Tech Nation: how technology is redefining consumer groups

Forget the geek clich├ęs, it's time to embrace technology as a new definer of consumer groups, writes Liz McMahon, UK head of Kantar Media Custom.

Tech Nation: how technology is redefining consumer groups

The ways in which brands can target and communicate with consumers have evolved massively in the past 20 years, not least with the advent of digital media and the rapid penetration of technology into our everyday lives. The ways in which we communicate with each other and keep ourselves informed and entertained has diverged across platforms and devices, making content much more accessible and controllable for the consumer.

Yet how we define and understand the audiences for brands has not necessarily changed to keep pace. The traditional demographics we use to segment and understand consumers can feel outdated when used in isolation. Just look at the huge interest generated by the BBC’s take on social classes, released earlier this year. We need to find new ways of looking at people, and classifying the nation, that are helpful to clients and agencies and can be used across different sectors and brands.

Tech Nation is a new study that does just that.

A research programme devised by Newsworks in partnership with Kantar Media, it presents a more modern way of looking at people – through their ownership of, attitudes to and use of technology. The study, which involves analysis of 24,000 TGI Clickstream panellists, combined with ethnographic and omnibus research, investigates consumers’ attitudes to technology, the devices they own, purchase journeys and media consumption.

Everyone needs technology as part of their social interaction, shopping and entertainment. It is no longer a luxury or niche interest.

There has long been a view that technology is the preserve of the young. Typically, we associate those who are most engaged and best-equipped as young, perhaps slightly geeky, men. Tech Nation dispels this myth. Today everyone needs technology as part of their social interaction, shopping and entertainment. It is no longer a luxury or niche interest.

What’s also interesting is the way in which more recent developments such as the tablet have been taken up by a broader and older audience than we’ve seen with other technologies in the past. At the same time, developments in TV have particularly caught the imagination of family age groups. Our study demonstrates that engagement with technology reaches far outside the "digital-native" generation.

The study has wide application across brands and the way in which we reach different audiences. The relationship between media and technology is a close one; Tech Nation adds a new dimension to planning across all sectors.

There are five groups defined by their use of and attitude to technology:

Tech Rich – have a passion for technology and a lust for the latest device. They use technology across all aspects of their lives, like to talk about it and even use it in part to define themselves. Not surprisingly, this is an affluent group, but they are spread across all ages; in fact 70% are over 35 and 40% are women. Online media are clearly a good route to reach them and this is the group most likely to consume news online.

Social Addicts – it’s all about communication and being connected, wedded to their phone and highly active on social media. Mobile devices are constantly, habitually checked. This is the youngest segment, although 43% are still aged 35 or older.

TV Worshippers – TV plays a central role in their lives, but they’re not necessarily couch potatoes or just those with more time on their hands. They are, however, prepared to invest in both the kit and subscriptions to get good-quality entertainment at the heart of family life. Clearly TV is a good way to reach them, but they also index highly on popular news brands.

Quality Seekers – here you will find the typical John Lewis customer. They’ll wait until the technology has been tried and tested, but are prepared to pay for quality and it will be a well-considered and researched purchase. Not surprisingly, they index highly on quality news-brand titles.

Price Pragmatists – the least-well-equipped, in part due to financial constraints, but they typically have a low interest in technology anyway. Only one in five has a smartphone. Yet this group spans all ages; 25% of them are 16-34. This partly confounds the idea that the young can be reached only via social media; for the younger price pragmatists, traditional media routes may well be more effective.

This classification demonstrates how technology has penetrated everyone’s lives: young, old, affluent or financially squeezed. By including technology ownership and attitudes, we’ve introduced a new dimension and understanding to plan upon. And, as the data used to create these segments is drawn from TGI Clickstream, we can profile brands and their target audiences in new terms. In particular, preconceptions about digital natives and young male technophiles have been challenged. To a greater or lesser degree, we are all geeks nowadays.