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Broadband Baby Boomers

Baby boomers have the time, money and lifestyle to fuel broadband growth. Never has it been so hip to target the 55 and up demographic.

"The sheer number of baby boomers, a cohort of 78 million people [in the US] born between 1946 and 1964, makes it a dominating force in shaping social currents and marketplace trends. Boomers?economic power, always impressive, is taking on new meaning as they age."

--Yankelovich Partners, May 2002
Baby boomers created the internet, Gen X’ers tried to make money on it and Gen Y’ers are growing up with it. As baby boomers?grow older, they will again be a significant driving force of change within the internet sector.

The age range that will show the greatest growth in the US over the next 10 years is the 55 to 64 bracket, according to the Census. This age group will grow 48%; the total population will only grow 9% over the same period. The baby boomer phenomenon is not restricted to the US -- it is apparent in many countries around the world.

Research from Pew Internet & American Life indicates that more people ages 35 to 54 have broadband than they do dial-up at home. This is particularly apparent in the 45 to 54 age range, no doubt because this group is better able to afford $50 per month for broadband.

According to a recent report from Nielsen//NetRatings, older internet users were the fastest growing segment using broadband in December 2002. Nearly 3 million surfers ages 55 to 64 accessed the web via high-speed connections, surging 78% year-over-year. More than 3.1 million internet users ages 50 to 54 logged online using faster connections last month, up 75%.

Further research from Pew shows that one of the significant lifestyle changes that occur for broadband internet users is increased time working from home. One can assume that since baby boomers make up a large percentage of the broadband population, it is predominantly these people who are increasing their time working from home.

Considering all these statistics, it appears that the broadband baby boomer will be an important demographic segment for marketers, retailers and service providers in the coming years. These people will want greater amounts of online health information, more sophisticated online tools to manage their finances, better and simpler applications so they can keep in touch with friends and family, and home networking or home office devices and services. People are living longer and working longer, and a broadband connection will be the umbilical cord that sustains a productive aging population.

The media, marketing and retail obsession with targeting the teen and Gen Y demographic is misplaced. Gen X marketers and service providers may be better served by going home and having a good chat with their parents for insight into the next killer app online. They are the ones with the money, and they are the ones who will increasingly utilize the internet for productive ends in the next 10 years.

By: Ben Macklin


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