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Don't ignore older internet users, Gartner warns

05 November 2013, 15:31Duncan Alfreds

Cape Town - Older internet users are a more important demographic than younger ones, research has shown.

According to research firm Gartner, older internet users, dubbed "Silver surfers", are a growing group that has been largely ignored by web developers.

"In recent years, technology decision makers have focused their work largely on the perceived wants and needs of younger demographics. They have created and sold products targeted explicitly at an already-saturated market of financially poor 'digital natives' in Generations X and Y," said vice president and Gartner Fellow David Furlonger.

Furlonger, speaking at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, said that the trend was not a surprise since many developers themselves were part of younger age groups.

He warned though, that focusing mainly on younger users at the expense of older internet users was a mistake because the latter are generally more affluent and willing to pay for services online.

"However, it is a very serious mistake, because it neglects the most promising technology market demographic of all: The affluent, increasingly technologically sophisticated older generation we are calling the 'silver surfers'."


Though social media is generally associated with the young generation, research done by Optus in Australia found that older people are active on social media platforms.

Facebook, for example, was founded in 2004, it is reasonable to assume that an early adopter of the platform could very well be middle-aged by 2013.

A Guardian report in April 2013 found that Facebook was under pressure in developed markets as particularly younger people are showing signs of boredom with the globally dominant social network.

In the US, a study by financial firm financial firm Piper Jaffray found that Twitter overtook Facebook among teens, with 26% preferring the one to many network as opposed to 23% who preferred Facebook.

After rejecting assertions that teens were losing interest in the platform, Facebook recently acknowledged that teens were reducing their daily activity, according to Facebook CFO David Ebersman.

Gartner said that if companies ignore older users, they potentially may be sabotaging revenue because the demographic is growing as older people find value in smart devices like tablets and smartphones.


"However, technology designers and manufacturers have largely ignored this huge and growing market, and by doing so, have neglected one of their most important sources of future growth and revenue," said Furlonger.

"The younger market has only linear growth potential and decreasing purchasing power, while the silver surfers offer exponential growth opportunities and growing purchasing potential," he added.

Furlonger said that older people had more capacity to spend money on both web services as well as devices, but that marketers had largely avoided delivering products to meet a growing demand.

"The silver surfer demographic is huge and growing, and clearly has both the ability and the desire to spend significant amounts of money on technology."

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