HAMBURG: Young consumers are displaying new attitudes and purchase habits due to the financial crisis and the rise of digital media, a multimarket study has found.

Media communications firm Initiative surveyed 7,500 people aged 18-24 years old in 15 countries, including China, France, Germany, Mexico, Poland, Russia, the UK and US.

It revealed 85% were anxious about the economic situation, and 94% outlined similar worries covering their career prospects.

As such, Initiative suggested that although "cool" and "fun" content, goods and services still hold a place, the downturn has yielded a generation of cautious shoppers.

Digital technology emerged as a key tool deployed by this demographic to make more informed choices and reduce expenditure levels.

Overall, 43% of respondents now regularly visit websites hosting user-generated reviews when researching brands.

A further 34% accessed social networks like Facebook and Twitter for the same purpose, a total standing at 33% for blogs and forums.

The core attribute participants considered when picking a specific product was "value for money", scoring 63%.

Reliability claimed second spot, receiving 56%, while trustworthiness took third, registering 54%.

Initiative therefore argued companies must aim to promote "traditional values" and clearly demonstrate product benefits, generally utilising channels like social media and mobile as the means by which to do so.

Successfully engaging this audience could be particularly positive, given 82% of interviewees stated they would mention a favourable brand experience to their friends, family and work colleagues.

However, 75% also typically told these groups when expectations had not been met.

In terms of interacting with brands, 41% were happy with the current form of contact - which is primarily one-way - but many contributors did express a desire to take part in a genuine conversation.

Among the most popular alternatives was helping create future products, with 33% of Initiative's cohort enthusiastic about this activity.

Moreover, 32% proved keen to attend "special branded events", a figure reaching 12% for discussing goods and services with company representatives.

Kendra Hatcher King, Initiative's worldwide director for insight and innovation, concluded that the "reset generation" has adopted highly distinctive preferences.

"Shaped by harsh economic realities, today's generation of young adults are more pragmatic in their views and behaviour, and are seeking real substance and value from brands," said Hatcher King.

"Empowered by digital technology, they are looking to share their experiences and develop two-way relationships with brands.

"Brands that are willing to adapt their communication to embrace mobile, social media, and mechanisms to facilitate, measure and reward consumer dialogue stand to generate loyalty among this powerful and important consumer group."

Data sourced from Initiative; additional content by Warc staff