Luke Mitchell, head of insight at the Voxburner market research agency, takes a look at four youth trends that will impact mobile marketing in 2014 and says that brands should never underestimate what tech means to young consumers and that Snapchat, Vine and WhatsApp are the apps to watch.

1. Never underestimate what tech means to youth

Firstly and most crucially, young people continue to tell us about the overall importance of mobile and the internet in their lives. Yes, you already knew about that – but the key is not to take it at face value next year, because this is something young people are deeply serious about.

The smartphone is now the most important technology device that 67% of UK 16-24s own. Connectivity and signal is now their top priority when choosing where to live. When you look at the top youth brands in the UK according to Voxburner’s Youth 100, YouTube is number one and Amazon, Facebook, Google and Wikipedia all in the top ten. None of those brands existed 20 years ago.

Our world is changing quickly and the brands, devices and innovations associated with mobile and technology are now fundamental to modern daily living; young people do not know a world without them. We hear from many of our respondents, for example, that they feel anxious if they don’t have their phone in their pocket and disconcerted when their messages haven’t been checked for a while.

The takeaway for businesses from young people is: “Don’t let us down with your use of tech”. In mobile this means making sure your website works beautifully on all devices. It means make sure your app is available on all platforms (it continues to surprise that so many develop apps solely for iOs) and it means ensuring your mobile payment solutions are working smoothly. Because young people tell us they are increasingly using their smartphone to pay for things as well as research (16-24s tell us they dedicated showroomers). A poor mobile offering in 2014 will not be forgiven.

2. Snapchat, Vine and WhatsApp the apps to watch

The majority of our Voxburner Academy have tried out mobile social app du-jour Snapchat. This audience is both early-adopting and highly curious when it comes to mobile. They will download and roadtest apps in high volume and news of the good ones will quickly spread amongst friends. With Snapchat, they tell us they enjoy using it to send funny photos to friends and ‘saw this and thought of you’ pictures. They also appreciate the customisation offered through its paintpad, but some are sceptical about how long Snapchat will remain interesting, saying it has the feel of a novelty app.

It’s interesting that Snapchat’s success has been driven by growing youth apathy towards Facebook, which appears to be on its way to joining email as something young users will continue to check every day, but without any expectation that the experience will be fun. It will be interesting to see how this trend develops in 2014, as an array of new specialist services strip away reasons to use Facebook.

WhatsApp, the instant messaging app, seems the biggest problem for Facebook. We know that 93% use Facebook primarily to keep in touch with friends; with large numbers now relying on WhatsApp as their first place for friend communications, there may be trouble ahead for the social giant. Meanwhile Vine has not gained youth attention as quickly, but nevertheless has established community and culture among its users in a way that is reminiscent of Twitter’s early years and will be worth watching.

3. Young people ready to see more location-based products

We are tracking increased interest in location-based mobile innovation. From the likes of dating app Tinder, which again has enjoyed the scrutiny of curious youth recently, to the resounding favourite Google Maps which our respondents tell us they are utterly reliant on to get around – we see young people understanding the opportunities of location-based very easily these days. If there is more to come in 2014, young people will be keen to appraise it.

4. More sales made on mobile devices

Finally we know from recent research that young people will buy more digital content in 2014 and in increasingly they will buy it using their mobile. In our Buying Digital Content report, 30% of UK 16-24s told us they would be upping their spend on digital music, films, ebooks and games over the next 12 months. Currently 18% use their smartphone to specifically buy digital content and eight per cent use their tablet. As tablet ownership increases and phones grow their dominance further as the primary device, and with businesses becoming more mobile-focussed, we will undoubtedly hear more pings in 2014 as sales are made by mobile.