Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Demographics and Internet Behavior

If you missed Peter Francese’s analysis of 2007 Census data yesterday in AdAge, you should read it in its entirety. His focus is on the impact on brands with little specific about Internet behavior. I recently reported on a survey by AARP that shed light on the Internet behavior of older Americans, and Marketing Charts followed a few days later with some good graphics. Today they have material from a Stores study of Boomers. Boomers are generally considered to have been born between 1946 and 1964. That means they are now 44 to 63 years of age.

Let’s mash some of the data together. Quoting Francese:

“The average U.S. head of household is now nearly 50 years old (49.5, to be precise). But here's the bigger story: More than 80% of the growth in the number of households in the next five years will be among those headed by people 55 and older.” In other words, the average head of household is a Boomer.

What does their media behavior look like, according to the Stores study and report in Marketing Charts:
•95% watch TV, with 77% of their viewing occurring between 7:30 pm and 11 pm.
•Two-thirds subscribe to cable TV and are most likely to watch Discovery Channel, A&E, the Food Network, ESPN and Fox News.
•They don’t like reality shows.
•76% listen to the radio - more than any other demographic.
•49% listen to the radio during morning-drive time.
•Radio programming preference varies, from oldies to country to talk formats.
•6% subscribe to satellite radio.
•57% read their local daily newspaper regularly.
•68% read their weekly community paper.
•87% surf the internet, spending an average of 123 minutes online daily.
•93% regularly or occasionally use the internet to research products before they buy them.
•46% say online searches are triggered by traditional advertising or an article they’ve read; 45% are prompted by television or other broadcast media.

Add in the fact that Boomers have the highest discretionary income of any age cohort and that they are willing to buy online (eMarketer, April 10, 2008). The Internet is clearly a channel for reaching the ready-to-spend Boomer group.

Francese has a wonderful quote on their spending behavior relative to their children: “Households headed by people under 35 [born before 1973] account for only a little more than a fifth of consumer spending by themselves, but they cause vast spending by others on their weddings and babies. There really should be a separate category in the national GDP figures for competitive grandparenting by baby boomers.” Ouch! But it’s a natural; affluent Boomers spend on many things; spending on their grandchildren is one of the most enjoyable.

Marketers need to confront the fact that Boomers and Seniors are active on the Internet. They both acquire information and make purchases there. It seems to me there may be a difference when it comes to entertainment, though. It may be a reason for the non-linear behavior I pointed to a few days ago.

Most Boomers are still working. Their Internet behavior may be more instrumental—whether content on e-commerce is their intent. They need to accomplish things. Seniors are more likely not to be working, more likely to have time to browse the Internet. So their behavior may have more expressive components that that of Boomers. Think about it!

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