Internet Use Over Time: Who’s Using the Internet and Why?

by | Mar 22, 2017 | Strategy & Analysis | 0 comments

Though they may seem like simple questions, the answers should be something businesses are paying much closer attention to than they are. Why? Because the answers are an indication of the critical importance our society places on the Internet and the websites that live there.

How often have you thought about Internet usage with regards to who’s using it and why? Has the thought ever crossed your mind? Probably. However, we (businesses and marketers) spend so much time thinking about what we use the Internet for, that we don’t always consider how it’s being used by everyone else.

With a little help from Google, we took a closer look at how Internet use has changed over time throughout the United States. And, we did this with the hope that we might reaffirm the theory that most Americans are using the Internet, and that how they’re using it is directly related to how your business should market itself online.

A History of Internet Use

The percentage of Americans using the Internet has increased in a slow and steady manner over the past 17 years. Pew Research Center studied American Internet usage from 2000 until now, revealing that “in early 2000, about half of all adults were already online,” compared with today, where “roughly nine-in-ten American adults use the internet.” Specifically, in 2016, 88% of U.S. adults were using the Internet, vs. 52% in 2000.

What does this mean for businesses and marketers? If you aren’t focused on digital marketing, you’re likely missing out on a huge percentage of your target market. Most people are online, and they expect your business to be, too.

Who’s Using the Internet?

While certain demographics, like young adults, college graduates and wealthy individuals, have almost fully adopted Internet usage, there are some barriers to usage depending on an individual’s income, education level, age, geographic location, and more. Overall, the majority of people across all demographics are using the Internet.

In 2016, 99% of individuals aged 18-29 were using the Internet, vs. 96% of those aged 30-49, 87% aged 50-64, and 64% of adults aged 65+. Slightly more men than women use the Internet, and those will higher incomes use the Internet more than those with lower incomes.

Who’s Not Using the Internet and Why?

According to a Pew Research Center data compiled during the first part of 2016,

“13% of U.S. adults do not use the internet.” So, who makes up this 13%? Look at the chart to the right.

Why aren’t they using it? In addition to the barriers to Internet usage mentioned above, the research indicates that about one third of the 13% simply weren’t interested in going online.

Another third of non-users said they didn’t understand how to use it. 19% indicated that the price of Internet service and/or the cost of owning a computer wasn’t something they were able to afford.

To you – the business or marketer – these 13% are the people that don’t care about how fast your website loads or how easy it is to navigate. They don’t even care that it exists. The other 83%, however, are the ones you should be concerned about.

What Are We Using the Internet for?

Today, we use the Internet for a nearly never-ending list of reasons, such as: reading/watching the news and weather, connecting with friends and networking with business acquaintances on social media, shopping, research, pursuing hobbies, virtual collaboration, and more.

And, people are not only accessing the Internet, but also relying on it as a trusted source of information. This results in a society of increasingly informed, and fully empowered buyers of all types of goods and services. Your website’s job is make it easier for them to make the most educated purchasing decisions possible because if you don’t, someone else will.

Who Cares?

If your website isn’t delivering the information that today’s buyers are looking for, in a way that makes it simple, and even enjoyable, for them to consume, you’re going to have a long, uphill slog to success. By consistently making adjustments to your website to keep up with how your potential buyers are using the web, you’ll stand a better chance at maintaining your place in the market.

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