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Are You Ready for Generation Y?

 By Chris Ruiz (chrisruiz@wwwiz.com)

 In case you haven't noticed, Generation Y (those aged 1 to 20) is one of the fastest growing segments of the Web-user population. According to a study by Jupiter Communications, the number of teens online will grow to 16 million by 2002.  They're the first generation to grow up with the Internet as part of their daily lives.

If you plan on specifically targeting this group with your Web site, you must treat the Web as any other marketing medium and communicate directly to them in a way that demonstrates you understand them. What works for adults won't necessarily cut it for today's kids and teenagers. It's important to remember that most teens are much more technically savvy by virtue of growing up surrounded by technology.

Web site developers need to take note what works and doesn't work when trying to approach the Generation Y market. Many sites targeted at teenagers do a good job of capturing the interest of teens. Listed among research firm Media Metrix's top-10 teen sites are Teen.com, Cheat Code Central, and Bolt.

Teen.com is a very simple site with numerous channels on various topics of interest to teenagers. With graphics and images at a minimum, this site loads relatively fast. According to the Web site, teens spend an average of 18 minutes on the site, which is three times longer than competing sites. This can be attributed to good, targeted content and ease of use. You see what you want, click on it and it appears. Sounds simple, but for some reason, some Web developers don't understand that simplicity works.

While Teen.com is predominantly visited by girls, Cheat Code Central is a great site targeted at boys and one of their favorite things–video games. There is a frames and non-frames version of the site making it fast and easy for anyone to use regardless of the Web browser used. On the frames version, there is a navigational bar on the left with everything you need.  And it remains up regardless of where you go on the site.

Bolt.com is geared toward high school and college-aged kids who want to share their ideas and experiences. The site relies heavily on contributed content ranging from movie critiques to kissing tips. In just three years, the site has registered more than 3.3 million users, and according to Jupiter Communications, 30% of those members come from foreign countries. Bolt has a good thing going, despite minimal consumer marketing. Word of mouth can be a very effective way to get your name out among this target audience.

Although college students are at the tail end of Generation Y, they have easy access to the Web thanks to college and university network connections: 90% of college students are on the Internet according to Jupiter Communications and 60% access the Web every day according to USA Today. Many college students have their own credit cards and are willing to spend their (or their parents') money on anything and everything.

One good site that offers college students a wide variety of content is College Club. This portal site boasts more than 2.7 million members at more than 4,000 college campuses nationwide and offers just about anything a student would want or need, and offers it in a very easy-to-navigate site. From shopping, to email, to horoscopes and job boards, this site is the one to mimic to capture the 18- to 24-year-old market. There is always something new to see or do on this site, which keeps the college-aged target coming back.

Don't overlook the youngsters on the Internet either. The number of kids ages 2-12 exploring the Web is expected to reach 20.9 million by 2002 (Jupiter Communications). According to children's broadcasting network Nickelodeon, gathering information for homework and reports and playing games were the top reasons kids aged 7-14 are on the Web.

Nickelodeon'sWeb site and the WB Network's kid site are examples of sites that liberally use bright colors and feature targeted content that is sure to capture kids' short attention spans.

When planning your Web site, make sure you know exactly who your target is and develop your plan from that.

``The content has to match the audience," said Richard Barker, manager of Internet solutions for Schraff Group.

Barker has developed and coded Web sites for various companies and audiences, including Learning Accelerator's My Child's Tutor.com, a tutoring site designed for second to eighth graders.

``For My Child's Tutor, we adjusted the content for each grade level," Barker said. ``An eighth grader is obviously at a higher level than a second grader, so you have to make changes to reflect the difference in the educational level."

If you are still wondering what to do to grab and hold the younger audience, here are some basics tips to follow:

1.     Make the site attractive–A Web page with nothing but text isn't going to capture the attention of today's youth. Remember who your audience is. Make it easy for the younger kids, but don't talk down to the teenagers.

2.     Keep loading times down–We all know how impatient kids can be, so what makes you think they are going to wait for your page to download. It's a lot quicker to hit the ``Stop" button and type in another URL. Try to keep image file sizes down and don't put too much content on one page.

3.     Make the site easy to navigate–Don't make visitors search all over your page to find something. Have everything clearly marked and labeled so they can find it and go. Once again, the time issue is a factor. And please make sure links are working properly. There is nothing worse than clicking on a link and not going anywhere.

4.     Keep your page fresh and timely–Update your site on a regular basis. If they know there isn't going to be anything new on it, then why would they return to your site?

5.     Give them a reason to visit your Web site–Make it worth their time to visit your space on the Web. Have information that they might not find somewhere else. If it is a shopping site, have some good deals on things that kids buy and use on regular basis like CD's, clothes or video games. Loyalty or reward programs are also a good idea. Kids like to be bribed, so give them prizes or discounts on merchandise for spending time at your site.

6.     Test the site–Get a few kids, put them on some computers, and let them loose on your Web site. Kids are pretty honest and after some time, ask them what they like and don't like. You might get answers like ``this sucks" or ``this is cool." It will be worth it to hear them out because they are the ones who will be looking at your site, not your 30-something Web developers.

Kids have money to spend and are now developing brand awareness at an early age. Whether you are a brick-and-mortar store or an ecommerce business, make sure your site has what it takes to capture the up-and-coming Generation Y Web user.

 

Chris Ruiz is media relations coordinator at Schraff Group, a fully integrated ebusiness agency.  Founded in 1977 (the same year Chris was born), the firm leverages its expertise in advertising, public relations, Internet application development and Internet business consulting to offer its clients truly integrated business and marketing support. Schraff Group is Orange County's leading firm for hot ramp Internet start-ups, as well as established companies with e-business initiatives.  Additional information can be accessed at http://www.schraff.com.

 

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