The Grandparents Are Jumpin’ On Board

Those of us that are in the internet and social media industries recognize the added value to our interactions that sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc bring to us on a daily, hourly, or every minute or so basis. My soon-to-be son, Caden, has his own blog; he is working on his first book about “The Solar System” and he has employed the help of 3 other classmates (employees as he calls them) to work on different aspects of the project; he has his own cell phone (though, not an iPhone); he plays guitar hero better than me; and by the way, he’s 8. Even being as “connected” as I am, he still amazes me. This probably doesn’t really surprise many though, as the recent ads by Microsoft have demonstrated the adept nature of our youngsters already.

What should be taken into consideration by everyone in the industry, however, is the influx of so-called boomers. According to a study conducted by The NPD Group published in September, 2008,

61% of baby boomer Internet users (age 44 to 61) had visited sites that offer streaming or downloadable video (e.g. YouTube and TV network[s]), while 41% had visited social networks (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, and MySpace).

This information alone may surprise some people, but it becomes even more enlightening when cross-compared to data put together by Pew Internet that indicates the number of boomer users that are on the web has increased from 40% in 2000 to 74% in 2008, <5% had broadband in 2000, whereas 62% had it in 2008, and 0% used wireless connections in 2000 and 43% connect wirelessly now.

The web is no longer a place for young people to rule. Within the last decade, boomers have proven that they should be taken into consideration in both the offline and online realms. Retailers can no longer afford to focus 80-90% of their resources on their retail front; B2C and B2B companies alike must recognize the growing demand for rich content on the web. Perhaps one of the most important factors to consider is that 81% of boomers that use the Internet use it to research products before they make a purchase, and 70% of boomers that use the Internet use it to buy products online.

This affects everyone. Designers, developers, retailers, businesses, schools, non-profit organizations, etc are ALL affected by this. All design and development should take into consideration that all demographics are now on the web, not just young users – even social media sites.

The companies that will make it through this recession are the companies that realize two key things: 1) that the companies that continue/increase their current marketing/advertising budgets will thrive; and 2) that the web is the new store front. It is quickly replacing the ever important mantra of “location, location, location.” Though location is still very important to business (especially retail/restaurants); it cannot go without consideration that people don’t just drive around to find things anymore. They simply Google it, or now, they may even Tweet it and get better information that even Google can provide.

Today provided a great example of this: Lynne and Caden were going to play tennis this afternoon after school. The court they first went to was full and Lynne called me to find the nearest open court. Within 60 seconds, I had a Google map listing every tennis court in Lubbock and the surrounding area. I was able to give her 3 locations to try, and within minutes. Another example: a few weeks back, my parents came to Lubbock to meet Lynne’s parents, and while we were out driving around town, we needed directions to a local winery. I opened Google Maps on my iPhone and within seconds I was routing our fastest path to Llano Winery.

The companies/organizations that do everything they can to empower their web presence will be the companies that we’ll be doing business with in the future. The ones that subscribe to the philosophy that it’s still business as usual are setting themselves up for failure. The Internet is officially a family venture, and it’s obviously not “just hype.”