Tapping into Green

Consumers are slowly—but surely—starting to think differently, change their lifestyles and adjust their shopping lists to become more green. As the shift continues, retailers with green products need to hone in on their target audience. And statistics show that one of the best ways to hit this group is to focus marketing efforts online.

According to two recent studies by New York City-based JupiterResearch, those who consider themselves serious about green living are more active in the online world—from shopping to participating in social media.

The reports, “Green Adults: Tapping Into an Older, Informed Audience” and “Green Teens: Reaching a Trendy, Engaged Audience Online,” indicate that 21% of adults interacting online are extremely into the green movement, while 15% of teens feel the same. The studies showed that those in these green niche groups make more online purchases and do more searches than their non-green counterparts.

To better define these green demographics, the survey noted that green adults are neither young nor particularly affluent—despite popular belief. More than one-half of green adults are ages 45 and over; and 28% are ages 55 and over. Only 8% of those ages 18 to 24 consider the environment to be a top concern.

Those in the green teen group—ages 13 to 17—tend to be opinion leaders among their friends and family, the report said. About 45% are likely to be the first to know about new products, and the majority of which are girls.

According to Zia Wigder, VP and senior analyst at JupiterResearch, and lead analyst on the green adult report, retailers should directly target these groups by going where they go online and understanding how they interact.

“If a retailer is targeting green adults, it should reach out to the influential bloggers,” Wigder said, adding that green adults are more likely than non-green adults to read and create user-generated content, such as blogs, personal Web pages and podcasts. They are also active readers and posters of comments.

“But retailers shouldn’t assume that these adults are on sites like MySpace and Facebook,” Wigder said. “That’s where they should go to target teens.”

Not surprisingly, green adults are less active in the social-networking world. Although 57% of online consumers ages 18 to 24 have created a page on a social-networking site, just 4% of those ages 55 and over have done the same, the report said.

But both green adults and green teens tend to respond to online advertising. Major brands such as General Electric, Honda, General Motors and HSBC have already launched online green campaigns to tap into the adult audience.

“Green adults are more likely to purchase a product because of online advertising than the average non-green consumer, but they respond in a negative way if it doesn’t meet their needs,” Wigder said, adding that retailers should target these users only where and when it’s relevant.

Green adults are also more likely to opt-in to e-mail newsletters than both green teens and non-green adults. “This allows retailers the opportunity to educate consumers about their green products and offerings, while showing their commitment to the environment,” she added.

Although there is still a lot of room for retailers to target green consumers online, Wigder suggested acting fast. “Retailers should get involved now while they can still differentiate themselves,” she said. “There is still time to be an early leader.”

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