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Saturday, December 8, 2007

The 50-plus set - not as old as you think.

Being marketers, we’re constantly training our eyes on what’s next – new technologies affecting how to reach and interact with consumers. In recent times, there’s been lots of attention focused on the 15 – 24 year olds, the gadget savvy, text messaging set we call the ‘Millennials.’ Mostly due to their sheer size – around 80 million strong in North America, we’ve been watching and analyzing their every move, figuring out new ways to engage them with a 2 inch mobile phone screen. Today though, they don’t have high earning power yet, as many are still paying off student loans and getting their careers going. In fact, Millennials in some ways are an audience that holds promise but isn’t ready for prime time.

However one group emerging as an online powerhouse – wealthy, engaged, connected and spending big in travel, finance and electronics, you have to look no further than the heads of many households in Canada, according to ComScore Media Metrix and Statistics Canada. Say hello to mom and dad - the 50+ set!

It’s easy to overlook the influence older Canadians have on our economy, given our obsession with youth culture. Canada’s digital media universe increased 1 million to 23 million users in June 2007 compared to last year, according to ComScore Media Metrix Canada, with a large portion of growth coming from Canadians aged 50 or older. In fact, the average Canuck spends close to 43 hours a month online, burning through 4,000 page views – more than any other country in the world. And older Canadians use web services such as online banking at a higher percentage rate than Americans do.

What makes the 50+ target group such an attractive demographic for an advertiser isn’t just their size, although that is part of the reason as boomers account for almost a quarter of the entire population. It’s their spending power.

According to Statistics Canada, households with at least one member age 55 or older spent 71% of their incomes on discretionary purchases – or $144 billion annually, and are expected to grow to more than $215 billion in 10 years. Granted, older Canadians account for a relatively small portion of the total online universe (around 7%), but consider these recent insights on web usage from Ipsos Reid:

71% of 50-plus Canadians with home access to the web have a high speed connection and spend an average of 8.7 hours per week online.

50-plus Canadians spend a large portion of their online time on research type activities such as trip planning (47%), product purchases (40%) and comparison shopping (37%).

29+ of Canadians aged 50+ visited a social networking site in May 2006 compared to 8% in September 2006. This is mostly due to the influence of their children, using Face Book and the like to reconnect with friends and old acquaintances.

The 50-plus Canadian consumer represents a large, diverse and growing segment of the online population. They like to comparison shop, need convenience purchases, shop for quality and most importantly have the time to spend looking for what they need.

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