Baby Boomer and Senior Retailer Turns to Blogging Community

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firstSTREET, a retailer to Baby Boomers and Active Seniors, discovers success and excitement by being one of the first major online retailers to invest in the blogging community.

firstSTREET (http://www.FirstStreetOnline.com), a Top 400 Internet Retailer and catalog company, is one of the first major retailers to expand it customer base and build online sales via the blogging community. firstSTREET sells electronic gadgets, gifts and lifestyle solutions to Baby Boomers and Active Seniors, which makes it an unlikely sponsor for blogs—which are perceived as catering to a much younger demographic. This perception is partially validated by recent research. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, only 3% of US seniors online have created a blog, while 17% have read someone else’s blog. Baby Boomers make up a larger group of blog readers and writers, especially political blogs. But those under 50 are still the dominant demographic within the blogging community.

Despite these numbers, firstSTREET has found an opportunity and tangible results since it shifted ad resources towards the blogging community. According to Daniel Yonts, firstSTREET’s Manager of Internet Marketing, the move has not only generated additional sales -- it has resulted in passionate advocates for the company’s products and online brand. “Our involvement with the blogging community has provided firstSTREET with an intelligent, energized and energizing group of customers. Our sponsorship of blogs became an instant buzz generating tool and helped us to gain a great deal of exposure with decision-makers, media outlets and potential partners. More than this, it put us in contact with some very creative and insightful folks, who’ve helped us transcend the traditional, static marketing dialog we had with our customer. They’ve helped us to understand the value of building an intellectual dialogue with those whom our business depends. This has been very exciting and personally rewarding.”

Initially, firstSTREET focused on technology and gadget blogs where it could showcase its innovative electronic products -- such as its iTheater video goggles, iPod accessories, Phono CD Recorder and home entertainment offerings. Its initial efforts provided both an increase in traffic and a modest spike in sales. With this success, however, it was still reluctant to broaden its reach into the realm of political blogging, where the audience is much larger and the risks appeared to be much greater. “We didn’t want to alienate those who disagree with a particular point of view or to appear as though we were sponsoring a particular point of view over another. Obviously, our goal isn’t to choose sides on the political debates of the day. Our goal is to provide products that help our customers enhance their comfort, health and daily living -- regardless of their political leanings.”

firstSTREET, however, eventually decided to take the risk of advertising on political blogs as a way of reaching baby boomers and active seniors. At first, the company braced for what it felt was an almost certain backlash from existing and potential customers. The backlash never came. According to Yonts, the company received only a handful of complaints, all of which were dealt with in a way that strengthened their relationship with the complaining customer. “I dealt with these customer complaints personally -- explaining our rationale and listening to their concerns. I pointed out that firstSTREET advertised on blogs from the Left, Right and Center of the political spectrum equally. What started out with a disgruntled customer calling us ‘Communists’ or ‘Right-wingers’ settled into incredibly civil and interesting conversations.”

What began as an advertising experiment has evolved into a major component of its overall marketing strategy. The blogging community has helped firstSTREET expand its electronics sales and its core business offerings -- which includes products geared toward older consumers and caregivers. Blog advertising has become more than a tactic for customer acquisition. It has evolved into a recruiting tool for company advocates, thoughtful critics and intelligent buyers -- and, according to Yonts, it has also become “a great deal of fun!”

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Daniel Yonts
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