Urban youth in Northeast Thailand becoming more digital-savvy, survey finds

Urban youth in Northeast Thailand becoming more digital-savvy, survey finds
Varidda Varaakom, chief innovation officer at McCann Worldgroup.

THAILAND - Marketing-solution agency McCann Worldgroup's research unit has found that young rural residents of the Northeastern region are digital toddlers while those in urban areas have become more digital-savvy, with high consumption of digital content via social networks both from personal computers and budget smartphones. This trend is mainly driven by telecom giants' aggressive roll-out of third-generation wireless broadband and public Wi-Fi hotspots across the Kingdom, the research report "Mind the Gap: When Rural Meets Digital" also suggested.

McCann Truth Central spent two weeks conducting this qualitative research in urban and rural areas in Khon Kaen province with a sample size of 80 young people aged 17-23 years. The research unit aimed to take on the big questions of how burgeoning urbanisation and surging digitalisation have transformed rural culture and tradition in the Northeast, also known as Isaan.

Varidda Varaakom, chief innovation officer at McCann Worldgroup and head of the research unit, said the findings could be used to help marketers communicate with youth in the Northeast, which would become a large customer base in the near future.

She said most young people in Khon Kaen province consumed digital content via their laptops as they were able to enjoy watching TV dramas, video streaming and product demonstrations on a large screen via public Wi-Fi connections at schools or even public places. But many of them also were enjoying getting connected and creating their own digital culture via budget smartphones costing Bt3,000-Bt5,000.

According to a survey of the mobile market in April by research institute GfK, in the first four months of this year, smartphone sales in the northeastern provinces witnessed a 344-per-cent year-on-year surge to 910,000 units from the same period last year. It also found that the budget smartphone was a coming trend.

Varidda agreed that budget smartphones were the next big thing, while laptops would be the screen used for work and play and Facebook would be the new TV screen.

"The world of social media is where Isaan youth can find their motivation. In the meantime, the social networks also provide them new means to express who they are and allow them to socialise with other people outside their peer circles," she said.

Varidda suggested that brands and marketers should embark on a "think rural and act digital" path to bridge the gap between the urban and rural digital cultures. Digital campaigns still had great impact on them at the broad level.

Meanwhile, digital media also create home-grown online celebrities and social influencers in both urban and rural areas. Brands and marketers should take advantage of this trend, she said.

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