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“” documents 8 needs and how university students believe those needs can be met via mobile phone apps. Furthermore, the finding also provides insights to brands on how they can better communicate with consumers via mobile apps.

MEC explored the types of content that Digital Natives like and don’t like in their phone apps. This is an effort to better enable advertisers to understand this emerging content platform and to better harness it as part of their overall communications strategy.

Digital Natives are the vanguards of the mobile phone apps revolution and their needs and wants are going to define the future development of apps. This study has provided glimpses into their expectations of mobile phone apps. It has also reveal insights that have wider implications on how marketers communicate with Digital Natives. We believe this research can assist marketers to better understand Digital Natives’ behaviour, and apply these findings into creating and using better apps in their communication strategies.”

Published in: Technology, Business
  • It is interesting. Although the report is the focus of mobile phone apps, I can understand better about after-90's generation of urban Chinese people e.g. ways of thinking, attitude & etc. It is nice to see how marketers can apply insight from the study in their practices.
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  • Nice study, thanks for sharing! Interesting to see just how integrated apps have become integrated into everyday lives, rather than a technological gimmick. Just goes to show that products developed with a consumer benefit in mind will always have a greater chance of success. Good stuff!!
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  • I also picked up a few pointers on IT and education.
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  • Thank you for this report. We've been studying how people use smart phones, especially for gaming, and this report is full of great insights about what young people would like to do. It's fascinating to see how many playfull ways can apps enable our daily life!!
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  • This report is full of great insights about what young people would like to be able to do with their smart phones. Gives me lots of ideas on gaming.
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  1. Jessica Shen & Theresa Loo
  2. Introduction• With mobile phone apps, lots of content can be put into the application programs. This research intends to explore what kinds of content may be packed together into mobile phone apps to satisfy the needs of consumers.• Digital Natives (mainly those born after 1990) grow up with the Internet and are the most digitally-networked generation. Their needs and wants are going to dictate how the mobile phone apps landscape will evolve.• Students from universities in Shanghai were invited to design their own mobile phone apps to meet their different needs.
  3. Methodology• 110 students from different universities in Shanghai were invited to participate in this research. They were asked to give their imagination free rein and to sketch out on paper mobile phone apps that meet their needs.
  4. Needs of Digital Natives& what mobile phone apps can answer those needs
  5. The Interstitial• Many of their requirements are quite small, occupying brief interstices of time: when they shower, they want accompaniment from a singing app; when they skip class, they want a mobile phone app to deal with roll-call; when they wait for a bus, they want an app to tell them when the next bus is coming.• These interstitial needs are exemplifications of the fact that Digital Natives pay attention to details, care about enjoyment and pursue quality of life.
  6. • Daily Life Assistant helps solve all sorts of small & interstitial problems in life. When Digital Natives cook, it provides family recipes; when they go out, it becomes a dining-out guide; when they shop, it is a “brand classroom” providing Digital Natives with information on new brands.
  7. Chinese Themes Going Strong• In today‟s world, Chinese themes and elements are not just part of tradition but fashion statements.• There is a revival of local brands, re-adoption of the cheongsam, and a return to Chinese martial arts like wing chun and Chinese kung fu in preference to judo and karate. And Warrior sneakers (a local brand) on the feet of young people is fast becoming a trend.• Mobile phone apps designed by Digital Natives also have striking Chinese themes, such as the four treasures of the study (brush, ink stick, ink stone and paper), Chinese knots, tea-making and Chinese kung fu. When traditional Chinese elements meet advanced technology, the result is fascinating.
  8. 文房四宝• The Four Treasures of the Study With brush, ink stick, ink stone and paper in this app, you can write in the traditional Chinese way. Finger strokes on the touch screen represent the play of brush and ink. Different combinations of the four treasures of the study will produce different calligraphies. It is also possible to join other people online in traditional literary games, such as writing parallel couplets or guessing riddles on Chinese lanterns.
  9. Sharing and Interaction• Mobile phone apps take interactive communication on mobile media to new heights. If the Internet is all about the speed by which information is transmitted, mobile phone app has lots to do with entertainment, creativity and content.• With mobile phone apps, the principle that “content is king” is exemplified by content and technology complimenting each other. This results in highly entertaining interactions, many of which replicate the real world.
  10. • Paper-cutting & Tea-making Multi-participant Applications Mobile phones are sometimes seen as leading to loneliness because it stands in the way of face-to-face communication. Therefore, this mobile phone app is designed to enhance interaction with friends. In a scenario with no real scissors, no real paper nor a real tea set, Digital Natives can do paper cutting and make tea together with friends via the multi-participants function in this app. In addition, they can give the finished products away as virtual gifts to their friends, to show them that they care.
  11. Fun/Excitement• For Digital Natives, joy is a kind of psychological satisfaction.• Real joy can be found in pursuing their hearts‟ desires, in free self-expression and in personal participation.
  12. • Leader’s Voice is a voice-change app inspired by the “Voice Changer” in the anime Conan Edogawa. In addition to the pre-recorded voice samples of national leaders, Digital Natives can make their own recordings of people around them. When the app is activated, the person at the receiving end will hear words in the „transformed” voice. This can either be a light-hearted “Happy Birthday” delivered in the voice of Obama or a prank in the harsh voice of a complaining boss.
  13. Sense of Belonging• Since Digital Natives are mainly composed of the Post-90 cohort, they are relatively young. Like all young people, they feel a certain sense of loss and insecurity as they try to figure out what life has installed for them and how they are going to tackle life‟s challenges.• They have to face lots of dilemmas in life. While they want to express themselves and show off, they cannot completely let themselves go. While they want to be different, they care about what others think of them. They often express a strong need for a sense of belonging.
  14. • Home Sweet Home When a person is away from home it is easy to feel that there is littlesense of belonging. This is especially true for Digital Natives, many of whom are studying awayfrom home for the first time. A mobile phone app that can build a “simulated home town” willcome in handy. The app can simulate the architectures and special festivals back home. It canalso provide real-time weather forecasts. In addition, it can crawl for places on the Internet whereDigital Natives can meet with people from their home towns. In this way, the app brings back asense of belonging.
  15. • Always with U The greatest function this mobile phone app boasts is “secret sharing”. Digital Natives, like most young people, often have a sense of insecurity and do not readily speak their minds. However, they have an urge to be listened to and understood. The “tree hole” function in the app can listen attentively to secrets and bury them deep inside. There is also a GPS function to find family or friends for an intimate chat, or to look for buddies to lend a hand. The app is designed to make Digital Natives feel safe and secured.
  16. Augmented reality• Digital Natives have a saying, “anything can be imagined – the only limit is not daring to imagine”. Augmented reality lets them enjoy the extraordinary and unique experience of “wandering between the real and virtual worlds”. Mobile phone apps that bring augmented reality to Digital Natives have made their imagined world come true.• Digital Natives have a strong craving for novel experience. Through mobile phone apps, fresh experiences can be injected into traditional ways of doing things. For instance, a diary can become a comic strip diary and cross-stitch can be embroidered on the mobile phone.
  17. • Flying Kites realizes the dream of flying virtual kites in the sky of cities. Digital Natives can name and design kites in the mobile phone app interface. Functions such as “reeling out”, “reeling in”, “running” and “watching other people‟s kites” are included in the app. It brings together “virtual kites” and “real sky”, producing a unique augmented reality experience.
  18. Being In Control• The feeling of being in control manifests itself in many different ways where Digital Natives are concerned. It can mean being in control of life or of a certain scenario.• Control can also have strong overtones of mockery and self-motivation. An example is what female young adults say about control, “How can I be expected to control my life if I can‟t even control my weight?”
  19. Lie to me • Lie To Me Being in control is easier said than done. In interpersonal communications, Digital Natives often feel at a loss because they do not know what the other person is really thinking. This mobile phone app uses a camera to detect and evaluate the slightest changes in the expressions or body language of the person the Digital Native is trying to gauge. Not only can it tell whether or not the other person is lying, it can tell what the other person is thinking.
  20. DIY• Digital Natives are individualistic and creative. Their allegiance is to their own ideas and thoughts, and they want to present themselves as persons with “characters”.• In designing mobile phone apps, they use their own “Hands of God” to bring their creativity into play, applying DIY adjustments to things / products and re-creating them.• The quality and outcome of their handiwork are not as important as the personal involvement in the process of re-creation. It is the latter that gives them the greatest pleasure. “I just want to please myself and do what I like” is the attitude they bring into the DIY process.
  21. • i JEANS With this application, if Digital natives are tired of other people‟s designs, they can craft a pair of jeans uniquely designed for themselves. After registration, the mobile phone app allows them to design the shape of the pants, the front, the rear and even the brand logo on the back pocket. At the end of the design process, they can send the jeans to their favorite brand for production and / or upload it to share with friends.
  22. • My Drawer Each person has his / her own habits and tastes. Digital Natives believe “the way a person looks is an expression of individuality”. A standard mobile phone interface cannot meet the needs of the Digital Natives. This mobile phone app enables them to design their own personal interface. They can integrate their own thoughts and ideas into their design, making decisions on the position of the icons, the background color, how the phone opens and how the touch screen is operated etc.
  23. Being Attractive• Young people are never tired of talking about what to wear. Having only just escaped from school uniforms, Digital Natives are still somewhat at a loss as to how to package themselves. They are also perfectionists, and want to know what outfits and combinations suit them best. This is because being fashionable does not mean having a lot of new clothes, it is more about knowing how to mix & match.• Furthermore, being attractive is not just for appealing to the opposite sex. Digital Natives hope to win everybody‟s approval and be rewarded with lots of friendship and love.
  24. • Building the Perfect Image Not knowing what fits and what not has always been a problem. This mobile phone app allows Digital Natives to upload their own photos as models and put apparels from different brands and in different styles on. This gives them the opportunity to come up with a perfect ensemble. Lastly, they can purchase directly online to save the trouble of hitting the streets.
  25. Multi-function Bundles • According to survey data from DATAMONITOR, Chinese consumers have a preference for time-saving products and services. • This comes out clearly in Digital Natives. Their lives are hectic and they are looking for all-in-one solutions. Plug and play is their ideal set-up, and so it‟s not hard to see why they all like one-stop shopping and one- stop services.Source: Datamonitor Consumer Survey (2009)
  26. • Harmony and Simplicity Digital Natives want their life to be simple and harmonious. This mobile phone app have 8 functions, which capture a wealth of tips and information on how to tackle many of life‟s little hassles: Feng shui, astrology, junk e-mails filter, garbage sorting, bike rentals, tree-planting investment plan, energy saving, yoga, gasoline cost saving etc.
  27. Healthy and Green Lifestyle• Digital Natives acquire information faster and earlier than other cohorts, and hot topics capture their attention & fascination. This is especially true of the trend of going for a healthy and low carbon lifestyle.• The impact of the environmental friendly theme of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo on Digital Natives is significant. Mobile phone app designs that assist the user to become more environmentally friendly and socially responsible are in demand.
  28. Mighty Calculator When Digital Natives enter college, they start to think about eating ahealthy diet and losing weight. The Zero Carbon Hall at the Shanghai World Expo served toreinforce their conviction to pursue a healthy and environmental friendly lifestyle. This MightyCalculator counts the calories in food and the carbon a person emits. The mobile phone appwill also reward the user with a healthily growing virtual tree every time the user takes actionsto lead a low-carbon lifestyle.
  29. We Media• Digital Natives have the need to turn contents created by themselves into a source of information and broadcasting them.• The sense of competition fostered from early childhood makes them want to be in the lead all the time. At the same time, they want the content created to be more interesting. They want to make it possible for the real world to be virtualized and recreated on mobile phone apps.
  30. • Sam & Tom allows Digital Natives to create their own animations. Digital Natives can use photos of people and objects taken with their mobile phones as characters in an animation. The mobile phone app will automatically generate a story based on the expressions, body languages and shapes of the people and objects in the photos. Digital Natives can then watch their own mini animations. More importantly, they can share their creation with others.
  31. • My Movie allows Digital Natives to make their own movie. They can select a title from the “list of films”, go to the “my actors” list to replace the original cast with their favorite stars, then watch their own movie. In the above example, Leonardo diCaprio was replaced by Brad Pitt as Cobb in the movie “Inception”.
  32. Common themesAnd their implications
  33. Deconstruction & Appropriation• In “Leader‟s Voice” and “Lie to Me”, Digital Natives incorporate, rework and redefine contents from popular culture (ie. the Voice Changer of Conan Edogawa and ideas from the American TV series “Lie to Me”). In “My Movie”, an entire Hollywood blockbuster is appropriated but the cast is changed.• Digital Natives like to break up contents from popular culture, take the bits and pieces they like and create something new out of them.• Implication: Brands should provide as many brand-related content as possible to encourage consumers to use as raw materials for adaptation and integration. Brand owners and marketers have to “let go” and have the guts to allow Digital Natives to use brand contents for their own purposes and even to spoof the brand. Any such use, even if irreverent or frivolous, is a form of engagement and will add to brand associations.
  34. Liquid Content• The term “liquid content” denotes content that can be adapted for distribution through different channels and media formats. Many of the mobile phone apps designed by our Digital Native participants can cross to larger screens. For example, the “Home Sweet Home” app, which gathers information about a person‟s hometown, and the “My Movie” app, which can replace the cast in movies with the user‟s own dream cast, both produce contents which can easily be transferred from the mobile phone screen to other screens (such as TV screen, computer screen, or movie theatre).• Implications: With the development of three-screen convergence in China, content of successful or relevant mobile phone apps can be made available for sharing and downloading via different media platforms.
  35. Evolution of Tradition• While public opinion holds that Digital Natives have broken away from Chinese traditional culture, the findings from this research show that they actually have needs for Chinese tradition in their lives. However, the delivery of traditional culture has taken new formats. While they do not want a heavy dose of culture from textbooks, nor out of the mouths of their elders, they welcome it in apps or games on their mobile phones, such as the “Four Treasures of the Study” app that allows Digital Natives to practice Chinese calligraphy on mobile phones.• Technology, in the form of phone apps, has enabled traditional Chinese culture to slip back into the lives of Digital Natives in a portable and mobile format.• Implication: Contents with elements of traditional Chinese culture are great materials to deploy in communications.
  36. All-in-one• Digital Natives are looking for all-in-one killer apps. What they want is a catch- all that allows them to complete a multitude of tasks within one mobile phone app. Take for example, the “Multi-function Bundle” app, which integrates functions that can only be fulfilled at present by activating a number of individual apps. There is an obvious need for multiple steps or a number of separate apps to be combined together. Furthermore, Digital Natives want to be able to conduct purchase online at the end of all these functions.• Digital Natives want their mobile phone apps to include all the steps in the purchase decision journey in one app: from awareness, to consideration, to purchase, to performance evaluation, to loyalty scheme. This actually poses a challenge to marketers in that the usual practice in communication is to separate brand image advertising from promotional advertising for fear that the image of the brand will be adversely affected by the promotions. The needs of Digital Natives, however, counter this principle.• Implication: The challenge is for marketers to combine these different communication tasks into one app, yet not ending up with a schizophrenic brand.
  37. We Media• Digital Natives are already catering to their own needs by adapting, changing and re-combining content to suit their own purposes. Within their social network, friends and fans are more inclined than usual to look at what their friends and guanzhus (people to pay attention to) are watching. Therefore, every Digital Native is a content provider if s/he has a Smart Phone in hand and everyone is a media platform. There is a popular riff on the Internet that says, “If you have 10 fans, you‟re an internal magazine; if you have 100,000 fans, you‟re a metropolis daily; if you have 100,000,000 fans, you‟re CCTV.”• Implication: There is mileage in leveraging individuals as media platform for brand building.
  38. About the researcher
  39. Jessica Shen• A Morgan Stanley report, “Media & Internet: How Teenagers Consume Media”, was produced in July 2009 by Matthew Robson, who was then only 15 years old. The report revealed how Matthew and his peers consumed media.• One learning from the Morgan Stanley report is that Digital Natives have different points of views and insights into their peers‟ media consumption behavior. Therefore, MEC decided to ask a Digital Native, Jessica Shen, to do the fieldwork and data analysis for this research.• Jessica was born in 1989. She is a third year Advertising Major at a university in Shanghai. In addition to conducting the interviews and analyzing the findings, she also took charge of the graphic design and layout of this report.
  40. ⑨0後鈈瞦歡石更釦丄“90鮜”白勺 吸引力 夘囝,铟蒍“亻尔鍆橷卟叻檞玖零 後!”泹硪炔髮現,峩忚莈哪麼叻觧 硪閅這①羣亾。牠們笓щǒмīSS像 尰鯁湜啍綬溝通者、輐媄茱義者、 健康环 楽觀疰礒者。bú湜“尐哖吥識矁滋 保生活 菋”,祇湜仯孒媊輩嘚垍怨zi哎,看 鴏亊綪鯁楽觀咊亓濶:“二0壹②赽 捯嘞,ωō扪烸兲嘟葽鼱綵哋鐹。”Translation of leetspeak:We don‟t want to be labeled as the Post-90s. This is because you guys have no idea about us at all. However, itturns out that neither do I. We are even more hedonistic, communicative, perfection-driven and optimistic than Ithought. It is not that we do not understand what sorrow is, it is just that we do not complain like the other cohorts.We are more optimistic and open-minded towards things. 2012 is around the corner. Let‟s live everyday brilliantly!
  41. References• Datamonitor (2009): Datamonitor Consumer Survey• MEC (2010): “Are You In Control Enough to Let Go?”• Morgan Stanley (2009): “Media & Internet – How Teenagers Consume Media”• Nokia (2008): “Nokia Open Studio: Engaging Communities”• Prensky, M. (2001): “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants”, in The Horizon, Vol.9, No. 5, October 2001• Wunderman (2010): “Mobile Mania”
  42. For more information, please contact:Theresa LooChina Director – Strategic Planning, Analytics & InsightMEC29/F, The Center, 989 Changle RoadShanghai, China 200031Direct Line: +86 21 2307 7790theresa.loo@mecglobal.comLead Researcher & Project Manager: Jessica ShenReport write-up: Jessica ShenEditor: Theresa Loo, Cai JingResearcher: Stella Wang, Mandy Wu, Jane Liu, Amanda Song, Anita Wang