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Birth of the M-Agers

by Louisa Thistlethwaite
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Barriers to reaching new generation of M-Agers

In eight years time the business world will be transformed by the emergence of internet savvy ‘M-Agers’ as a vibrant but fragmented new demographic, one that represents both terrific opportunities and enormous threats to those companies seeking to win them over.
 
M-Agers are the children born in 1997 who have never known life without mobile phones and for whom social networking is as natural as breathing. They will celebrate their 21st birthdays in 2018, begin to enter the workforce in large numbers and become economically active.
 
They form part of a wider category identified by Intersperience, the international consumer research specialist, as ‘i-Natives’ and in eight years time they will represent 43% of the UK population. At this point their influence will begin to grow exponentially.
 
M-Agers and i-Natives have been immersed in technology since birth and see no distinction between the physical and virtual worlds. Portable and wireless devices that allow them to play games, watch films, browse online news, share content, blog and interact with social networks are far more important to them than older generations.
 
Of the tech-savvy web users interviewed by Intersperience, nine out of ten i-Natives use social networking sites and share content. The comparative figure for their siblings who might be only seven years older is around 60% and drops to less than 50% for their parents.
 
Even in areas where use of the internet is roughly similar between generations, like shopping, there are significant behavioural differences. Advertising influences the purchasing decisions of i-Natives to a far higher degree. In fact, 39% of i-Natives say recommendations in the media are important to building trust, compared to only 9% of their parents.
 
When searching for information on products, i-Natives are more likely to click on adverts, read articles on newspaper websites or consult friends in chat rooms, whereas older generations tend to search for information via search engines or company websites.
 
While price is a big influencer in the final buying decision of all internet shoppers, issues such as quality of the goods and customer service are of less concern to i-Natives. Neither do they require the same sense of a physical presence from retailers and service providers as more mature web users.
 
They are also much less bothered by worries almost universal to older generations, such as website security and possible misuse of their personal and financial details.
 
One of the ironies is that with this innate ability to exploit the online world, M-Agers and i-Natives are actually fairly apathetic towards the technology. So, for companies marketing products there is a conundrum.
 
The chances are i-Native customers will easily find the goods and services they are promoting online but that without ‘old world’ word-of-mouth, third party endorsement in the traditional media and a buzz created in the social networks they may click through without much of a pause.
 
It is not only marketing tactics that corporates will have to redefine. The demographics of an ageing population inevitably lead to a shrinking pool of talented young leaders and the most go-ahead companies will want to have the best people to take them forward.
 
From 2018 onwards those people will be M-Agers and i-Natives and, as with the way they market to them, companies need to think very seriously about new ways of working with them.
 
Among the defining features of i-Natives is that they question authority and are less comfortable with traditional command and control hierarchical structures.
While it would appear that allowing i-Natives a fair degree of autonomy could pay dividends, it might also be extremely difficult to measure their effectiveness because they are using skills intuitively at a level their managers cannot seriously hope to match – or possibly even fully understand.

   
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