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USA online population stagnates

Posted by Michael Bloch in ecommerce (Thursday January 7, 2010 )

A recent survey indicates that the American online population seems to have remained static in terms of percentages. Time to tackle the final frontier of local holdouts – the 65+ age group.

In a national survey between November 30 and December 27, 2009, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found 74% of the 2,258 American adults (ages 18 and older) interviewed use the Internet, a slight drop from their survey in April 2009 that found 79% of English-speaking adults use the internet.

60% of American adults now use broadband connections at home; again a drop over the previous survey, but within the margin of error from 63% in April 2009.

55% of American adults connect to the internet wirelessly, either through a WiFi or WiMax connection via their laptops or through hand held devices such as cell phones. This figure did not change in a statistically significant way during 2009.

No doom and gloom here, the market is simply maturing and it’s good to remember that the USA isn’t the only country on the planet :). There is still burgeoning growth in other countries such as China where the online population will soon exceed the entire population of the USA. India is another big market – and yes, these folks buy online. So if you’re doing a bit of forward planning, consider stretching your wings and perhaps tackling some markets outside your own country.

As for age groups in regard to general internet use in the USA, here’s the breakdown from Pew:

18-29 – 93%
30-49 – 81%
50-64 – 74%
65+ – 38%

The holdouts continue to be the more mature-age folks, and that’s understandable. I feel this group is missing out on a lot as the Internet has so much to offer them. I used to train mature age people in Internet use back in the late 90’s and the common issue was fear of the unknown coupled with relevancy.

One of the best ways I found to break the ice was to find out what interested them – hobbies and such. It could have been anything from knitting to cars of the 1950’s to genealogy. Then I would quickly dig up some relevant information and usually that would be followed by a flicker of interest as it seemed (and it is) so easy.

Then they would usually ask me to find information on X,Y and Z and before long, they were ready to push me off my chair to get at the computer, eager for their first lesson in using a mouse. The fear was well and truly beaten back by curiosity.

One of my stepdaughters used the same tactics when volunteering in a retirement home with similar results.

If you have members of your family who are Internet hold-outs, try the strategy with them – remembering that the key is relevancy and to not speed through steps.

Online merchants can also profit through being more seniors-friendly – learn more in my article on marketing to seniors.


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