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Growing Up Wired; E-biz Looks Younger

Jason Lee Miller
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-05-16

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It won't be long until the average Internet user isn't so average. As teenagers, a demographic that has little or no memory of life before the Web, grow into adults, the world of e-commerce will expand to levels heretofore unrealized (or dreamed).

The grownups of today, whose image of the world is altered by the Web but not hedged by it, belong to a camp that remembers entire days at the mall, long bargain-hunting trips to outlet stores - back in the days when shopping was a planned event, one that required a car and an empty trunk. For us, it's different now, and the Internet offers an alternative, but we feel we might manage without it, all because we remember life before it.

Those over 65 find even less use for it; only a third of them use the Internet, says Pew Internet and American Life. The numbers, as one might guess, increase as age decreases. Seventy-one percent of 50-64 year-olds go online; eighty-four percent of 30-49 year-olds; and 88 percent of 18-29 year-olds.


"The 73 million people under the age of 18 in the U.S. represent one thing to marketers and sellers: the next generation of spenders," said Carrie A. Johnson, an analyst for Forrester Research. And they're always online, either behind a computer or texting on their mobiles with a word-per-minute speed enviable by the quickest of typists.

It's this group that is growing up in a world of social media, "email a friend," instant messaging, consumer ratings sites, peer-to-peer sales, viral media, and Google.

"They're three times more likely to use Google to find local businesses than online yellowpages from a phone company," said Jupiter Research's Vikram Sehgal.

It's this group that represents a large chunk of the 147 million Internet user population making up an all-time penetration high of 73 percent of the United States. Currently, youngsters between 18 and 21 spend around $193 per month; under 18 spends $76 per month.

And though they're online as we speak searching for hardware, software, music, DVDs and books (and IMing their friends about it), it won't be long until they're looking for houses, cars, restaurants, jewelry, flowers, electronics, plumbing, psychics, antiques, theatre tickets, tires, and tools.

But not so much shoes or pants…some things still have to be tried on. But that doesn't mean a well placed and well done advertisement isn't worth it's weight. How long will it take (10 years?) before a bright eyed 13 year-old looks up and asks, "what's a magazine?"


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About the Author:
Jason L. Miller is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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