Did you hear?...Boomers: potent, growing marketplace not to be ignored, even online

Boomers may be flocking online, ready for you to reach them via targeted marketing, but they are not ready to embrace some of the hippest technology the younger generations crave. But don't discount the group since it remains a potent and growing market with dollars to spend.
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Boomers may be flocking online, ready for you to reach them via targeted marketing, but they are not ready to embrace some of the hippest technology the younger generations crave. But don't discount the group since it remains a potent and growing market with dollars to spend.

Results of a survey just out show that "in" is: word-of-mouth sharing, experts and credible authorities, trusted brands, product research and online shopping, email, broadband, privacy, and health and wellness information.

But what the post-war babies, born from about 1946 to 1964, have not yet embraced is social networking, blogs, podcasts, downloading and listening to music, and group gaming.

"Boomers will participate in online communities to share opinions about brands and products," said Lori Bitter, president of JWT Boom, which specializes in marketing to boomers and conducted the research. "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 who have received promotional emails about products and services have clicked through to the site being promoted, the survey reported. More than 55 percent have purchased a product or service promoted in an email. Ninety-three percent of respondents who have read an article about a website printed in a newspaper or magazine have later visited the site online, reminding marketers that traditional media coverage, as part of an integrated marketing strategy, remains an important element of boomer marketing.

So boomers will seek out health and wellness information (97 percent), use email (96 percent), read articles (91 percent), conduct product research before offline purchasing (88 percent) and shop online (78 percent). But they have "little or no interest" in writing blogs (67 percent), participating in general social networking (63 percent), or listening to podcasts/pre-recorded audio content (55 percent).

"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 Sharon Whiteley, CEO of ThirdAge (www.thirdage.com), which conducted the research for JWT Boom. "Boomers are using more traditional web communication tools, such as email, to keep in touch with their existing group of friends in order to share photos and, more importantly, life experience."

But the power the boomer group has is big: JWT Boom (www.jwtboom.com) pointed out that the group alone accounts for 78 million people and controls over 83 percent of consumer spending. Forty percent of the United States' population is over 45, with 50-percent market growth projected over the next 15 years. Boomer spending will increase $800 billion to over $4.6 trillion by 2015.

"Marketers have the opportunity to build a relationship with this important audience," said Whiteley, in a statement. "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."

The 2008 Boomers Online Media and Social Networking Study was conducted by Third Age online. A total of 1,834 respondents over age 40 completed the survey, with about two of three being female and 80 percent between the ages of 46 and 70. More than half had a household income of $50,000 or higher, with about a third with incomes of $75,000 or higher.

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