Millennials – the cohort born between 1983 and 2001 whose members are now anywhere from 16 to 33 years old – are more influenced by social media and online reviews than by television advertising, according to the 10th annual “Digital Democracy” survey by international consultation firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd.

Conducted on Deloitte’s behalf by an unnamed independent research firm in November 2015, the survey also concluded that millennials were leading the adoption of digital media, using streaming video, social media, and mobile payment apps at a higher rate than the other three generations surveyed – Generation X (born between 1966 and 1982), baby boomers (born between 1947 and 1965), and what Deloitte called the “mature” generation (born before 1947) – though in some aspects, such as brand engagement on social networks and the percentage who binge-watch streaming content, the numbers were closer than you might think.

Among other findings, the survey discovered that 74 per cent of American consumers own a smartphone, 82 per cent own a laptop, and 84 per cent own a flatscreen television, with little variation between the four generations except for the number of boomers owning a smartphone (63 per cent). It also discovered that 56 per cent of consumers own a tablet and 66 per cent a desktop, with ownership more highly concentrated among younger millennials.

Deloitte also learned that millennials were more likely to watch streaming content than older generations – between 72 and 83 per cent reported streaming at least one television show or movie per month, compared to around 62 per cent of Gen X’ers, 40 per cent of boomers, and around 25 per cent of matures – and they were also more likely to watch content on devices other than a television.

Surprisingly, among those who did watch streaming content, viewers across generations were likely to share viewing habits: at least 44 per cent of binge watchers across all four generations reported seeing at least four episodes of a TV show in one sitting, with boomers slightly more likely to binge-watch than any other group.

If you think that means we’re all seeing fewer televised ads, you’re right: when asked for the advantages of streaming over live content, 66 per cent of respondents cited watching commercial-free content as a benefit. Moreover, television ads were found to influence only 63 per cent of millennials (though the numbers weren’t all that different for the other generations, ranging between 59 per cent for mature viewers and 65 per cent for Generation X).

Instead, millennials were more likely to be influenced by ads on social media (at least 50 per cent, versus 40 per cent or less for the other generations), video game advertising (49 per cent or more, versus 40 per cent or less for the others), and online reviews (between 61 and 71 per cent, versus 39 per cent for boomers and 31 per cent for matures).

At least 50 per cent of consumers, led by millennials and Gen X’ers, also said that company or brand engagement efforts on social networks helped them feel more informed, connected to, or gave them a positive impression of, said company or brand.

The lesson, Deloitte researcher Kevin Westcott said in a statement, is that marketers need to ensure their methods for connecting with and engaging consumers evolve along with consumption habits, with new types of media providing exciting opportunities even as they disrupt traditional business models.

You can download the executive summary of the survey, which was conducted online and involved 2205 American consumers, here, or check out the infographic below (click for a larger version).

Deloitte Digital Democracy Infographic

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