Why are millennials so mobile?

February 23, 2014

When it comes to marketing to millennials, one thing that makes this interesting demographic (defined as 18- to 34-year-olds) unique is its vastly different digital media consumption habits.

Nearly any way you look at the data, millennials are more open to embrace and more inclined to engage on mobile devices than their older counterparts. However, it’s not simply that a greater percentage of millennials use mobile, although that certainly is true. What is most remarkable is the share of 18- to 34-year-olds that are mobile-only users — an extraordinary 18 percent in November 2013. That’s nearly one in five millennials that do all of their Internet browsing, e-mailing, Google searching, social networking and online news reading on a smartphone or tablet. In comparison, only 5 percent of 35- to 54-year-olds and 3 percent of those 55 and older access the Internet via mobile devices only.

Given the relatively recent introduction of the smartphone, the degree to which millennials have adopted the device is astounding. More than four out of every five millennials own a smartphone, compared with just two out of three 35- to 54-year-olds and two out of five of those 55 or older. While smartphones have gradually become a mass market product, millennials have been especially eager to adopt this now-essential gadget.

So what is it about mobile technology that millennials are so quick to integrate it into their daily lives? Why are they so much more mobile than adults age 35 and older? Most likely it has to do with the fact that this generation grew up in the age when the Web came into existence and evolved into what we know it as today. One must understand that millennials have had to adjust their technology habits their whole lives, whether it was from dial-up to broadband, AOL away messages to Facebook statuses, or desktop devices to mobile devices. The bottom line is that millennials are used to adapting their technology habits to suit what is most useful or convenient for them, and it just so happens that mobile devices are the ultimate technology of convenience. Smartphones and tablets allow you access to nearly all information and online content at any time. Over many years, millennials have come to expect — even depend on — having information at their fingertips. Mobile finally provides us with just that.

This is why when it comes to mobile, and digital media consumption in general, millennials truly are a different breed. While they make up a large portion of the total screen time now, you can expect their behaviors to become even more mainstream going forward.

Adam Lella is a marketing insights analyst for ComScore, a Reston-based company that measures what people do digitally. This commentary is adapted from a post he wrote for the company’s “Insights” blog.

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