When it comes to consumers and their use of technology, Calgary university professor Tom Keenan is regarded as one of the country’s leading experts.
And he doesn’t need to look up vast amounts of research and surveys to answer a question about Canadian Millennials and their use of smartphones versus desktop applications.
He sees it personally every day in his home life and at the University of Calgary. Yes, indeed Millennials are going mobile.
He offers a clear example of this when contacted just the other day.
“We have a 25-year-old Australian girl staying with us. She’s going to be our house-sitter when we’re away. And last night we were cooking a turkey and she said ‘what temperature do I cook it?’,” says Keenan, professor of Environmental Design and Computer Science at the University of Calgary, author of Technocreep, and a Research Fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
“I said ‘gee I don’t know’ and I started going to my computer and within an instant she had got on her phone and said 180 degrees. It was just like a reflex for her. That’s evidence that the phone is wired to her brain.”
One might say that’s a perfect example of what’s taking place today as the shift to mobile use has overtaken society in all demographics but quite noticeably in the ranks of Millennials.
Who are these Millennials that everyone talks about all the time? A report by Environics Analytics found that there were 9.5 million Millennials in Canada in 2015, generally considered to be in the 18-34 age bracket, representing 27 per cent of the total population and 37 per cent of the total labour force.
It also found that 51 per cent of them purchase goods or services on the Internet at least once a month and 73 per cent access social networking daily – the highest percentages of any age bracket. The report says Millennials expect technology to be there and work for them.
According to Statistics Canada, 76 per cent of Canadians overall own a smartphone, 71 per cent a laptop or netbook, 54 per cent a tablet or e-reader and only 50 per cent a desktop computer.
E-Marketer data indicates there are 4.8 million smartphone users in Canada in the 25-34-year-old age bracket and Millennials have the highest percentage of mobile users – 97 per cent for 18-24-year-olds and 97.5 per cent for 25-34-year-olds.
A report by RBC Economics says “this tech-savvy, well-educated and diverse cohort will increasingly determine economic and social trends given their sheer numbers and rising purchasing power. Millennials’ tech savvy is a source of economic clout. The rise of computers, the Internet and then smartphones coincided with Millennials’ early years. For this generation, communicating through mobile devices and social media, engaging in e-commerce and consuming and producing digital content are second nature. These abilities ensure they will have a significant impact on the evolution of Canadian economic activity.”
In this environment, businesses and organizations have to be mobile savvy to reach Millennials with their content and their messages. Having a mobile strategy, optimized mobile assets and mobile-friendly initiatives is critical. They have to make sure their sites load quickly because Millennials are not patient and won’t wait. They will move on in a hurry.
Having a site that is easy to find using search is big too. Some other things to keep in mind: optimize content through a multi-platform approach; personalize the content; be authentic; have a strong social media presence; and invest in good informational blogs.
Keenan says it’s important for companies and for media to give this generation the information they need with no hassles. You have to get right to the point because they’re not going to scroll through pages of stuff.
While an older generation may initially think that they have to go to a computer for information, Millennials will automatically think of their smartphones.
“They have this appendage that they would rather leave the house naked than go out without their smartphone,” says Keenan. “This is always with them. It’s also their camera and their GPS and their everything. It’s their everything device that they carry around with them and it just becomes the easiest thing in the world to look stuff up.”
Quite simply, Millennials don’t even go to a desktop anymore unless they absolutely have to.