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Businesses Fail to Target Older Internet Users

By: NMK Created on: March 25th, 2008
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Businesses are missing out on a potentially lucrative market by not targeting Internet users over the age of 34, according to new research.

Internet advertising network, Burst Media, revealed that the majority of US Internet users aged 35 and over felt online ads were aimed at younger users. As their age increased, so too did their view that online ads were not targeted at their demographic.

On the other hand, the report Online Insights, showed how more than half of US Internet users think that content on the Internet is focused on their own age group. However, as with online advertising, the percentages declined with age. Respondents over the age of 44 were far less likely to say that online content focused on them.

Burst noted how there were opportunities for businesses to expand content to demographics that felt “under-served” by the Internet. Older Internet users are now turning more and more to the web as a primary source for news, entertainment and information.

Statistics from comScore’s Media Matrix also suggest that businesses would do well to target older consumers. The research, from August 2007 showed that the majority of Internet users (53.5 per cent) were aged 35 or over. A total of 48.4 per cent of Internet users alone were aged between 35 and 64.

According to Jocelyn Bull, head of marketing at search marketing specialists, The Search Works, not only are more of that age group going online but they are also going online more regularly than before.

“Research from the National Statistics, First Release: Internet Access, Households and Individuals 2007 has shown that 70% of people aged 25-44 and 67% of those aged 45-54 go online every day or almost every day. That’s pretty much the same as the 16-24 year olds (70%) so there’s plenty of opportunity to target the over 35s, grab their attention and encourage them to spend online,” she said.

“Getting your search marketing right is a good place to start – people of any age could be actively searching online for products and services that you sell, effectively telling you that they’re interested and looking for information,” continued Bull.

However, just because there is a larger proportion of older users on the web, does not mean that they will necessarily spend their money – which is why the age group is often overlooked when it comes to marketing.

“It’s a simple ROI rule-of-thumb; marketing messages are targeted towards the consumers most likely to spend.  The over 35 age group are seen to be quite low on the list when it comes to disposable income. This could be due to the influence of children, new homes, savings, pension funds, school fees, and family holidays, etc.  The overriding theme being that young families don’t fritter away cash,” said David Hall, communications director at Affiliate Window - one of the largest UK affiliate networks.

“There are opportunities for insurance companies, banks, etc, to target the over 35s. As a 36 year old man with a young family, I get bombarded with marketing material from the finance sector, but I see very little online-based messaging from them despite spending over 10 hours a week online.”

Andreas Puros, managing director of search engine specialists Greenlight, questions the accuracy of the research as it assumes all online advertising are display ads.

“It assumes that online advertising mediums are all the same, which isn’t the case. Display and Search are the two dominant ad channels online and their capabilities in reaching out to different demographics, and the success practitioners of each medium are demonstrating does differ wildly,” he said.

As the Internet evolves however, so too will its ability to better understand the user and therefore allow advertising to be more effective.

“A hot topic in display advertising is behavioural targeting. Ads are shown with messages that are decided on based on a better understanding of how someone got to the page. This is very much in its infancy still but will invariably improve display targeting so that people are seeing more ads that are tailored to them than is the case generally,” said Puros.

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