The Internet is all about the youth, right? Well, a small but influential and cash-rich bunch of `silver’ surfers are doing quite well online, thank you. It’s just that marketers haven’t acknowledged them yet
Youth has always been a synonym for technology and the world wide web. Nearly every online marketer is trying to catch the ‘golden segment’ of 16 to 35 years. And you can’t really blame them – after all, it is the youth that forms the majority of people online. And that’s why most online advertising campaigns are targeted at them – take the oft-repeated examples of AXEeffect.com, Coke’s MyEnjoyZone.com, Pepsi’s PepsiZone.yahoo.co.in and SunsilkGangOfGirls.com.
Still, out of the 23 million active unique Internet users, about seven million belong to the 35-plus age group (no data was available from comScore on the 45-plus age group). That’s a hardly insignificant 30 per cent of the total web user base, contributing about 29 per cent of the total time spent on the Internet, according to a comScore study for Rediff.com.
And the good news is they are spending time online. Of the 2.2 million, 60 per cent spend between one and five hours online on weekdays. “Brands like Levi’s or Lee aim to catch the mid-30s or even younger age segment, but it is the older segment which is well settled and has fat wallets, and can afford to buy expensive cars, jewellery, cosmetics and holiday packages online. Marketers have to understand that the 45-plus category is their cash cow,” says Kaushik Mukherji, COO, Hungama (promo marketing).
But the fact remains that marketers haven’t really looked at this segment online. Says Rahul Welde, general manager, Media Services, HUL, “We don’t do anything to target this age group online. We haven’t actually explored this group.” Why? Well, obviously, marketers prefer concentrating on this segment offline.
But the importance of this segment isn’t lost on anyone. “This segment is well-settled, more mature in their purchase decisions and transact more than the younger lot. They are more easy on their wallet,” says Navin Mittal, business head, Fropper.com. He adds that they are also avid readers and can be easily tracked on niche sites like EconomicTimes.com as they consume more content than the youth. Fropper.com, a relationship networking site, has 60 per cent users in the 18-25 years’ age group, and only 5-10 per cent in the 45-plus age group.
There are other niche sites that draw this segment online. Apart from matrimonial and online classifieds sites, online travel, automobiles, jewellery, fitness, news and current affairs sites are popular destinations with this segment. “A Thomas Cook or Cox & Kings might be running special marketing campaigns for this segment, but the question is whether any Indian travel website is doing something along these lines?” asks Hungama’s Mukherji.
Vibhas Mehta, business head, Shaadi.com, says, “Approximately 9.4 per cent of our customers are from the 45 and above age group.” They come online for matrimony because this age group has passed the “ideal Indian age” for marriage, explains Mehta. That explains why Juxt reports that 37 per cent of the 45-plus online population is into matrimonial searches.
Searching for answers
There’s more: Around 38 per cent buy products other than travel, another 38 per cent do professional or business networking online and about 37 per cent indulge in net banking.
“On eBay, we have seen that the 45-plus users are more interested in buying utilitarian or home use items such as home décor, jewellery and cameras. Products such as mobiles and accessories, computers and peripherals, books, movies, watches and apparel are also very popular with this demographic. Take the Spirit of India campaign: Most of our sellers in this campaign are 40-plus and enjoy trading online,” claims Deepa Thomas, manager, corporate communications, eBay India.
Harish Bahl, Founder & CEO, Smile Interactive Technologies Group has a different point of view, "Fortunately, the internet as a medium doesn’t suffer from the problem where we need to deploy strategies for different age brackets. Still, we do campaigns to target senior managers, so some of them might be in this age bracket. Increasingly, we have seen that search will be an entry point for most of the users today, so it doesn’t really matter whether they are searching for information on acne or diabetes".
Online publisher MSN looks at it in a different and broader perspective. “This segment is key to a host of advertisers in India. Brands such as LIC, HDFC and ICICI have been using the online medium to reach out to this segment for some of their key products such as insurance, pension/savings schemes, etc. In fact, a lot of the people in this age group use the online medium to stay in touch with their family members within the country as well as abroad,” says Rajnish, head, Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions, India.
It seems that the Indian population, which did not grow up with the Internet is catching up fast, and certainly making its presence felt online. Online advertisers must catch up, too, if they don’t want to miss out on a significant and well-heeled chunk of Indians online.