Fear Of Texting Study Shows A Reversal Of The Gender Assumption

At this early stage of retail mobile, one of the ongoing fears involves text messaging acceptance. Beyond the general belief that younger consumers will embrace texting and older consumers will be repelled by it, there's the assumption that men would warm to texting at all ages, given the guy love of gadgets. New stats from eMarketer challenge that assumption.

With a sample size of 1,729 and a survey done by Harris Interactive on July 1, the youngest segment clearly—and expectedly—showed strong acceptance of text alerts, with 42 percent support, with men about 4 percent more supportive (44 percent) than women (40 percent).

When moving to the 35-44 age group, the overall numbers take an expected sharp drop. But the gender differences are virtually nil, with men (29 percent) actually slightly behind women (30 percent). The surprise kicks in with the next age group: 45-54.

Although the fondness falls a bit, it's much more pronounced in men. Women (26 percent) drop barely four percent from the 35-44 group, but male support drops almost in half, from 29 percent (for 35-44) to 16 percent (for 45-54). In the broad 55-and-older category, men actually become more receptive to texting, going up four points to 20 percent, while women drop from 26 percent to 14 percent.

It's hard to know what's behind those figures, which makes crafting a strategy to deal with these stats difficult. Complicating this further is the age segmentation Harris Interactive chose. The youngest group is arguably too broad, with 18-year-olds in a radically different place than 34-year-olds. Creating an 18-25 group and then a 26-34 group may have been more useful and meaningful.

Likewise, the oldest group (55 and older) should probably have been capped or segmented more. Today's 55-year-old is quite likely working full-time, a reality that could easily impact consumers through age 70.

Full-time employees are likely to have more mobile interactions than consumers who have been out of the workforce for five or more years. It seems odd to have one group with 55-year-old managers and 90-year-old consumers who may have been retired for decades. With no end to that age segment, it makes analysis of that data practically useless.

That all said, the 45-54 group seems perfectly legitimate, Harris generally does excellent survey work and that sample size is more than adequate. What would cause the men in that group to deviate from their age peers and from their older and younger gender peers?

One distinct possibility is that the men are more resistant to text alerts specifically because they are more comfortable with the mobile devices. It's not a novelty for them: It's an essential work tool, for information sharing and access. From that perspective, it's more interruptive than helpful. They didn't grow up texting for fun and social interactions as have the younger end of the 18-34 group.

Also, the natural resistance to shopping inherent in the male of the species makes text ads more repugnant, with little counter interest in seeing bargains quickly.

Then again, it might just be that men are crazy. It's been said before.