Friday, 27 October 2017

5G to serve user generations divided by digital literacy rather than age

By Peter Linder, Networked Society evangelist at Ericsson

The fifth generation of mobile networks will be the first to serve five distinct human generations. The reason? Digital literacy… While in the past, we grouped generations into age brackets, soon we might use digital literacy as the divider.



Traditionally generations have been divided into age brackets: traditionalists (-1945); baby boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1980), Generation Y (1981-1994) and Linksters (1995-) – otherwise known as Depression babies, the Woodstock generation, the latchkey generation, the Millennials and the Facebook crowd. This segmentation model worked well when the needs of each generation were homogeneous. But the traditional model is being reviewed and could soon become outmoded and irrelevant.

Ericsson is a member of the Smart Africa Alliance and one of their flagship initiatives is the Smart Africa Digital Literacy program, which aims to ensure that significant investments made into ICT infrastructure, content and services, and the increasing proliferation of smart devices need to be matched by investments into digital literacy if the continent is to maximize the opportunities presented by ICTs.

The World Bank expects 11 million youth to enter the African labour market every year over the next decade. They must be equipped with the right skills and training in order to succeed.

In the next 25 years, Africa’s working-age population will approximately double to one billion, exceeding that of China and India. African companies will need to fill positions with employees who possess the right digital skills.

Many population shifts have started to create new challenges for businesses. We are starting to work later in life. We live longer than our parents. The things we want to acquire are different from those people prioritized owning in the past. The free things we enjoy – such as neighbourhood networks – develop outside the government-financed services arena. New generations will earn less than their parents and do not therefore expect to own the same type of things, e.g. house, cars, boats etc.

But these shifts are not homogeneous within the various traditional generation brackets. The way we embrace and adopt digital innovations varies enormously, starting with how we research products and services ahead of any purchase. While the digitally savvy explore the digital domain first, others still rely on talking to a sales person. At the point of purchase, the latter either go online or to a physical store. The digitally savvy benefit from a combination of the two models. While some people stick to a physical store, they might change their store preference.

Our preferences also differ when it comes to the customer support channels available. The digitally savvy users feel comfortable using chat support. Others prefer contact with a human voice over the phone. All can manage mail support, but some are hesitant to share their e-mail address if it is used for marketing purposes.

The great variety of customer interfaces that businesses have is a new reality. They range from digital only to analog anchored, throughout the engagement process. We also see that digital literacy is spread within and across the age-based generational divisions. When we combine these two phenomena, we might still have five generations to address, but they will be divided in a different way.
My predictions for the future are as follows:

  • 5G will be the first wireless technology designed to serve five end-user segments with diverse needs.
  • The dividers between generations will change; instead of being age-oriented, they will depend on people’s level of digital literacy.
  • The new segmentation will define how digital businesses structure their marketing, sales and support flows.
  • Most digital generations will own less and rely more on subscription-based services.

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