Youth: the fickle but powerful demographic in tech

Though often overlooked, we discuss the youth consumer, who is perhaps the most powerful demographic for mass consumer tech products development.
To truly be on the cutting edge ICT/tech requires money. For example, when Google Glass was all the rage in 2013, to be one of the lucky few to own it would set you back USD 1,500. Further, for those of us who fantasise about owning the latest flagship smartphone from one of the top brands, you are likely to spend at least USD 650, if it is not subsidised by your telephone company.

It therefore means that the individuals who can, for example, afford such devices, might not necessarily be just a working adults, but are persons who enjoy a certain spending power. However, does that demographic really drive the new features and capabilities that are being developed for today’s mass consumer tech products, or even the development of new products? The short answer is no.

To a considerable degree, the youth population (who, using the United Nations standard, are between the ages of 15 and 24 years old) is typically seen as the early adopters of technology and an important focus group of product developers. It is usually that age group that initially drives many of the crazes that eventually enjoy mass consumer appeal: Angry Birds, FarmVille or Candy Crush, anyone?

A symbiotic process

Essentially, manufacturers and developers are continually taking their cues on design and usage trends from the younger consumers, who have no difficulty assimilating their latest releases and challenging them to push the envelope farther, for example, to make devices lighter, more compact, more user friendly, with more features, etc.

On the other hand, young consumers are looking for products that cater to their needs and lifestyle. More importantly, they tend to be more willing to explore technology, adopt what they like, and reject what is not working for them. Hence although brand and price point might be important to some, for the majority of youth consumers, the emphasis is on whether or not the device, such as a phone, works with who they are, and their life at the present moment.

Further, unlike the more mature consumer who might remain loyal to a product though they complain bitterly about it, the younger consumer is likely to shift – change loyalties – to other brands that better fits their needs. This is what keeps companies on their toes.

The young, hip smartphone

To emphasise the importance of the young consumer, increasingly, companies are developing products specifically for them. For example, late last year Samsung released its Samsung Galaxy A3 and A5 smartphones, which are specifically geared to that demographic, which tends to be active and prolific social media users. Hence in addition to having an all-metal case and a slim profile, the phone is designed for taking selfies, with features such as:

  • a 5MP front-facing camera to take selfies and “groupies”
  • the ability to take “wide selfies”, due to a 120 degrees wide shooting angle
  • the ability to take a picture, either by speaking, or using your palm
  • Beauty Face, which allows edits to be made on the images without having to use a separate image editing application.

Though the video above might show youth as ‘a young, hip bunch’, it is important to emphasise the smartphone makers are not the only ones clamouring for their attention. Increasingly, our own policy makers are being more proactive in ensuring that the needs of that demographic are addressed, In relation to tech, and over the past few years there have been several workshops, conferences and symposia, with a strong youth interest. There are also been numerous app development competitions, in which most, if not all, of the participants are from that demographic. In summary, all of these efforts are an active way of engaging Caribbean youth to produce content relevant and important to them, and ensure that their own voice can be heard.


Image credit:  See-ming Lee (flickr)