RISMEDIA, June 4, 2008-Which online boomer trends are in – and which are out? To find out, ThirdAge, an online destination for the baby boomer and midlife markets, and JWTBOOM, an integrated marketing agency dedicated to reaching boomers, surveyed more than 1,800 respondents. The unexpected results were presented in San Francisco at JWT LiveWire: The Summit, a conference dedicated to reaching consumers age 40-plus.
The results of the survey may surprise even the savviest online marketers looking to capture the attention of the coveted boomer market. It turns out the audience values word-of-mouth recommendations, expert opinions, trusted brands and privacy online. But, they are not yet embracing social networking or blogs, despite what recent hype would suggest.
The following outlines the current trends of boomers’ online preferences:
Experts and credible authorities
Product research and online shopping
Health and wellness information
Downloading and listening to music
They “Social Network” Their Own Way:
“The research clearly shows that boomers are not clamoring to social networking sites the same way younger generations are making new friends in today’s social media playground,” said ThirdAge CEO Sharon Whiteley. “Boomers are using more traditional Web communication tools, such as e-mail, to keep in touch with their existing group of friends in order to share photos and, more importantly, life experience. “That said,” she added, “Boomers in general are interested in connecting and interacting with others in their community around shared interests and common issues. They relate to people sharing a similar life phase – and they trust those who have walked in their shoes.”
Fifty-three percent of those surveyed had not visited social networking sites; 47% cited concerns over privacy and having personal information on the Web; 39% said they are too busy; 32% do not see the benefit of spending time social networking.
Boomers Embrace Online Marketing…Selectively
“Boomers will participate in online communities to share opinions about brands and products,” said JWT BOOM President Lori Bitter, whose company specializes in marketing to boomers. “They are also open to both traditional marketing and eMarketing, as long as the message is coming from a brand they know and trust.”
Seventy-five percent of respondents that have received promotional e-mails about products and services have clicked through to the site being promoted. More than 55% have purchased a product or service promoted in an e-mail.
Ninety-three percent of respondents who have read an article about a website in print (newspaper or magazine) have later visited the site online, reminding marketers that media coverage, as part of an integrated marketing strategy, remains an important element of boomer marketing.
Trust -But Verify
Respondents were most likely to trust a website’s content if the site corresponded to a trusted brand or featured credible expertise.
– 83% reported the content needed to be attributed to experts, authors or authorities with subject matter credibility
– 66% said they trust sites whose content is sponsored by a company they know and trust
– 62% said they would trust a site if they had been going to it for a long time and came to trust its brand
“This data reflects that brands have the ability to connect directly to their key consumers through targeted online sponsorships,” said Bitter.
They’ve Got the Power
Boomers alone account for 78 million people and control more than 83% of consumer spending. Forty percent of the United States’ population is over 45, with 50% market growth projected over the next 15 years. Boomer spending will increase $800 billion to over $4.6 trillion by 2015. This is a potent marketplace that can’t be ignored.
“Marketers have the opportunity to build a relationship with this important audience,” said Whiteley. “For example, we have learned that ThirdAgers are not universally familiar with or receptive to blogs. On the other hand, they value personal views written by experts and opinions by authoritative sources. On our redesigned website scheduled to launch in early July, we are featuring ‘contributors’ rather than bloggers regardless of the nomenclature popularized by mainstream social media. We know our audience and want to speak their language.”
Additional Noteworthy Findings
Word-of-mouth: Boomers participate in viral or word-of-mouth marketing as much as or more than younger age groups. Ninety-three percent of respondents were very or somewhat likely to share product information or news with friends.
Product research and shopping: Eighty-eight percent of respondents use the Internet for research before purchasing a product offline, and 78% shop online.
Broadband: Eighty percent of respondents use a broadband connection at home.
Health and Wellness: Ninety-seven percent use the Internet to seek information on health and wellness.
Gaming: Sixty-two percent had little or no interest in playing games with others.