Thursday, 3 January 2008

Silver Surfers Rule!

I have written many times about the cast iron certainty that Silver Surfers will become the most important internet users in the next period. Cast iron, because by 2031 the number of UK people aged over 60% will have risen from 12.7m today to over 19m; an increase of 40%. Almost every one of the people now turning 60 are computer literate. So they will continue to be major users of the internet. That’s the age group that values friends and families most highly – so social networking is made for them. Without meaning to be rude, how much better to get your groceries delivered by than ‘meals-on-wheels’? However, when I make these predictions in public, people look at me strangely “Surely the internet is only for ‘young people’?”

Latest research from Nielsen Online (for pdf Click here) illustrates the trend rather well. Comparing UK internet users of the Top 100 most popular UK sites in Oct 06 to those in Oct 07 shows that users aged under 25 have decreased their share from 29% to 25% whereas the over 55s have increased from 16% to 19% - an increase of 22%. Indeed the average age of the UK internet population has increased from 35.7 to 37.9. Alex Burmaster at Nielsen Online, stating the blooming obvious, said “New online offerings and technology are usually targeted at the young, but it’s possible brands could be missing a trick if they continue down this path in the future”.

The Top Five brands with the ‘oldest’ users (all averaging around 45 years old) are:

- Marks and Spencer
- The National Lottery
- John Lewis
- BT
- Nationwide

Bebo has an average age of 29 and Youtube 34. Young people tend to go for entertainment whereas older audiences go for products and services. Young people go for internet ‘pure-plays’ whereas older users go for ‘bricks and mortar’ internet brands.

I tend to think that all this is pretty obvious. Except that the vast majority of other people still don’t seem to get it! If you were thinking of setting up any new online service or, indeed, launching any new product, you would do well to target it at these older and fast expanding internet users.

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