How do day-to-day Britons leverage the Internet to live, work, and entertain themselves?
The most successful brands dedicate themselves to understanding their audience at a deeper level. But how can they accomplish this when consumers interact with brands—and one other—in more and more complex ways?
The internet has ushered in an era of accelerated connection. Although the tools for measuring consumer behaviour are more sophisticated, our interactions with technology are increasingly elaborate and span an array of devices and networks. On top of that, people who grew up in a digital world use technology in entirely different ways to those who were introduced to the internet later in their lives.
How do Brits really use the internet in their day-to-day lives? And how can brands learn from this behaviour to better connect with their audience?
Digital Natives vs. Digital Migrants
Coined in 2001, the term “digital native” refers to people who grew up with the internet—often likened to the millennial age group. Meanwhile “digital migrant” refers to those who have had to learn the language of technology to adapt to a digitally connected world.
Taking a closer look at the differences between digital natives (18 – 34 years old) and digital migrants (35+ years) we find very rich distinctions in how they use the internet to achieve their goals.
In this report, we share exclusive consumer insights from Hitwise, a division of Connexity—pulled during the first quarter of 2016*—to uncover how digital natives and digital migrants use the internet to work, live and play.
For Digital Native, the internet is personal, social, and experience-driven
Digital natives are using the internet to gain instant skills for the digital world, such as computer programming, online advertising and graphic design.
Digital natives are more active in the sharing economy and are very comfortable sharing their home or funding their favourite causes.
Digital natives value experiences over products, and use the internet to seek out local activities such as restaurants, concerts and art galleries.
For Digital Migrants, the internet is practical, entrepreneurial, and a planning tool
Digital migrants are more likely to use the internet to support entrepreneurial pursuits, such as starting a business or becoming self-employed.
Although digital migrants are less likely to participate in the sharing economy overall, they are highly engaged in collaborative investing and lending.
Digital natives use the web as a practical tool to support and plan offline hobbies such as cooking, travel or home and garden.
The digital age has turned the world of work on its head. To maintain a successful career, people of all ages must be adaptable and prepared to “upskill” to remain relevant. This poses a challenge for all generations: younger workers must break into a competitive, globalised economy whilst older professionals need to adjust to an ever-changing digital landscape. Both groups are taking advantage of (and adapting to) technology to support their careers in unique ways.
Work and Web
Like many people in the connected world, people in the UK regularly turn to the internet to ask questions, enhance their abilities and accomplish their goals.
Hitwise found that more than 4.1 million Brits searched “how to” queries in the first 3 months of 2016 and 1.3 million visited an online learning site like FutureLearn, Coursera, or Udemy in that period.
This trend is particularly strong amongst digital natives (18 – 34 year olds), who represent over half of all visits to online learning sites, despite only accounting for one-third of the UK population.
Although all Brits are using the web to develop skills and achieve career goals, there’s a clear distinction between what digital natives and digital migrants are seeking to accomplish.
Digital Natives: Work and Web
Digital Natives are using the internet to develop modern skill sets and build relevant careers in the digital age.
Natives are 3.9 times more likely than Migrants to search for “code” or “coding” when finding online courses.
Digital Migrants: Work and Web
Digital Migrants are conducting more entrepreneurial searches and using the internet to support their path towards self-employment.
Digital Migrants are 62% more likely to search for business courses.
What Can Brands Learn?
Digital natives are adaptable and want to develop relevant skills for a digital world. They also want to use these skills to work for businesses with positive social impact or cause-based organisations. When hiring younger talent, highlight your core values and any positive impact your organisation has had on the community; consider providing knowledge-sharing or other opportunities for digital natives to develop professional skills in-house.
Although digital migrants struggle to take full advantage of technology in the workplace according to PwC, they are using the internet to pursue their own business endeavors. When you think of entrepreneurs, you shouldn’t immediately rule out digital migrants; they show a strong drive to work for themselves, sell products online and start their own ventures.
Both digital migrants and digital natives are using online education to advance their careers; digital natives are more likely to seek out coding tutorials and use skill-sharing networks like Udemy, while digital migrants are more likely to focus on improving their business skills.
The Sharing Economy
From humble beginnings, the sharing economy has emerged as a worldwide movement that continues to shape the global economy. The sharing economy is defined by a peer-to-peer exchange of values such as facilities, money, goods and information.
Sizing Up the Sharing Economy
Today there are around 865 sharing economy companies in the world, according to JustPark research. The UK accounts for 1 in 10 of the world’s sharing economy brands, and 72 of those companies reside in London alone.
Hitwise found sharing economy websites got over 3X the visits in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same time last year.
Not only is the UK a commercial mecca for the sharing industry, British consumers are actively engaging in collaborative consumption. Nesta research estimates that 25% of the UK adult population are sharing online in some way.
The sharing economy has affected many major industries including transportation, travel and retail. We are going to examine two sectors—space sharing and financial sharing—as case studies of how digital natives and digital migrants are engaging with collaborative consumption. Is the sharing economy only relevant to digital natives, who were already raised connecting with their peers online? Maybe not.
Deep Dive: Space Sharing
The space sharing economy refers to people who share or rent spaces such as homes, rooms or offices, to support travelers or people who need a space temporarily. During the first three months of 2016, more than 1.35 million Brits visited a leading space sharing site.
Since 2014, visits to space sharing sites have skyrocketed by 1,718%, led largely by Airbnb.
Who Over-Indexes for Which Sites?
The financial sharing economy allows people to fund, share and distribute money to invest in a chosen venture, cause or project. In the first quarter of 2016 there were over 27 million visits to top financial sharing sites, suggesting a cultural shift towards a more collaborative financial ecosystem.
The number of visits to top financial sharing sites in the UK has doubled over the last three years.
What Can Brands Learn?
The UK sharing economy is growing at an exponential rate. It is imperative for brands to consider how to support and participate in collaborative consumption, rather than compete against it.
Although digital natives are more likely to engage with the sharing economy as a whole, digital migrants are highly engaged with specific sharing sites particularly those around borrowing and lending money. They also have relatively greater buying power, thus represent a huge potential market for sharing economy growth.
Digital natives use the sharing economy to express their values by funding projects they care about, or by offering a weary traveler a couch for the night. In contrast, digital migrants use the sharing economy for practical and commercial purposes to get a business loan or rent a vacation home. Their motivations to use the internet are fundamentally different: to connect and express themselves vs. a practical planning tool.
Online Research, Offline Play
The interplay between online and offline has profoundly affected how Brits do business. It has also greatly affected how people enjoy themselves.
Although digital natives are well-known for spending hours on social media and streaming videos, they don’t only entertain themselves online.
Today’s rise in the experience economy means a sharp increase in demand for experiences that provide stories, memories and photos, which are particularly valuable to digital natives. According to a study conducted by the Drum in partnership with Bauer media, 71% of Brits under 35 agree to the statement: “I’d rather tell people about something I’ve done than something I’ve got.”
Digital Natives are 2.1 times more likely than Digital Migrants to search for things to do in a UK city.
Meanwhile, digital migrants also leverage the web to plan their offline play, though they treat the internet more as a practical tool to support their existing hobbies. Whether it’s finding online recipes, discovering their next vacation cottage or buying gardening supplies, natives use the web to research and plan their favourite offline pastimes, rather than to seeking out novel experiences.
Natives: Experience-Driven Play
Digital Natives drive the “experience economy” by finding and participating in local events, attending art shows, or dining out.
Migrants: A Practical Approach to Play
In contrast, Digital Migrants use the internet for “practical play”, meaning they prepare, research, and develop skills to support the hobbies they enjoy.
What Can Brands Learn?
Although research by Ofcom shows the average amount of time spent online has doubled in the last 10 years, consumers of all ages are still regularly using the web to support offline experiences and entertainment. Brands must ensure their marketing efforts and services seamlessly support consumers who use the internet to plan their offline “play.”
Digital natives spend a lot of time online, but they are also strongly motivated to venture offline for what they perceive as meaningful “experiences”—whether they are cultural, culinary or simply unusual. Experiences are the new currency, and have more social value than products.
Digital migrants may never be “native” to the web, but their penetration rates are extremely high, according to the Office of National Statistics. Digital migrants regularly use the web to support offline hobbies, develop skills they enjoy and plan for their next trip; brands should provide practical, convenient and simple planning tools to support their goals.