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By Joe Keenan

RISMEDIA, January 20, 2009-(eMarketing & Commerce)-Consisting of 77.2 million people, baby boomers-people born between 1946 and 1964-represent a prized, yet often misunderstood, demographic for online marketers. In fact, they represent the largest group within the U.S. Internet population at 56.7 million users, a full 29.4% of all Internet users. So why is there such confusion about how to effectively market to them? A recent report from the online market research firm eMarketer, “Boomers Online: Attitude Is Everything,” addresses this issue.

The first hurdle for online marketers targeting boomers is the disparity in age that can exist within the group. This has led many marketers to divide the group into two distinct segments: older boomers (those born between 1946 and 1954) and younger boomers (those born between 1955 and 1964). Also, boomers’ online behavior typically varies from that of most Internet users. They view the Internet as a tool or resource to help them accomplish things-not a lifestyle or source of entertainment the way their younger counterparts treat it.

Telling statistics

Here are some relevant statistics from eMarketer’s report that online marketers should know about the baby boomer generation:

– 74% use the Internet at least once a month;
– younger boomers outnumber older boomers online 35.3 million to 21.4 million;
– more boomer women are Internet users than boomer men;
– 21% of boomers report not having Internet access;
– 62% of households headed by someone age 50 or older had annual incomes of $75,000 or more, nearly 5% higher than in 2004;
– 61% said it doesn’t pay to be loyal to one brand, especially in today’s marketplace;
– 68% of baby boomer women trust recommendations and rated information they heard in conversations as credible; and
– further underscoring these findings, in a recent survey from the public relations firm Edelman, 54% of baby boomers said the advertising industry misrepresents and neglects them, especially online, where 72.5% of younger boomers and 83.2% of older boomers said online advertising focused on younger age groups.

Strategic marketing

Now that you know that baby boomers are extremely active online, here are four tips eMarketer recommends to help you take full advantage of this demographic:

1. Establish trust. Make sure your products and services live up to their claims. Boomers are more willing to try competing brands and services than younger consumers. They’re also more likely to spread the word about those experiences, good and bad.

2. Be inviting. Make sure your site is easy for baby boomers to access and use. eMarketer suggests the following: Offer visitors the ability to enlarge the size of fonts and photos; keep the design simple, not cluttered; display your privacy policy prominently; and make sure content is written in concise, understandable language.

3. Provide relevant information. Boomers pay attention to advertising about products and services they’ve decided to purchase. And they’re very willing to go online to find out more about those products and services, whether they heard about them from a friend or were motivated by ads in other media.

4. Don’t waste their time. Boomers view the Internet as a tool to help them accomplish tasks and lead better lives. They don’t spend as much time online as younger generations in part because of their utilitarian attitude. Prepare your landing pages to reflect the search terms Internet users type in so they don’t hit the back button to return to the search engine results page.