Older Women More Purposeful Online than Younger Peers

December 17, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | CPG & FMCG | Email | Media & Entertainment | Retail & E-Commerce | Social Media | Women | Youth & Gen X

Despite their later migration to the web, women in their 40s go online in more purposeful ways than their younger peers and are more likely to shop online, post product reviews, do product research and use social networks in ways that are extensions of their everyday lives, according to a member survey by SheSpeaks.

The study found that the top activities for all women online are shopping, reading news/current events, and connecting with others.


However, there are several marked differences between age groups. Although women younger than 30 get the most media and marketing attention for their high-volume of online participation, their activities are primarily social. For example, younger women (73%) are much more likely than women over 40 (31%) to select “connect with others” as a top online activity, and are more likely to look at consumer-generated content (28%) than middle-aged women (10%).

In contrast, women over forty have higher incomes overall and say shopping is their #1 online activity. They also research products online more than their younger counterparts and are more likely to post product reviews on shopping websites (62% vs. 53%) and to purchase products based on e-mails from companies selling things (50% vs. 45%).

While middle-aged women lag behind their younger peers in terms of using blogs to discuss products, 40-somethings nonetheless demonstrate an active usage of peer-to-peer tools for sharing product and shopping information, the study said.

In terms of social networking, nearly half (45%) of women in their forties have profiles on popular social networking sites and a majority say they log in at least several times a week.

“Contrary to popular belief, not only are 40-somethings active users and members of online social networks, but they are actually using the web in a more purposeful way than their younger counterparts,” said Aliza Freud, founder and CEO of SheSpeaks. “These women have started to use the Web and social networks in ways that mirror the rest of their lives – from finding out about a product to shopping or monitoring their children’s activities – while the online focus for women 30 and under is primarily social.”

This, Freud said, may limit younger womens’ appeal to marketers.

Additional survey findings:

  • Shopping online is less of a priority to younger women (51% vs. 59% overall) and they research products less online (37% vs. 42% overall).
  • Younger women are more likely to post photos online (78%) than product reviews (53%), while older women are more likely to post product reviews.
  • Younger women are less responsive than average to emails from companies, and have less disposable income.
  • Younger women are more likely to have social networking profiles: 86% of those 30 years or younger have profiles.
  • Young women are relatively more likely than older women to respond to someone else’s blog post (63% vs. 50% overall), post photos online (78% vs. 50% overall) write their own blog entries (46% vs. 27% overall).
  • Facebook (65%) and MySpace (63%) are the most popular social networking websites for women, though 40-somethings are more active on Classmates.com (42% vs. 19% for those under 30).


  • LinkedIn is more popular among high earners (41% for those with a household income of $120K+ vs. 17% overall).
  • Among all women, connecting with others is the top activity on social networks, while beauty products are the top category discussed on social networks (69%). Food/restaurants and movies/entertainment are also popular, especially for younger women.


  • The highest proportion of younger women have between 20 and 49 contacts on social networks, but some have hundreds of contacts, driving the average up.
  • Younger women have more contacts than middle-aged women (25% of those <30 and 4% of 40-somethings have 200+ contacts.
  • Women over age 40 are more likely to be connected to people they’ve met on a social network (20%) vs. women under 30 (14%).

Similar to findings in other studies, the SheSpeaks research also found that advertising on social networking sites is largely ineffective. Among those surveyed, one-quarter (26%) of respondents saying they actively ignore such ads and 20% say they are annoyed by the presence of online ads on social networking sites.

About the survey: The survey was conducted using a national poll of SheSpeaks members and yielded more than 2,000 responses.


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