Mobile and Minors – Is the Interaction Meaningful?

Take a minute to think about how mobile technology has penetrated the lives of minors. Everything from how teens communicate, consume and share content, to how a 3 year old can play a Barney game or watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. While there are obviously broader considerations of marketing strategies for minors, let’s look at how minors are beginning to affect the mobile marketing landscape.

User Experience Considerations

The best way to realize the impact mobile devices have had on the lives of our younger generation is through a simple comparison – 19 percent of kids ages 2 to 5 years can successfully play with a smartphone app, while only 9 percent of them know how to actually tie their own shoes. This simple stat says a tremendous amount about the evolution of mobile technology and minors. From a UX perspective, it starts with navigation – children always jump straight to the characters and the digital divide does not slow them down. Swipes, wheels, and selectors are intuitive to where kids just figure it out. Scrollers begin to trip them up and slow down the experience. Take it a step further and think about teen usage – speed becomes key. A teen’s ability to rapidly navigate from texting to video apps to general web usage highlights both behavior patterns and interface considerations.

Main implication: Overall, how minors interact on mobile provides great insight and considerations for future design and experience decisions. Certainly there are unique aspects that are minor specific, but there are definite overall themes coming out that will continue to impact mobile interactions in the future.

Content and Strategy

One of the best aspects of mobile and minors currently is the fact that short bursts of content closely match that attention span of minors. Looking at the considerations with children, mobile video has been the first big win. Whether it’s previously downloaded kid-focused content stored on the device or a simple search on YouTube, mobile video was the initial focus with children and will continue to grow significantly. Teens are a whole different market in that they are a great cross section that hits everything from apps to content to text to social integration.

How does this relate to the broader mobile market? Gaming is a great example. Mobile gaming continues to evolve with the intersection of casual gaming and location-based services. This trend is now expanding into minors. Toyota recently rolled out its new kid-focused mobile gaming app called Backseat Driver. The app makes riding in the car a fun experience for kids by allowing them to drive along with their parents. Backseat Driver uses the GPS on the phone to create a virtual driving route that mirrors the actual road and integrates real world landmarks into the game. Kids are awarded points for steering the car correctly and collecting objects on the virtual road – the points can then be redeemed for in-game car customizations. Additionally, the app is important because it provides both a link between the parent and child in their interaction, as well as a real world understanding of directions and landmarks.

Main implication: Brands can create content and apps that raise brand visibility by appealing to children though offering rewards, badges, and other content that is very kid-friendly. These interactions give parents a way to entertain their kids when needed (i.e., long drives), can provide a closer link between parent and child, and can create new marketing and branding opportunities.

Device Considerations

The influence of minors on mobile certainly extends past the app and web and is having a real impact on physical devices. Probably the most notable past example was the introduction of the iPod Touch – the penetration speed was amazing with minors. For low cost, they quickly got a wireless device they could easily customize as their own, download apps, and consume content (originally music driven). This rapid adoption showed the importance of the physical device, and we are now in a transitional state for devices being influenced by usage and demographic trends.

On one side, we’ve seen the growth and investment in non-cellular mobile gaming devices, specifically the Sony PSP and the Nintendo DS. As these devices have advanced, they have increased in capabilities by progressively pulling in media, social, and content broader than gaming thus increasing their overall appeal. Also important is the introduction of 3D with the DS in portable form. Conversely, the smart phone may be a killer for these platforms. Casual gaming continues to grow rapidly and is simple to consume on a smartphone. Nintendo just announced that DS sales are lower than expected resulting in price cuts for the DS. Additionally, while smartphone penetration is still low overall in the minor market, it is increasing and will continue to do so as prices decrease.

Main implication: We’re in a traditional state with devices. This is probably best represented in Sony’s hybrid Xperia Play– a PlayStation certified smartphone, with Android, regular smartphone features, and the addition of a genuine gaming control and content to match. This device is an important integration and will be a stepping stone as smartphones continue to become broader in their functionality and penetration.

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