Companies that create products and services for children and their parents are always looking for chances to connect with their target demographic. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have heightened smartphone, tablet, and computer use among families, creating unique opportunities for digital marketers.
Gen C, the generation of kids who have seen COVID-19 upend their lives, are prime targets for the $1.7 billion kids digital ad market. However, digital marketers must be sure to respect the data privacy of young consumers and their families to protect their reputation and stay clear of government fines.
In this article, we’ll discuss what eCommerce marketers can do to reach this new generation while keeping their sensitive information private and secure.
Marketing to Gen C and their families
Since the onset of the pandemic, there has been a boom in kids’ digital entertainment. This makes sense, as most children were unable to have real-life play dates during that time. For example, kids are watching more videos on YouTube and playing video games in their spare time.
Children are expected to spend less time in front of the screen as social distancing measures go away. However, this time spent watching online videos and playing video games will likely create long-lasting online habits for this generation.
Ecommerce retailers should consider crafting their marketing material around this young generation of internet users to enhance brand awareness and loyalty. However, understanding what this young - and often elusive - demographic of customers really thinks is sometimes difficult.
Hiring marketing professionals and copywriters who can truly speak to this generation is key to getting your message across. Companies can expect to pay $20 to $25 per hour in the US for a quality freelance writer who is a fluent English speaker, and anywhere from $30-60 an hour for a freelance marketing professional who can help launch a kid-friendly ad campaign.
Also keep in mind that increased time spent on the internet will create new online opportunities, but there will also be greater interest towards in-person events as restrictions let up, such as trick-or-treating during Halloween. Brands should prepare for a festive fall and winter, with most schools around the nation reopening with in-person instruction.
Children who have not seen their companions in over a year and a half will be especially inclined to throw parties or attend events. In fact, studies show that almost 90% of children under 16 report actually looking forward to returning to their classrooms. This is clearly not Alice Cooper’s generation, after all.
Video game marketers have been quick to provide solutions for kids who are missing their community at school. Top video game producers Roblox and Fornite, for example, have hosted in-game concerts that have attracted millions of viewers. This has transformed gaming culture and provided social networking opportunities for isolated children.
The rising influence of young consumers can’t be ignored. Not only are they the future adult consumers, but statistics have also shown that children are increasingly playing decision-making roles within the family. For example, parents now report that their kids influence their purchasing decisions far more than they influenced their parents' purchases when they were kids.
Therefore, brands would be wise to consider not only adults but their children as well when designing their website. Online retailers should have a site expertly crafted for user experience with kid-friendly themes, as well as paying attention to optimizing for SEO and marketing to appeal to savvy parents.
An experienced web developer, along with a marketing consultant and quality copywriter, should be able to help. Hiring an experienced developer can also come with other perks, as most developers have knowledge of other markets as well. In fact, according to recent surveys, most developers actually began their careers in other niches, such as marketing or web design.
Responsibility before profit
Needless to say, the increased amount of children surfing the internet brings considerable problems. One of them is that digital marketers must be even more vigilant about protecting consumer privacy, specifically for consumers under the age of 18. The ethical reasons for this are hopefully obvious, but there are also significant legal repercussions and extensive fines associated with violating the privacy of children on the internet.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) mandates that online services must not track or retain information on children under the age of 18 without parental consent. The purpose of this law is to protect easily influenced children from manipulation by marketers and to keep them away from online predators.
The largest fine to date was issued against Google, the owner of YouTube, for violation of COPPA. Google was ordered to pay a $170 million penalty as a settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in 2019 in a landmark case based on YouTube data collection practices.
While this was a federal case, digital marketers should note that laws can vary by state. The California Consumer Privacy Act, for example, has tightened up restrictions about data privacy, and many more states are slated to do the same.
Marketers must pay attention to the ethical concerns and legal protections that surround young consumers. Digital advertising infrastructure was not built with children in mind. Companies would be wise to consult marketing professionals with an expertise in young consumer demographics before launching a campaign geared towards children ages 6-16.
Generation C presents a lot of opportunities for digital marketers and companies that specialize in products and services for children and their families. Expected to be the most tech-savvy generation to date, Gen C has had their digital lives amplified by COVID-19 lockdowns. It taught their families to rely on the internet more than ever for everyday activities, which has helped build long-term internet habits.
Companies would be smart to focus on this burgeoning customer demographic. However, marketing professionals must always approach advertising with a high level of integrity, ethics, and attention towards legal restrictions. With a full knowledge of the law, marketers can have all of the tools needed to reach young consumers without sacrificing data privacy along the way.