Future of E-Commerce In Young Consumers’ Hands

A new study done by Forrester Research Inc. shows that today’s 16-to 22-year-olds have willingly embraced the Web in much the same way their parents once embraced cable television. However, unlike their parents, this demographic is a widely untapped resource for those e-marketeers astute enough to exploit it. Consider:

16 to 22 year-olds number more than 12.4 million and their numbers are rapidly growing.

Many young consumers already have money. Combining income from allowances, part-time jobs and full-time salaries, young online consumers bring home an average of $3,000 per year. Even if only 10 percent of that cash is plowed into e-commerce purchases, it will represent $1.5 billion in online sales this year.

They come from money. These young consumers grow up in families with average incomes of $57,000. Typically, 12 percent of the household’s income is allocated to each dependent high school or college student.

This age group represents future decision-makers. Today’s wired youth have the education profile of business and political leaders for the next century. Wooing the Net-Powered Generation

Forrester’s study offers online businesses some well-placed advice:

Simplify choices. Though choosing from among 6,400 Barbies might be ideal for doll collectors, this many choices will overwhelm most consumers. Future e-commerce winners must instead offer the perfect fit from among a huge set of options.

Get used to falling prices. In GE’s 1998 annual report, CEO Jack Welch said that deflation is a new reality in a growing Internet-based economy. Like automakers who offer 0 percent financing to sell cars, online businesses should be prepared to sacrifice entire product lines as loss leaders to sell related goods.

Listen. The wired generation, though affluent, won’t be the pushovers that many of their parents or grandparents were. This generation is the first group of consumers who truly understand the leverage the Internet has given them, and therefore feel empowered as buyers.

Tough Sell

It remains to be seen if e-marketeers will adjust to this reality. For instance, younger consumers will be more willing to trade their personal information for freebies. However, at the same time, they will resist anything short of full-disclosure. In other words, they’re willing to deal, if the online merchant is willing to be up front. In addition, these consumers will not accept lame excuses for a sudden site crashes – and then easily be coaxed back for a few dollars.

The study points out that while younger consumers will do most of their business online, they will demand higher standards of online merchants than are presently being demanded.

The unanswered question is if their high expectations can realistically be met.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

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