Virtual worlds -- new turf to target

Children and teens alike are flocking to virtual worlds. The number of child and teen virtual-world users in the U.S. is expected to rise nearly 60% between 2009 and 2013. Online children, in particular, represent a key user demographic, with 37% visiting virtual worlds regularly in 2009 and over one-half (54%) expected to in 2013. As with social networks, the advertising picture has not kept pace with usage. Virtual worlds offer tremendous opportunities for engagement, and branded worlds themed to real-world products help to extend and deepen the customer relationship. Virtual goods -- such as clothing or furnishings for avatars -- are a growing business for marketers to explore, too. Young consumers actively seek out branded merchandise in virtual environments, often paying real dollars for their avatar to wear an item of clothing or use a brand-name product.

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