Brainstorming about the future of digital consumption can leave you overwhelmed by the possibilities, but data released from YouGov--a global research and consulting organization--sheds some light on the emerging expectations of today's youth. The study found that nearly one in two children, aged 8-15, feel that access to online content and downloads should be free.
Having been raised in the digital world these kids enjoy consuming content on their own terms and are typically limited only by financial means. Their consumption habits can positively affect perceived social status as well, particularly for those whom obtain access to content prior to their peers. So how can businesses compete with the expectation of free content while also boosting their bottom lines, especially as these younger consumers grow into a larger buyer role?
Matt Pfluger, VP of digital strategy at the Pennsylvania-based marketing agency, Garfield Group, says, "Just because there is an expectation for free content right out of the gate, doesn't mean there isn't an opportunity to make money on content produced in the future." In fact, upselling can be extremely profitable. Or as Pfluger describes it, offering "content within content."
Take the smashingly-sweet success of the popular gaming app, Candy Crush, for example. By conservative estimates, the game's daily revenue hovers around $1 million. And just how did the company manage that with a free gaming app? Well, it paired the free content with paid upgrades, like additional lives and boosters that offered faster game progression. Early adopters thrived on the discovery process; that is, being the first of their contemporaries to see what the next level held, and earning the bragging rights to boot.
Sandra Rodriguez, communications director of Capital Workforce Partners, an organization that works closely with youth entering the Connecticut workforce, says today's 8-15 year olds are already proving to be more innovative and entrepreneurial than the iconic Baby Boomer generation was in the 70s and 80s. Because of those traits, marketing tactics must change drastically.
"Very few traditional communications approaches will be applicable in the next 10-20 years," says Rodriguez. "Marketing will need to shift to short, but structured and sequential campaigns." She believes that traditional advertising will be completely hedged out by the draw of instantaneous, interactive content.
While opportunities in subtle product placement advertising will still exist, "future consumers will not be ‘sold' -- they will want to prove their smarts through self-discovery," says Rodriguez.
In order to prepare for the changes, businesses will need to undergo a significant mind-shift regarding the role of online content, particularly free content. Ken Herron, global marketer, All Business Radio Network show host, and MobileGroove contributing editor, says that businesses that can withstand such a transition will fare better going forward. They will need to "adapt their business model to use the online content as a marketing expense for higher-value content, which may include off-line content as well."
Additionally, businesses should perform a root cause analysis to understand exactly why the younger generations are reluctant to purchase content from them. Those reasons will identify the marketing shifts that need to occur. For example, if the content is perceived as too expensive, Herron recommends businesses counter that by "enabling social-driven volume discounts - i.e. get two friends to buy the same song, and it's half price for all of them."
Or if young consumers are still hesitant to purchase content, pre-selling holds promise. With the rise of crowdfunding sites, it's an increasingly appealing way to seek early buy-in from consumers, who gain exclusive perks in exchange for their contributions. So while they may not be willing to pay for the actual content, they'll pay just to gain the social standing related to those proprietary perks. This proved successful in the fundraising efforts to bring Veronica Mars, to the big screen. In just one month, producers raised nearly $6 million and support from over 90,000 backers - a full year before the original content was released.
As consumer expectations continue to evolve, Herron says businesses should be ready to adapt content strategies rapidly-or even radically. They'll need to entertain alternative monetization strategies and distribution channels as they become available and constant reassessment of marketing strategies will become mandatory to stay relevant.
While this process will undoubtedly be cumbersome, it's the wave of the future. Rodriguez reminds us why the efforts to reach these generations are worthwhile: "The more [young consumers] understand about products and services and have input into the process, the more likely they are to be influencers in the buying community. Young people will buy what young people create and sell."