Children born in the last three to five years are what I call "Gen S," or "Generation Screen." They came on the scene during one of the most significant technological revolutions in the digital age. According to NPD, 27% of all TVs shipped in the first quarter of 2012 (almost 14 million) were internet-ready. Gartner estimates there will be almost 60 million tablets sold this year, doubling total users. And, Goldman Sachs estimates almost 2 billion smartphones will be sold this year around the globe.
These youngsters are growing up in a world where screens are used for everything from entertainment, communication, education, shopping and transacting. It makes the world much smaller and more accessible -- and at virtually any time, on demand.
Who is Gen S?
Gen S will never know a world without screens, without being connected, without touch and swipe, or gesture control, or without cameras to capture, interact, share and connect with others, instantly. We've all witnessed toddlers navigating a smartphone or iPad better than we can, or swiping a TV or laptop screen expecting it to react to their touch, only to be dismayed. The keyboard and mouse are foreign to them, and soon may be remote controls. Will wallets, credit cards or even cash have any purpose for them a few years from now?
How will marketers, brands, retailers and publishers stay relevant to this audience that expects to transact nearly everything on a touch screen? First, they need to be where the consumer is and ensure a relevant brand experience irrespective of how the content and information were discovered.
That means creating and redesigning sites to render appropriately and dynamically for different screens and operating systems. How will brands facilitate seamless transaction and communication with these new consumers, who will only have the expectation of such an experience?
Brands are behind
Today, 45% of Fortune 500 companies do not have mobile-optimized websites, according to a recent study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau. But now is not the time to sit back and watch this all happen through the looking glass. A number of apps have been created for parents and kids alike to experience brands and content in new ways. Examples include learning and literacy apps from education companies like Scholastic or Penguin Books; the Whole Foods "Awesome Eats," which teaches kids about patterns and sorting while promoting nutrition and a healthy diet; the Band-Aid "Magic Vision" app that helps take a child's mind off his cuts and scrapes by letting him interact with the Muppets; the Crayola ColorStudio, which allows kids to draw and "color" on their tablet using a stylus that resembles a Crayola marker; and the American Museum of Natural History app that brings the dinosaur exhibit to the palm of a hand.
It's still early innings for this screen-driven world, and there are many other avenues to still develop and explore (i.e. banks tackling financial education and the importance of saving). Now is the time to get involved, to experiment and learn, to collaborate with partners and help shape GenS media platforms and experiences. It will require investment and patience, but will best position brands to be prepared for what comes next . . . which we can only imagine and likely will arrive even faster than before.