generation Xers and just 4% of Baby Boomers.
The way people use their phones has changed greatly too, with the trend currently for screens sized between 5 and 6 inches. The market grew by 161% last year, while demand for those with 3-4 inch screens dropped 49%. It is now far easier - not to mention a better experience - to watch television on a phone. Time on TV grew 56% for tablets, and 2.5 times this rate for smartphones.
The increasing preference for mobile has massive implications across a number of industries, and is something that marketers in particular cannot ignore. In a number of lifestyle categories, including food, games, and weather, an overwhelmingly large amount accessed related content by smartphone rather than tablet or PC. This was true across the generations, but more so for those aged between 18 and 34. Among them, 84% use mobile to search for food related content, while just 60% of Baby Boomers do so. Retail, on the other hand, is far more evenly balanced across the demographics. Adults aged 18-34 used desktops and mobiles to an equal degree in order to access things they search for about retail.
This focus on mobile is only set to increase, with room for growth in a number of industries that have yet to harness it. A category like Business Finance, for example, is still searched for through a desktop in 68% of cases, which may be because it is traditionally work related and most people have desktops in their office. However, with have a mobile optimized site now written in law by Google for continued existence on its platform, and young people growing up and getting more of a steady income, keep track of what platforms are being used and by who is an integral part of keeping a competitive edge.