In a global market increasingly preoccupied with the latest telecom shifts, three end-user segments buck this trend, preferring to shun technology. You know the types, the ones that are the last to adopt tech, and the ones that berate their friends for desiring the latest gadgets. Yet paradoxically, it is these consumers that are often being chased by tech majors such as Facebook and Google, because they are the final pickings. Unlocking their spending is also a serious activity for start-ups keen to find new niche markets. Finding strategies for penetrating these fickle consumer markets remains a challenge for technology firms.
The grey dollar
With the global median age continuing to rise and the average gross income of the world’s 65+ cohort increasing, the elderly present a highly lucrative consumer segment. However, this purchasing power translates poorly in information and communications technology (ICT), as weak IT literacy and a disinterest in following telecom trends makes the elderly a major anti-technology group. These consumers are especially averse to frequent ICT equipment upgrades and online programmes.
Some telecom segments have found success by appealing to the sentimental and cost-conscious nature of elderly consumers. VoIP service Skype has been a major crossover hit by marketing itself as an affordable platform for staying in touch with relatives, while online dating for retirees has become big business through its focus on friendship and avoiding loneliness.
The security-conscious outsiders
Revelations regarding US state intelligence cooperation with domestic tech giants and Google’s admission of collecting data from its email users in 2013 have done little to soften the fears of security-conscious consumers. This segment is typically made up of highly IT-literate senior professionals cautious of mainstream telecom products, although large organisations can also be considered in the same bracket. A number of European governments have rejected cloud computing services based on data security fears, while the Russian interior ministry reported in mid-2013 it ordered typewriters to avoid electronic leaks.
Marketing safety of use and developing security-focused platforms and services for this market will be the most effective method to increase uptake. However, online security is a constantly evolving challenge, with ICT firms often playing catch up. With mobile phone developer BlackBerry close to liquidation, there will likely be high corporate demand for data-encrypted mobile handsets, which was the platform behind BlackBerry’s business take-up success.
This consumer segment often rebels against the high-feature, multi-platform trends in the telecom industry and is a late newcomer to mainstream technologies, preferring to stick with familiar and older services and devices long term. Tech-phobics are certainly not drivers behind the next-generation push.
Focusing on vintage designs and practical no-thrills functionality is key to appeal to this market, while allowing the option of simplified operating systems for smartphones, tablets and PCs. For example, Facebook and Google’s email service allow users to revert to original versions of their platforms, minus updates and new additions. Telecom firms have largely ignored this segment due to its weak spend in the market, yet a growing focus on the rollout of low-cost ICT devices could capture these consumers. Cheap and basic netbooks have done well in this respect.
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