By Ron Wolfe

Last week I shared with you the increased use of the Internet in both the United States and the world. With 68 percent of the adult (18 and older) U.S. population on-line, marketers are keenly interested in finding a way to deliver their business message to this growing segment of the population.

Seniors (50 and over) are now the fastest growing part of the U.S. Internet audience, according to The Media Audit. Internet users in this group grew from 19 percent of all Internet users in 1997 to 38 percent of all users in 2000.

The Media Audit says this demographic group is valuable to marketers because it is more affluent than the general population and the number of over-50s is growing steadily. Almost a third of this group has annual incomes greater than $50,000. Fifty-six percent have not yet retired and 31 percent have liquid assets over $100,000.

According to the US Census Bureau, adults 55 years and older represent 54 million people, 20 percent of the total U.S. population and nearly one-third of the population 20 years and older.

Most online seniors are comfortable making purchases over the Internet and have the household income to be significant players in the e-commerce arena, according to a study by Greenfield Online. Greenfield’s "Surfing Seniors" study found that 92 percent of Web users over age 55 have used the Internet for window-shopping and 78 percent have made a purchase online. The online shopping numbers for seniors are significantly higher than those by the Internet population in general, Greenfield Online found.

The economic development of SouthShore will continue as the population increases. Some SouthShore businesses will survive and prosper. Others will fail and be denied the benefit of this economic expansion movement. Buyers will look favorably at convenient access to the products and services they want to buy. If SouthShore merchants are able to meet this need, they will be favored with this business. If not, these purchases will be made outside the SouthShore area.

While the demographics of SouthShore will change over the next 5 to 10 years, there exists a concentration of purchasing power among seniors and retirees. The concentrated population of 15,000 residents in Sun City Center must be considered an important part of the equation.

Recognizing this need, the Greater Sun City Center Purchasing Power Survey was conducted by the Hillsborough County City/County Planning Commission in cooperation with the Ruskin Community Development Foundation, the Ruskin Chamber of Commerce and the Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce. The data was compiled during November and December 1998 and the results were released on May 11, 1999.

Next week I plan to share some of the findings of this survey.

During the interim, let’s conduct a brief survey of our own by giving me your answers to the following:

• How often and for what purposes do you use the Internet?

• Have you made purchases over the Internet?

• If so, what were your experiences?

• Would you make a purchase again?

Send letters to: THE VOICE of SouthShore, P.O. Box 476, Ruskin, FL 33575-0476. Phone: 813-273-8976.


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