Mix of Generation Y and X singles who live digital-driven, urban lifestyles
With the first wave of Generation Yers now in their twenties and early thirties, many have begun to leave the nest and start independent lives and families. That’s the story of Digital Dependents, a segment where nine out of ten households are under 35 years old. These Americans tend to be single, white and educated, with a majority having gone to college. Many hold jobs in sales and the service sector, providing modest incomes that let them live in a mix of apartments, condos and homes. Most have settled in second-tier cities across the country, but they show little intention to stay for any length of time. These households are accustomed to moving frequently, in the constant search for more money and better living arrangements. In Digital Dependents, more than two-thirds have lived at the same address for fewer than three years.
Having grown up with ubiquitous telecommunications, these individuals revel in multitasking lifestyles that allow them to bounce between cell phones and iPods, laptops and video games. They’re into athletics, whether it’s playing a pickup basketball or volleyball game or working out by lifting weights or taking a yoga class. They have active social lives, going out to bars, theaters, cinemas and billiards halls. If they stay in, it’s typically to go online or play a video game. There’s not a gaming console sold in America that they don’t own at more than twice the national average; they may even own a few sold only in Japan.
In the marketplace, Digital Dependents have champagne tastes with six-pack budgets. They follow the fashion magazines to check out the latest styles, but they typically go to discount clothiers or the clearance racks in more upscale shops. Those who can afford cars - nearly half are without wheels - tend to buy inexpensive subcompacts, though they like imports for the cachet of a foreign brand. Where they won’t compromise is on electronics. The first generation raised with digital media, they describe themselves as early tech adopters who want the latest wireless device that will support their lifestyle of constant motion. While they have little interest in buying through catalogs - so last century - they will go online to buy consumer electronics, toys and books without a second thought. When it comes to electronics, their friends come to them for advice on what’s hot.
With so much of their free time spent online, Digital Dependents have drastically cut back on more traditional media. It’s hard to find a member who subscribes to a newspaper or more than a couple magazines. They’ll listen to the radio if they’re in a car, but for the most part they’re only moderate radio fans. As for TV, they’ll watch late-night programs on Comedy Central, MTV and Spike - generally after they’ve come home from a date or workout. Advertisers will have a hard time connecting with them through traditional media, and not just because they typically change the channel whenever a commercial comes on. They’re more receptive to billboards when they’re out and about, but dislike being bothered in their homes. They were among the first to sign up for do-not-call lists.
With the world handed to them on a digital device, Digital Dependents have developed progressive attitudes and a global conscious. They tend to be liberals who support the Democratic agenda. They are constantly striving for more out of life: better careers, the latest fashions, the newest gaming consoles. These unattached individuals are still looking to find the perfect mate, and they place a lot of stock in their appearance. This is a strong market for cosmetics, but in this eco-minded segment, those products better not be tested on animals.
Digital Dependents are digital young America: they’re blogging, gaming, instant messaging, texting and tweeting. The segment contains one of the top populations of Generation Yers, at 87 percent, and nearly two-thirds are under 30. This is the age when Americans leave the nest to start independent lives, marry and begin families. However, single households in this segment represent the highest concentration; only a third has children. Predominantly white, they tend to have above-average educations, with a majority having gone to college and about one in five holding college degrees. That level of schooling translates to a wide range of occupations - from sales to social services to construction and health care.
Widely scattered across the country, Digital Dependents are found in a mix of urban areas and second-tier cities, typically in transient neighborhoods. With only a third of households having children, they’re hardly rooted in their communities. More than two-thirds have been at the same address for fewer than three years - double the national average. They live in a mix of low-rise apartments, condos and small houses, and a surprisingly large percentage is first-time homeowners, though average home values, at just under $150,000, are modest. These householders typically bought their homes early, and they often required co-signers to secure a mortgage.
Digital Dependents are active and footloose. They score high for athletic activities like basketball, volleyball and racquetball, and they go to pro and college sports events. To keep fit, they typically belong to gyms, where they lift weights, work out on cardio machines and take yoga classes. Somewhat surprising for young city dwellers, they frequently take advantage of nearby camping spots and are fond of fishing, horseback riding and hiking. These 20- somethings are also night owls who enjoy going to bars, nightclubs, cinemas, theaters and billiards halls. However, with low incomes, they have also learned to be content staying at home reading books, listening to music - everything from pop and ’80s to reggae and grunge - and playing online and video games. Compared to the national average, they’re more than twice as likely to own every kind of video game console that’s made.
These Americans are generally hip to the latest fashion, but their budgets don’t always let them indulge in designer labels. They like going to discount and mid-range stores, such as Marshalls, Gap, Banana Republic and Bealls, and they frequently head to the clearance racks first. Conversely, they wouldn’t think of scrimping on electronics like MP3 players, video game systems and DVD players. They’re also big buyers of sports equipment such as skateboards, camping supplies and racquetball gear. These households have low rates for owning cars - 44 percent have none - and the ones they buy tend to be lower priced sedans and subcompacts. Of all the popular nameplates, only one is purchased more than the average: the funky, box-like Scion.
The multitaskers of Digital Dependents don’t have much time for traditional media. They’re among the least interested in reading newspapers and magazines. They listen to the radio as much as the average, ignoring newscasts in favor of stations that play classic rock and hot adult contemporary. They do tune in to TV, especially late at night after they’ve come in from the bars and parties; they gravitate toward cable channels that skew to a young audience, such as Adult Swim, MTV, Comedy Central, Spike and IFC. However, these media consumers prefer the Internet over everything else, and they note they’re spending less time with old media as a result. Today, they get most of their news from the Internet, and they can’t imagine why anyone would wait until tomorrow to find out what’s happening today.
Digital Dependents are adventurous, outspoken and creative. They describe themselves as risk- takers who like to try new things - whether it’s a just-opened store or an underground Website. They also obsessed with their appearance - “It’s important to be attractive to members of the opposite sex,” they say - and they appreciate cosmetics that are not tested on animals. At this stage in their lives, long time friends are more important than their family members, and they’re usually the ones to organize group activities. Religion doesn’t play a major role in their lives: they’re more likely to sleep in on a Sunday morning than head to church for services. Otherwise, they describe themselves as multitaskers who adapt easily to the complexities of modern life, but still want more out of it.
Politically liberal, Digital Dependents members are most likely to vote the Democratic ticket and support a leftist social agenda. They look for products with recycled packaging and are proud of their reduced carbon footprint. Although they’re not big on joining protests, they are willing to volunteer for a good cause.
Digital Dependents are still early in their careers and making do on incomes close to $50,000 a year. Even though they have yet to start a family and take on the expenses of childrearing, there’s not a lot of discretionary cash left over for saving and investing, especially among those whose mortgages take a large chunk out of their pay. They have below-average levels of investments, except for company stock. Their connection to their bank is mostly through debit cards and checking accounts. Many are still paying off student and car loans, and some are taking out personal loans to maintain their lifestyle. They carry credit cards, typically standard cards with few frills, and they follow the general population in their acquisition of insurance products for life, health, auto and renter’s coverage. Just don’t expect to ever see them at a brick-and-mortar bank. These tech-savvy Americans do as many of their financial transactions online as they can.
Digital Dependents were born in the digital age and seem to spend more time in the virtual world than the real one. Compared to the general population, they’re more than twice as likely to go online to download music, watch videos, listen to podcasts and hang out at dating sites. For such activities, they go to Websites like projectplay.com, cartoonnetwork.com and meetup.com. The Internet is not just for entertainment; they also go online to find a car, look for a job, check out apartments and shop for all kinds of products on Websites such as toysrus.com, walmart.com and inboxdollars.com.
These young singles have integrated their computers in to their work and home life, using them for time management, telecommuting, desktop publishing and creating movies and music. Always in communication mode, they go online to chat, blog and send instant messages, and they do so from anywhere, with a higher-than-average tendency to access the Internet at home, hotels and libraries using their phones, laptops and desktops. Naturally, they’re a strong market for most file-sharing applications and computer peripherals, but they can be a pretty jaded segment when it comes to digital advertising. They ignore email ads but are okay with going to sponsored Websites and links. They surf all over the Web, stopping frequently at sites like CareerBuilder, Facebook, Expedia and weather.com.