Millennials and the rise of social media

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New Delhi | Published: April 2, 2018 10:49:35 PM

Gen Z and millennials interact more through phones and apps than in real life. What does this entail for brands?

social media, ecommerce industryIndia’s e-commerce websites are getting crowded and the biggest chunk of new shoppers is coming from smaller cities.

If one is observant while commuting to work, they would notice that there are different kinds of people around them. But amidst all differences, the one thing that is common is that nine out of 10 people will be either looking down at their cell phone, scrolling through the Facebook news feed or talking with somebody on a call or a messenger app. People have become so wrapped up in new technology that we have forgotten to engage and interact with each other face-to-face.

Research states that more than 65% of millennials and gen Z communicates with each other more digitally than personally. The younger generation is more reliant on phone and apps, and messaging is much more popular, even more than calling. Gone are the times when people would struggle to communicate. Now with the onset of technology and rapid development of the internet, gen Z has higher options to communicate and express themselves.

Virtual communication

Data shows that gen Z and millennials interact mainly through phones and apps — from communicating about their basic necessities to choosing entertainment options. Thanks to the digitally savvy generation, it is now easier than ever to reach them through social media and online platforms. Mostly youngsters sleep with their handset within an arm’s reach and check it every time they wake up during the night — that is how entrenched a cellular device has become in their lives.

Mobile has also become the new wallet. Research shows that 61.8% of the global population would rather leave their wallet at home instead of their phone. Almost 99% of the shopping today is done online where brands are forced to create more realistic experiences for this new wave of online shoppers. After technology being readily available for gen Z at their fingertips, they now expect a higher threshold of digital convenience from brands.

Most of generation Z has used the internet since a young age, and they are generally comfortable with technology and interacting on social media. Generation Z is also seen as a generation that is socially awkward and has made the virtual world the new society. They would rather have a digital conversation than a real-life discussion in many instances. Digital has, in fact, become the new ‘in real life’ for the current generation.

A similar kind of research also showed that millennials were more inclined to retaining their messaging app when given a choice between calling and texting. Studies have also shown that gen Z is even reluctant or nervous when it comes to answering phone calls. They want people to gauge if the conversation truly requires an interpersonal chat or if it can be done over messages. Only when the discussion includes multiple dimensions is when they prefer face-to-face interaction to gauge the right tonality; since texts are sometimes not interpreted correctly. Gen Z are also seen to be more proactive over messages than on call and their attention can be better captivated via interactive applications.

Hidden benefits

The internet and social media provide young people with a range of benefits and opportunities to empower themselves in a variety of ways. Young people can maintain social connections and support networks that otherwise would not be possible, and can access more information than ever before. The communities and social interactions that young people have online can be invaluable for bolstering and developing self-confidence of youngsters.

India has a large and growing millennial population — young and tech-savvy consumers — with rising disposable incomes. About 600 million people (more than half of India’s population) are under 25 years of age. The Indian digital media segment is set for disruption with growth expected to reach Rs 200 billion by 2020 with digital ad spend expected to grow at 23-28%. Smartphone penetration in India is expected to grow to 520 million by 2020, making India one of the largest smartphone economies in the world. Broadband penetration will increase from 14% today to 40% by 2020.

India’s e-commerce websites are getting crowded and the biggest chunk of new shoppers is coming from smaller cities. In 2017, the number of monthly active shoppers on Indian e-commerce portals rose 33% year-on-year to 20 million. Moreover, content is emerging as a key factor in India’s intensely competitive OTT video streaming market. Online video consumption in India has shown a growth of nearly five times over the last 12 months.
Gen Z and millennials get more access and time to interact through phone and apps than in real life, and is a direct result of the fast development of mobile internet. Businesses in the media and entertainment ecosystem who adapt to this change will emerge successful. The market is rapidly rising in India offering many opportunities in design and app. But opportunities come from users’ pain points. Product is the first priority followed by user acquisition, especially in the case of gen Z and millennial users.

Jason Wang is managing director, SHAREit India

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