It seems like everywhere you go these days, kids have smartphones, tablets or some other type of digital device with them. I’m beginning to think these technology tools are actually part of their bodies. When our kids were born they gave us pacifiers in the hospital. Now I think hospitals are issuing smartphones to the babies in the cribs.

The latest research indicates that kids and technology are more interrelated than ever before. According to Influence Central’s 2016 Digital Trends Study, “technology now plays a bigger role in the lives of today’s kids, they gain ownership of their own devices at a younger age, and increasingly enjoy more access and privacy while online.”

So what does all this mean for credit unions and banks? Plenty.

If your financial institution does not reach the small screen, then it will not reach this generation of digital natives.

Here are a few of the 2016 Digital Trends Study and how it applies to financial institutions:

Kids are tethered to their smartphones

The study notes that the average age now for getting a first phone is 10.3 years old. Let that sink in for a minute: kids have phones long before they are even teenagers. Families also text each other while at home, with 31% of parents surveyed saying their kids have texted them while they are in the same home together.

  • Financial institution application: Any teen or tween marketing campaign must include a mobile marketing component. If you don’t use mobile marketing, you won’t reach these young digital natives. Also, heavily promote text alerts and notifications for the parents when you have mom, dad and teenager on the same account. Ask yourself, how robust is your mobile presence?

Connected kids use gadgets on the go

If you are a parent of kids or tweens, you probably spend an inordinate amount of your time hauling them everywhere. Whether it is going to school, soccer practice, band events, or some other extra curricular activity families are constantly in the car. The study indicates “phones have risen on the list of devices kids look to for entertainment on car trips and remain second only to iPads and tablets as the engagement option of choice for the road.”

  • Financial institution application: Design a financial education game for kids they can play on their tablet or smart device. In essence, you should look for digital gamification options for digital natives. The more you can make financial services digitally fun, the more you will reach this younger generation.

Kids gain access and autonomy

The autonomy and access kids have to the Internet in 2016 jumped significantly compared to just four years ago (and this is across all electronic devices). Key findings of the study include: 24% of kids now have ‘private’ access from their bedrooms (compared to 15% in 2012); 64% of kids now have access to the Internet via their own laptop or tablet (compared to 42% in 2012); and 38% access the Internet via their phone (up from 19% in 2012).

  • Financial institution application: These statistics indicate a long-term approach. When these digital natives hit their borrowing years (and that is coming faster than you think), they will expect a level of independence and do-it-yourself products and services. They are growing up with unprecedented autonomy and access to technology. Strategically, you must answer this question: how many “taps” does it take to get a loan approval at your credit union or bank?

50% of kids have social media accounts by age 12

That stat pretty much sums up the current state of digital channels with this generation. The study notes “most kids score their first social media accounts at an average age of 11.4 years old. The largest percentage of kids—39%—got their first account between ages 10 and 12, but another 11% got a social media account when they were younger than 10.” The study also said Facebook and Instagram represent the most-used social platforms among kids, with 77% using each.

  • Financial institution application: If you are not active on social media, you are invisible. Keep in mind that social media means engagement. It is more than just having a Facebook or Instagram account. There are two “Ss” of social media to remember: strategy and staff. Also, social media is increasingly becoming much more visual so make sure you are using more pictures than text.

When it comes to tweens and banking, your financial institution can either have a mess on its hands or have a perfect match. Taking the insights above from the 2016 Digital Trends Study and applying them to your marketing efforts will help you better reach this newest generation.

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