SOURCE: Outlaw Consulting

November 13, 2008 12:19 ET

Outlaw Consulting Announces Top 15 Gen Y Websites

Gen Y Trendsetters Rate Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube, Craigslist, and MySpace Among Most Visited Online Destinations

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--(Marketwire - November 13, 2008) - Outlaw Consulting, the source of market intelligence on the social and style trends that impact mainstream consumers, today officially released its 2008 Top Gen Y Websites Index, revealing the websites that young trendsetters visit most frequently in their daily lives -- and what this means for marketers. The list represents online destinations in several different categories including social networking, e-commerce, and information/education -- with Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube, Craigslist, and MySpace receiving top ratings.

The qualitative market research firm surveyed 100 of its most forward-thinking trendsetter panelists living in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami, asking them to identify websites they visit most and why. The sample primarily consisted of "Gen Y" consumers, ages 21-29, selected from a larger panel of 500 trendsetters that Outlaw Consulting has been cultivating for the past 13 years.

"Our initial goal was to identify the panel's favorite websites, but we found that asking for 'favorites' yielded a less realistic list than asking for 'most visited,'" says Barbara Bylenga, founder and chief strategist. "In the 'favorites' survey, trendsetters named many sites they appreciate, but that might not be part of their daily routine. On the 'most visited' list, we got closer to the truth -- including all the guilty pleasures of the Internet. Since our goal was to understand how online destinations are powerfully attracting the influential members of this generation, we decided the 'most visited' list was a better measure."

The study revealed a number of implications for marketers including: 1) personalization and relevancy are key to engaging the Gen Y audience 2) tap into the "crowdsourcing" philosophy that drives sites such as Wikipedia; 3) enable users to easily share content, and 4) learn from Facebook's success as a broadly aspirational and exceedingly easy to use site for social networking.

Top 15 Gen Y Websites
   1.  Facebook        58
   2.  Wikipedia       51
   3.  YouTube         49
   4.  Craigslist      48
   5.  MySpace         38
   6.  eBay            32
   7.  NYTimes         31
   8.  Yelp            29
   9.  Flickr          26
   10. Netflix         25
   11. Pandora         23
   12. PerezHilton     18
   13. Amazon          16
   14. CNN             14
   15. Hulu            14

Sample = 100; Rankings based on the percentage of panelists listing the
website in their top two for frequency on a ten point scale.

Make it Personal

The findings revealed that websites that create a personalized and relevant experience earn points for "knowing" their users. Not only does it increase the "stickiness" factor, but it will increase loyalty and return visits. The study credits Pandora, Amazon, and especially Netflix with doing a great job of using this data to predict trendsetters' tastes, and offering recommendations based on their purchase history. Pandora, an internet radio station that streams personalized music based on song ratings, was singled out for its ability to tell users not just what they like, but why they like it. In addition, trendsetters also like using sites that offer useful features such as "wish lists."

According to the research, this generation is aware that sites are tapping into their behavior online, but they do not see this as an invasion of privacy as long as the information is used to enhance their experience. Marketers can make their sites more "sticky" and facilitate future visits and purchases by customizing the user experience and serving up relevant content.

Foster Information Exchange

Trendsetters love to gather opinions from their peers, and the more opinions, the better. Several of the "most visited" websites on the list are popular for this reason. These sites, especially Wikipedia, are often controversial for their potential inaccuracies. However, the study reveals that Gen Y trendsetters appreciate the fact that sites such as Wikipedia and Yelp give them direct access to what the public thinks is true, even if it's not guaranteed to be accurate. By the same token, eBay and Craigslist allow them to assess what the public considers to be true market value when buying or selling products. The research indicates that Gen Y trendsetters feel very comfortable with these sites, and believe they know when to trust them and when to consult another source. The study recommends that marketers harness this idea by sponsoring open platforms related to their products, even if means surrendering some control.

Let Them Share

Many sites on the list were praised for making media content easier to share and for helping to foster social connections through that activity. Ranking #3 on the list, YouTube is the ultimate sharing site and trendsetters claim to visit the site almost exclusively via links sent to them by friends, co-workers, or family. Participants point to YouTube as a more "sharable form of television" and the NYTimes and Wikipedia for making news content and topical information easy to share, while Flickr was identified as the most popular photo-sharing site. The study suggests that because this generation is team-oriented and likes to make decisions together, sharability should always considered when designing websites or developing marketing content. For example, retailers who do not provide easy access to their inventory online (with sharing features or links that visitors can send to friends) are missing opportunities to increase traffic and/or boost sales.

Keep Social Networking Cool

One surprising finding of the study: despite being frequent visitors to social networking sites, many trendsetters perceive social networking as "uncool." Despite the general popularity of social networking for mainstream Gen Y, the trendsetters surveyed tended to distance themselves from this phenomenon and some were even embarrassed to admit that they frequent the popular social networking sites. According to the panel, social networking is associated with wasting time online and vanity. So while they visit these sites to stay engaged, they may not post as much content as their mainstream Gen Y counterparts.

However, in terms of actual usage, Myspace and Facebook continue to rank highly among trendsetters because they have become integral to their lives. Furthermore, the findings indicate that Facebook, which beat out MySpace by twenty percentage points, is transforming social networking into a more acceptable and aspirational activity for this group. Facebook is seen as a cleaner and more "mature" site, with a design that "pushes" profile updates instead of demanding hours of the user's time to seek them out. As a result, the study suggests that Facebook is regarded as more functional and less frivolous than its social networking predecessors -- which also makes it cooler. Based on these results, it is recommended that social networking platforms be positioned to retain as much "cool" appeal as possible through careful attention to visual design and improved functionality and navigation so members spend less time managing their info and more time engaging with the community.

"For this generation, websites are a fundamental part of how they relate to brands, each other, and even to themselves," says Bylenga. "By gaining a deeper understanding of why this audience uses these sites, we recognized critical success factors for marketers."

About Outlaw Consulting

A qualitative market research firm, Outlaw uses a range of innovative methodologies to gain market insight related to social and style trends and the people who influence them. The firm continuously tracks consumer mindsets to pinpoint which trends will gain mass-market acceptance, helping companies such as Levi Strauss & Co., Diageo, Converse, BevMo, Gallo and other major marketers, to keep their brands, products and services relevant to new generations of consumers. The company, which is headquartered in San Francisco, develops and manages Trendsetter Panels and also provides customized strategic research to consumer marketers, advertising agencies, and retailers around the world. For more information, visit www.outlawconsulting.com.

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