The Internet is becoming more important for organizations of all sizes. The number of consumers who accessed product information or made a purchase online in 2012 increased 15 percent from the previous year, Forbes reported.

Many companies study consumers based on segments of ages. Some small-business owners may not think Internet marketing methods are a worthwhile investment because older consumers are not using the web. However, more baby boomers are shifting to the Internet to research local restaurants, look up movie times and make decisions about products. In fact, baby boomers are now spending more time surfing the Internet than watching TV, according to a recent study from Ipsos and Google. The Internet is quickly becoming a daily part of older consumers’ lives, so entrepreneurs who do not have an online marketing strategy could be missing this demographic.

Local businesses that serve many baby boomers should take note of the shift in consumer preferences. Seniors are relying on search engines as their primary source of information. Internet searches even ranked higher than asking friends and family members for information. Online information is now more important to baby boomers than print, television and brochures. The Google study found baby boomers were spending 19 hours per week online compared to an average of 16 watching TV. This is a significant amount of time local companies could be targeting older consumers online. If companies adapt to Internet marketing strategies, they could gain more customers.

How are baby boomers using the Internet?

The number of functions baby boomers use the Internet for has increased significantly since 2010, Forbes said. Only a small percentage of older consumers used the Internet three years ago, and there has been a dramatic shift in a relatively short period of time. This time period may have been too short for small-business owners to adjust their strategies.

Now, nearly half of baby boomers use the Internet to search for driving directions and look up movie times. While searching for information on clothes and shoes is more popular among younger consumers, baby boomers are increasing their use of the Internet for this function. In addition, 28 percent of baby boomers regularly look up restaurant information online. With the variety of research older consumers perform, it could have implications for a number of businesses.

Baby boomers are also watching more online videos, according to the Google study. Many small-business owners might not have expected this older demographic to spend so much time browsing online, but there has been a definite shift to a preference for the Internet as a primary source of information and entertainment. With older consumers spending so much time on the Internet, small companies may need to shift gears and take advantage of local marketing strategies to avoid missing these consumers. All demographics of consumers are spending more time online, so local businesses that make the shift to match preferences could attract new customers and boost loyalty.