Trailing millennials are the pro-PC, not the post-PC, generation

TMT Predictions 2016

Executive summary

Deloitte Global predicts that trailing millennials (18-24 years old) are likely to be the most pro-PC of all age groups in 2016. Although they are the smartphone generation, that does not mean they are abandoning their personal computers. In fact, their ownership, intent to purchase and use of PCs (regardless of operating system) will likely be higher than for any other age group in 2016.

It seems that 18-24 year-olds view smartphones and PCs as complements, not substitutes. This may be partly because laptops are more affordable than ever before, with many sub-$500 devices now available. The large screens, keyboards and trackpads or mice of a laptop provide an ease of input and display that even the largest phablet can’t match.

Having a mobile strategy will be necessary in 2016, especially if your market is millennials. In fact, a mobile-first strategy is almost certainly a good idea. But a mobile-only strategy that assumes millennials have already abandoned (or are about to abandon) their computers is almost certainly an equally bad idea. Depending on the content or use case, millennials still use PCs, and sometimes even prefer the PC to mobile.

For example, in a Deloitte US survey published in 2015, trailing millennials 14-25 years old reported the percentage of time spent watching four different forms of video content: for smartphones, tablets, desktop/laptop computers and TV sets. Aside from TV sets, the computer screen was the dominant device, even for user-generated content. In fact, for movies and TV shows (30-60 minutes), millennial use of computers was more than double the screen time for smartphones and tablets combined. Although games and social media are indeed heavily mobile-first for trailing millennials, the larger screens on desktops and laptops seems to be preferred to mobile.

Another example is online banking. According to a 2014 US study, 20-34 year-olds were much more likely than any other demographic to conduct banking-related activities via digital channels. However, when asked to express a preference, millennials preferred banking via web site more than two-to-one over mobile.

Shopping is another use where the PC still has its place. A 2014 survey of US 19-33 year-olds showed they prefer using a computer rather than a smartphone or tablet for checking product details or availability, and especially for making the actual purchase, with nearly two-thirds preferring a computer, and only about 40 percent using a smartphone or tablet.

According to a comScore study, millennials in all of the US, UK and Canada are definitely mobile-first: in each country 18-34 year-olds spend at least 20 hours more per month on mobile than on laptop or desktop PCs. American millennials spend 90 hours per month on their mobiles, nearly 50 hours more than on their computers. However, that does not mean they have abandoned their PCs: millennial PC usage is 39-46 hours per month across the three countries, which is a little less than usage for the study population as a whole (about two hours per month), but not materially so.

Millennials seem more than willing to have a laptop in front of them and a smartphone in hand. What are millennials doing on PCs? The answer is computer games, longer-form video, downloading or streaming content, and creating or editing content (text, videos). In fact, when we look at how PCs compete with tablets or smartphones, and how they are used by demographic groups, it might be those aged 55 and over who are more likely to become the post-PC generation.

Trailing millennials are the pro-PC, not the post-PC, generation

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