Online marketing. It’s very important to know your numbers. For marketers, especially Internet or online marketing professionals, analytics is an absolute must-have. But while your own numbers can tell you a lot about where you need to improve, looking at the wider market analysis and trends can quickly point out where the big holes are in your marketing strategy. If you’re not targeting your products or services to the 45-and-older demographics, you may be leaving a lot of cash on the table.
Here’s the problem. Many think of the younger generations as being web savvy. You know, the Gen-X and Gen-Y demographics. This is definitely true. However, the latest numbers may surprise you. In the post called “Generations Online in 2009“, Sydney Jones, Research Assistant, and Susannah Fox, Associate Director, of Pew Internet & American Life Project, reported on the latest trends of online activities of different age groups by specific activities. While you can go there and read the complete article, here are a few things online marketing professionals can take some action on immediately based on the numbers. All graphics courtesy of PewResearch.org.
Below is the definition of generations as segmented by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Internet use and email
While the younger generations (Gen-X and Gen-Y in the 18-44 age groups) dominate Internet use, older folks are actually getting more involved. At 22% (ages 45-54) and 13% (ages 55-63) for a total of 35%, older Internet users are coming on strong and are expected to continue to push this trend in the future.
There’s no surprise here as we’re really looking at the group of Boomers. With modern advancements, life expectancies continue to increase and people stay active for many years longer, further contributing to the growth of Boomers’ presence on the web.
With respect to email usage, the tendency is also similar. While the younger users prefer instant messaging, social networking, and blogging as their communications tools of choice, email are still the most popular application among older Internet users.
So without knowing these facts, many may not realize the following:
- A third of Internet users are above the age of 45. And the trend is continuing upward, not downward.
- Though the exact numbers can be argued, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that peak earning years of U.S. male workers are now between the ages of 45 and 54 (1999 data). That’s exactly the leading group of this 35% older Internet users.
- If you’re not marketing to this group on the Internet and via emails, you’re missing out.
- The point: Don’t forget the 45-and-above demographic!
Tool for research, shopping and banking
While fully 80% of Gen-Xers continue to lead in online shopping, noted the study, the 45-and-above crowd prefer information research (mainly health care and other products), shopping and banking. And even though still trailing behind younger generations in shopping, 56% of users ages 64-72, and 47% ages 73 and older do in fact buy products online. However you look at it, these are pretty big numbers.
In the online banking segment, both Gen X and Gen Y maintain their high rate of activity to manage their day-to-day spending and finances online. And as these users grow older, they will effectively take their habits with them into the older age groups. Again
- The point: Are you prepared for the 45-and-above demographic?
Video downloads, online travel reservations and work-related research
What about these other online activities like video downloads, travel reservations and work-related research? Well an interesting trend emerges here. According to the study,
Generations on the oldest end of the spectrum also became significantly more likely than they had been two years before to download videos. Some 13% of G.I. Generation internet users (age 73+) reported downloading videos, up from 1% in 2005, and another 13% of the online Silent Generation (ages 64-72) say they download videos, up from 8% in 2005.
If one looks at these “smaller” numbers in context, they are actually huge. Considering that the Internet concept itself never existed to these age groups during most of their life, the numbers really indicate that the older folks are not only already savvy with Internet technology and communication, but their numbers are increasing as well. And again when you further consider that the younger generations are growing older all the time, you’re looking at a growing market.
- The point: You need to target for the 45-and-above demographic!
Broadband Internet Access Tripled in Oldest Groups
Let’s take a look at the broadband Internet access in the homes in the U.S.A. This is an indication of the capability of the users to do more online. It really is an enabler, because without it, user experience (or the lack of it) will always keep the users away, resulting in limited Internet use and growth.
Recent technology advancements, and more affordable price points, have helped large growth in broadband install for home use across the board (see graph below). While there was a doubling of broadband access in the home between 2005 and 2008 for many age groups, the real kicker is the tripling of broadband access in the 65-and-older group. Again absolute numbers are probably small, but the growth is phenomenal.
- The point: Go ahead and market to the older demographics. They’re well-equipped and ready for you.
So online marketers, times may be bad and the economy may not recover for a while. But if you dig deep and make an honest assessment of your online marketing goals and strategies, you may find new and untapped opportunities right in front of you in the form of the 45-and-above customers. Like in any other market groups, just make sure you understand your customers, prepare the proper and targeted marketing messages to solve the customers’ real problems and needs, and you can position your organization for growth.
Share your experience with us. All comments and feedback are welcome.
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