Digital Natives: Not they're all clicked to be

Since the term was coined in 2001, the marketing and advertising industries have often told clients to prioritise their appeal to Digital Natives. As the first generation exposed to digital technology from an early age they are often assumed to be the true pioneers of digital adoption, behaviour and much of the spend. However, new analysis from Kantar Media’s TGI Clickstream – an in-depth study of consumer offline and online behaviour and characteristics - disproves that these 15-24 year olds are the true Digital Natives.

Video of TGI Director Anne Benoist explaining Digital Natives at a recent industry conference (2 mins).

In fact adults in Britain aged between 15 and 24 years old are no more likely than other age groups to participate in a variety of key digital behaviours. For example, while just under 30% of these traditionally-defined Digital Natives have paid to download an app, this is almost identical to the proportion of 35-44 year olds who have done likewise. These older adults are also significantly more likely than Digital Natives to have bought a range of products or services online.

The TGI Clickstream analysis found that the best predictor of pioneering digital behaviour is not age but the consumer’s fundamental amount and mix of economic and cultural capital (cultural capital defined as general knowledge acquired through education and cultural practices) that consumers possess.

Grouped under the title of Social DNA, these two types of capital provide a far better predictor of digital behaviour, allowing marketers to identify likely behaviours and dispel the myth of the age-defined Digital Native as the natural leader in all areas.

Thus when it comes to buying holidays or travel online, TGI Clickstream reveals that Digital Natives are actually 22% less likely to do so than the average internet user. Conversely, adults aged 35-64 with high Social DNA (meaning large amounts of cultural and economic capital) are 65% more likely than the average internet user to make such purchases online.

Anne Benoist comparing Digital Natives to older adults with high Social DNA (90 seconds).

This is not simply driven by this older group enjoying higher financial clout. The same 35-64 year old group with only a strong bias towards high cultural (not economic) capital is still 43% more likely to buy holidays and travel online than the average internet user.

The same pattern can be seen when it comes to the online purchase of various goods and services. Digital Natives are only 8% more likely than the average internet user to buy music or videos online, whereas 35-64 year olds with high Social DNA are 52% more likely than the average to do so.

Anne Benoist revealing older adults with high Social DNA more likely to buy a range of products and services online (60 seconds).

Anne Benoist, Director, TGI Insights and Integration, Kantar Media, comments ‘It is crucial that marketers recognise that the truly valuable digital consumers are not simply young adults, or they are likely to see little return on their targeting efforts. To truly identify and leverage those consumers who are most engaged with digital and particularly lucrative in a digital environment, it is necessary to get away from notions of age and instead consider the key drivers dictating how consumers make decisions’.