Teenagers have a penchant for sharing a great deal of information about themselves, contact details as well as interests and things they like. Which is great for marketers. The mobile industry is looking to capitalise on this trend with a host of services targeted at the 14-20 crowd. "Phone executives say a high priority is making it possible for teens to access, from their cellphones, blogs, online photo galleries and social-networking sites. Some phone executives say they are playing catch-up to replicate services, like sharing photo albums, that are already popular using sites on the Internet." The other big difference about mobiles is that they're personal, whereas most teens access the internet through computers that are shared with the rest of the family.
Some figures for the UK: 99% of 15-19 year olds have mobile phones, and collectively they spent $202.9 million on downloadable content and $570 million on text messages.
"Still, though teens are willing to pay as much as $3 for a ringtone, $7 for a mobile-phone game and $2 for a playable music file, their parents aren't always on board. Also, their parents often see their phone bill or even pay for it. A company that figures out how to bill the parents for a basic contract while letting teenage users pay for games or photos could gain teen customers, analysts say."
Dialing Into the Youth Market
Increasingly Tailored to Teenage Users
August 3, 2006; Page B4
Teenagers share details of their interests, their email addresses and even their phone numbers with others online. This behavior may concern their parents -- but it is great news for European cellphone companies.
Mobile-service providers and phone makers are looking to capitalize on the trend with a host of new services and products for the 14-to-20 crowd, designed to encourage them to swap and move information and photos from their phones to the Web. Phone companies realize that teens, if asked, will provide information about themselves, and, armed with this data, the companies can tailor products for the teen market.
Teens already are lucrative cellphone customers and potentially will become more so, especially in Europe, where they have been early to latch onto trends like mobile text messaging. In the United Kingdom alone, 99% of 15- to 19-year-olds had cellphones last year, according to MobileYouth, a London market-research firm. They spent $202.9 million on downloadable content and $570 million on text messages.
But the phone industry hasn't been doing as much as it could with teens. With the overall cellphone market increasingly saturated among adults and with growth coming mostly from phone replacement, teens, the group that replaces their handsets most often, are an ever bigger target.
Phone executives say a high priority is making it possible for teens to access, from their cellphones, blogs, online photo galleries and social-networking sites. Some phone executives say they are playing catch-up to replicate services, like sharing photo albums, that are already popular using sites on the Internet.
Using the information teens volunteer helps companies tailor cellphone service to individuals, says Mobilitec Inc., a San Mateo, Calif., software company. If teens specify an interest in rap music, for example, Mobilitec software can alert service companies like Vodafone Group PLC to highlight ringtones, videos and even local concerts offered by the teens' favorite artists. The operators then decide how to market that information to their teen subscribers.
"The more that any operator knows about that user, the more they can do to provide better, more personal service," says Mobilitec Chief Executive Margaret Norton.
U.K.-based operator O2, part of Telefónica SA, is introducing mobile video and blogging. Teens can post entries on their blogs from their phones and create videos with the cameras on their phones. It also has promotions asking teens to send in phone-made movies for the chance to win free vouchers and discounts for accessories like ringtones.
"It's all about convenience and cost effectiveness," says Mike Short, vice president of research and development at O2. Early on, text messaging cost about 12 pence (23 cents) per message; now it's as low as three pence, he says.
Still, though teens are willing to pay as much as $3 for a ringtone, $7 for a mobile-phone game and $2 for a playable music file, their parents aren't always on board. Also, their parents often see their phone bill or even pay for it. A company that figures out how to bill the parents for a basic contract while letting teenage users pay for games or photos could gain teen customers, analysts say.
"Nobody seems to be offering kids a way to have their regular voice-phone bill paid by their parents on contract and then prepay for the accessories and downloads they really want," says Roger Entner, vice president of wireless telecom at consultancy Ovum in London. "That way if they get $50 from grandma on their birthday they can go gangbusters on stuff for their phone without parents screaming 'You downloaded 20 ringtones? Are you nuts?' "
Though many people probably don't realize it, every phone contains a global-positioning-satellite chip. In the U.K., cellphone executives envision -- though don't yet offer -- a service that would let teens sign up to receive coupons to restaurants within 100 yards of their current location or movie times at local theaters, based on preferences they have previously provided, like a penchant for Italian cuisine or Bruce Willis flicks.
Instead of having a simple buddy list on a phone, users using GPS-based services could also be able to see the locations of members of their social networks, allowing them to meet up with friends who happen to be nearby, as Google Inc.'s Dodgeball service in some U.S. cities now does, says Ben Wood, an analyst at Collins Consulting in the U.K.
Cellphone makers, such as Sony Ericsson and Motorola Inc., are engineering their hardware accordingly. Teens are a particularly appealing market for phones because they like to keep up with the latest fashion, making them more willing than adults to replace their phones, executives say.
The Nokia 3250 allows users to twist it into a more functional camera and music player, as well as a phone. Timo Veikkola, who studies teens for Nokia Corp. as part of his job as a senior future specialist, says teens want designs that let them stand out as individuals but still be part of a social group.
"They buy something together but want to put their own swing on it," Mr. Veikkola says.