Tech Nation

Newsworks research

Tech Nation

By analysing what technology Britons own, and how this has both reflected and shaped how they think and behave, the Tech Nation study, commissioned by Newsworks from Kantar Media, has provided a new way of looking at the population.

Technology is reshaping the nation’s habits and identities. An estimated £50 billion a year is spent in the UK on technology and communications sales, with tech advertising expected to amount to £1.5 billion in the UK in 2013.

Technology is ubiquitous, with brands operating across multiple platforms in an increasingly connected world. It important to understand, therefore, how the technology that people buy affects their media consumption, impacting on all sectors and brands’ communication plans.

When Newsworks commissioned the Tech Nation study from Kantar Media, we instinctively knew that some of the common pre-conceptions about the purchasers and users of technology could not be right.

The key audience for technology in this country could not all be aged under 35, and early tech adopters could not all be young male tech experts. Our aims were therefore to find new insights into the audiences for technology and challenge some of the prevailing myths.

By using TGI Clickstream analysis, we found five new groups and followed that up with ethnographic and quantitative research.

It is important to reiterate that we found our groups by analysing ownership of technology – what people had actually bought – and then looked at who they were, what they thought and did.

We didn’t start with attitudes or standard demographics.

Key findings:

  • We have a become a nation of tech lovers: only about one in five people say they have “little interest in new technology and devices” – even if they do not identify themselves as geeks.
  • The public is feeling ever more comfortable and informed about technology: 45% of people say that, compared to two years ago, they are more confident about technology and 44% believe they are more knowledgeable about it.
  • Tech owners can be divided into five groups, each amounting roughly to 20% of the UK’s population, based on their ownership of technology and lifestyle choices. 
  • These segments are the Tech Rich; Social Addicts; Price Pragmatists; Quality Seekers; and TV Worshippers. People in segments display distinctive behaviour and attitudes towards media.
  • For marketers it is vital to understand how these groups differ in their approaches to the purchasing process, and use media differently when they are in buying mode.
  • Newsbrands are seen to have particular strengths in providing tech consumers with inspiration, opinion, and information.

The Tech Nation study provides extensive detail and some illustrative video material on each of the groups. Broadly, however, the groups can be characterised…

…as follows:

Price Pragmatists: Price pragmatists don’t own many devices and are not particularly interested in technology.

We might expect them to be older – and it’s true that over half are over 55. In fact, a quarter of them are under 35. Their incomes are quite low, but the members of this group are more characterised by their attitudes.

For Price Pragmatists, tech is all about functional needs. Their phones are for contacting people to arrange things. They’re a bit bewildered by technology and feel that they don’t really know how to make sure they get the right brands.

We usually think of young people as tech savvy digital natives, but 17% of 16-24 year-olds and the same proportion of 25-34s are Price Pragmatists. That equates to nearly 2 out of 10 young people.

This group is definitely not comprised of early adopters. Instead, its members are most likely to wait for later or cheaper versions of devices to come out before buying, or only buy the product once lots of their friends and family have one too. Price Pragmatists need both reassurance and deals from technology companies in order to feel confident enough to buy.

Quality Seekers: Although they span the social spectrum, Quality Seekers tend to be older and affluent. They are not early adopters of technology, but will wait till innovations are mainstream and thoroughly tried and tested. They are traditionalists and don’t buy tech very often, replacing items when they break rather than chasing the latest upgrade.

They are unlikely to have Sky, as they’re BBC stalwarts and tend to think that multi-channel TV has diluted programme quality. But they will buy a good quality TV, hi-fi and pricier desktop computers.

Because they’re keen to buy the best but not up to speed with tech developments, Quality Seekers are most likely to seek well-established brands, trusted information sources and in-store advice.

It’s also important to keep them in the loop, as they will often be buying for older children as well as themselves – and when they spend, they are big spenders.

TV Worshippers: For this segment, TV – and all its related technology – is the centre of the entertainment world. It’s the focal point of their living rooms and often on in the background while other tech and media options are also being used.

New tech purchases are often TV-related, driven by desire for more catch-up and on demand viewing. TV Worshippers spend more on pay TV than any other group, and they are evenly spread across the age ranges.

The TV is the social focus, bringing family and friends together. This group thinks family first. And whilst they are the highest spenders on pay TV, value for money is really important.

Alongside TV advertising, deals and offers in newspaper ads are particularly compelling (e.g. offering Virgin TV free for the first six months). They are open to online, yet print and popular newsbrands dominate, as they have always been a part of family life and imbue trust.

Social Addicts: In this segment, it’s all about mobile and being connected. Social Addicts have the highest ownership of MP3s (95%), laptops (91%) games consoles (77%) and smartphones (79%) and the highest spend on mobiles. They buy in order to stay in touch with friends and family.

Contemporary and urban, Social Addicts put a premium on brand; for them, technology is like a fashion accessory.    

And they are not all young – 44% are over 35. They are also upmarket – nearly a third fall into the AB social class.

Technology updates and new releases are more coveted for image and status than techie interest, and mobile devices are constantly, habitually checked, even when users are out of home or in front of the TV.

Social Addicts are split pretty much 50/50 male and female. It’s vital to remember that only a third of under 35-year-olds are social addicts: this group is not dominated by young people.

Social addicts are great influencers; their life is all about sharing opinions and news. For this segment, Twitter is often used as a hub and launchpad for news and information, a shortcut to finding and sharing the important stories. Typically, Social Addicts will follow newspapers and journalists, and will tweet stories and opinions. For them, Facebook is a more personal, guarded space.

Digital media is often the first port of call. For example, Social Addicts are likely to check newspaper apps as a matter of habit, and some do not even own a traditional TV, but watch via laptop. But they often turn to traditional media, such as the Sunday papers, at the weekend.

The Tech Rich: This group comprises real tech junkies. They are at ease with technology and could not imagine life without it. But they are not all your typical young male geeks; 70% are over 35 and four in 10 are women.

Some 19% of 55-64 year olds are in the Tech Rich segment; co-incidentally, this is the same proportion as we find in the 25-34 age group.

The Tech Rich are easily the most valuable audience for technology products. Although they make up just 19% of the population, the Tech Rich are affluent and love to accumulate new gadgets. They accounted for well over a third of all tech spending last year. The typical Tech Rich person does lots of research, pays attention to advertising and is highly influenced by expert and user reviews pre-purchase. And they are very comfortable with buying their tech online.

The Tech Rich are the most likely group to Tweet about their purchases and make recommendations on Facebook. They are also used as a source of advice by friends and family, a role which they relish. They are reasonably early adopters – but 45% still like to wait for others to buy first, to ensure that glitches have been removed before they buy.

Within this group, newsbrands are consumed both online and in print. Device ownership opens up a wide audience for online consumption, yet the role of print is still valued for in-depth reading.

Find out which Tech Type you are using our Geek Calculator

Tech ownership has a direct bearing on media habits and this research reveals some interesting surprises. Age, earning power and class are not necessarily the best way of distinguishing one group from another in today’s complex media landscape.

Vanessa Clifford, Client services & strategy director, Newsworks