Digital behaviour: generational differences


Following our exclusive preview of the GlobalWebIndex Teens report back in April, we are pleased to be able to share another sneak peek of GWI’s next upcoming audience research report, this time looking at Millennials (those aged 16-30 in 2013), Generation X (31-50 in 2013) and Baby Boomers (51-64 in 2013).

The report shows, as one might expect, that Millennials form the largest share of Internet users 16-64 (48.5%) globally, while Baby Boomers account for just over a tenth of the total 16-64 online population. Generation X is solidly represented, accounting for between a third and half of users in almost all markets.

However, it’s worth noting that these figures can vary significantly between regions, particularly for Millennials and Baby Boomers. North America for instance, has a much higher percentage of Internet users in the Boomer group, relating to the older populations in the USA and Canada. At a country level this variation is even more pronounced – in Malaysia 65% of Internet users are Millennials, and just 2% are Boomers. Here in the UK, we’re at the other end of the spectrum as one of the countries with the smallest proportions of Millennial Internet users.

When looking for insights about particular demographic groups, it’s important not only to understand user numbers, but also deeper behaviours and attitudes, and the GWI report provides a fascinating glimpse into the actions and outlook of each generation. For example, being connected at all times is vital for Millennials, with the group strongly over indexing for feeling more insecure without their mobile than their wallet. It makes sense, then, that Millennials are also the biggest users of the mobile Internet. Generation X consider themselves affluent, but also prudent when it comes to money – which is good news for online retailers considering that, of all the groups, they are most likely to purchase online.

The report also provides evidence of the increasing convergence of media – second screening is now a universal behaviour across generations – highlighting the need for marketers to coordinate their efforts across platforms in order to target these key audiences. The number one online activity for Generation X and Millennials is watching video clips and, for Millennials more so than any other group, watching movies, TV and streaming music is commonplace, further exemplifying the blurring of lines between content consumption channels.

It’s clear that the changing Internet and social media landscape is impacting consumer behaviour and understanding this evolution can highlight useful and sometimes surprising trends, challenging our preconceptions of particular generations. If you’d like to find out more, you can download the summary of the Generations report here.