While market research continues to pop the questions it takes to gain consumer insights, young adults in the U.S. are becoming less and less likely to pop the question that sets couples on the path to marriage.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 29% of today’s 18- to 34-year-olds are married, compared to 59% in 1978. The median age at first marriage is now 29.8 years for men and 27.8 years for women, continuing a steady climb that began in1950 and has accelerated since the Great Recession.
Meanwhile, 3.85 million babies were born in the U.S. in 2017, a drop of 2% in just one year, and a decline of nearly 7% from the number of U.S. births in 2009.
Economics is clearly a factor. Among the 71% of adults under 35 who are not married, only 20% earn at least $40,000 a year. For married young adults, the proportion earning at least $40,000 doubles to 40%.
Marriage, parenthood and the formation of households are, of course, of fundamental importance not only to people’s personal lives, but to their lives as consumers. Perhaps the most important message that market research can take from these powerful demographic developments is that big changes are afoot, even for enduring facets of life that many of us consider unshakable. In the face of great changes, it’s crucial for consumer insights professionals to be constantly alert and rapidly adaptable when it comes to the best practices for understanding how the consumer landscape is shifting.
Given these realities, does it make sense to accept longstanding common wisdom about research and its methods? For example, should long term tracking studies put such a premium on methodological consistency that they sacrifice accuracy for the sake of keeping all their data ducks in a neat row? The acceleration of change should tell you that those ducks are probably waddling around in patterns that have changed considerably since the tracking study was launched.
If you’re committed to continuity in your online trackers, and worried that you’ll lose data continuity if you switch to mobile, it’s time for more flexible thinking. Mobile living is the way consumers live today. Their phones are always with them. The personal computers you’ve relied on for answers to online tracking surveys are now optional for many consumers, and they’ve become especially less relevant outside of white-collar workplaces and home offices.
So if you’re still holding out against mobile tracking data, maybe it’s time to reconsider whether that approach is really stalwart and steady-on. In a changing world, integrating mobile data into tracking studies isn’t the risky play. It’s the conservative move – if data accuracy and true consumer representation are the values you’re trying to conserve. In a time of flux, the riskiest behavior is to ignore fundamental changes and stand still. For better or for worse, it’s just a fact that young adults are postponing marriage. It’s also just a fact that consumers have gone mobile. To stay on track, trackers must move with them.
For more on how to integrate mobile into your tracking studies, just click here.