The blog

Discover smart tips, personal stories and our take on the latest marketing trends
9 May 2012

Belgian digital natives grounded in the brick & mortar world!’ is a Belgian platform that aims to inform youth workers and teachers about youngsters and their new media usage. They recently conducted an extensive research in collaboration with the University of Ghent to gain insights in how kids (9 – 12 years old, N=286) and young adults (12 – 18 years old, N=1495) deal with these ‘new media’. One can read the full research here.

However, the presented results are not only useful for youth workers and teachers. They are indispensable to review for every marketer to gain insights in the digital behavior of the young generation Y. In this short review one can find a few key figures and some critical reflections.


Multi-purpose devices as personal access to the world.

Young adults claim to watch at least 2 hours TV per day, surf the internet for an additional 2 hours, game for 1 hour, send 71 SMS’s on average and perform 2 phonecalls. The interesting part about these conclusions is that generation Y does not necessarily use respectively a TV, computer, game console or GSM to perform the abovementioned actions. The computer and GSM have become true multi-purpose devices (e.g. Internet, listening to music, watching videos, chat, email, sms, phone, social networking, gaming). In summary, young adults want 1 device that is able to perform multiple tasks, preferably at the same time. Interestingly, 89% of young adults consider their GSM to be a very personal device as they report to ‘never want to share it with others’. So even with young adults their mobile phone is considered to be the most personal communication channel of all. An interesting given for marketers who are experimenting with targeted mobile advertising.

Untapped marketing potential behind technology and price barriers

A smartphone is defined as a GSM that allows the user to access the Internet. Research showed that 81% of young adults own a smartphone (especially the cheaper models from Samsung and Nokia). However, this does not mean they can surf online. Only 33% uses his smartphone to access mobile Internet and 29% uses his smartphone to access social networks. The main reasons for these low percentages are: price of mobile data subscription (45%) and a too slow mobile internet connection (45%). If we look at these numbers from a distance we can state there exists a high willingness to be connected through mobile devices by young adults, but they feel restricted by external factors like price and technology. This probably also explains the low number of Twitter users in that age category (20%).

Obviously there is a huge potential for telco providers to assemble mobile data subscription packages specifically targeted at young adults. Additionally they can be a very critical, but appropriate test audience for new mobile technologies such as 4G, hotspots and peer-to-peer networks.

Favorite online communication channels identified.

Unsurprisingly, Facebook and Youtube are two of the most favourite websites visited by young adults and kids. Facebook is especially used for communicating with their network (creating content and conversations). This can take place in various formats: chatting, social gaming, webcam chat, etc. Youtube is mainly used to consume content. Important for marketers to know is that approximately 1 out of 3 young adults are friends with brands or organizations. In this context it is legit to mention that this research did not ask whether they are actively communicating with them. Moreover no questions were asked about their satisfaction level and type of conversation they are having with these brands or organizations.

Conclusion:  Belgian digital natives grounded in the brick & mortar world

In conclusion, the people we believe to be ‘digital natives’ may not be so digital after all because of external factors limiting them in their potential. It is the new marketer’s opportunity to target these generation Y youngsters with the appropriate marketing mix in order to let them reach their full potential. From a customer-centric point of view it would be recommended for telecom providers to join forces with brands and to develop e.g. a branded tailormade offering for these young adults. They should be given access to modern technologies in a way that fits them best. If we consider price as being a main influencer of the purchase decision of a mobile data subscription it might be an option to exchange data and customer insights for free mobile data. Therefore a change in the current mindset and innovative business model thinking is required.