Okay, I’m the first to admit that I am more than mildly annoyed by the age discrimination demonstrated by marketing firms and retail establishments. If you were to believe the advertisements you see on television, the only thing that our 50+ population ever purchases, or has any interest in, are pharmaceuticals. For example, as an active older adult, I continue to purchase outdoor gear, clothing, and supplies. One of the outdoor equipment companies I have purchased from over the years suddenly started to ignore me as I developed gray hair. I have spent several thousand dollars with this company over the years, but since my mid 50’s, I have become invisible to them. They still send me flyers and brochures in the mail (all with models around age 30), and bombard me with consistent email specials. However, if I walk into their local store, they don’t see me. The final straw occurred when I went into their store to purchase kayaks and related gear, only to be ignored by the staff. I took my $2500 purchase elsewhere and I have never given my patronage to this company again.
I don’t necessarily blame the staff at the local store; after all, they are a product of the marketing environment they grew up in, one that well, quite frankly, believes that people over 55 have been aged out of relevance. Because so many marketing executives are under 50, and many even as young as 30, they presume that most consumers not only think like them, but also want to be like them. The traditional thinking among marketing professionals is that older people tend to spend less, have little interest in new products, and have brand preferences set in stone. However, across the United States, the folks born between 1946 and 1964 are turning that conventional marketing wisdom on its head.
The size and the buying power of the Boomer and Senior demographic are staggering, but many marketers constantly underestimate the marketing viability of today’s older adults. The 50-plus population in the United States represents an economy with more than 70 million consumers, and they have, on average, an annual disposable income of $24,000. Consider these eye opening statistics:
- The 55+ age group controls more than three-fourths of America’s wealth
- Although Boomers and seniors have seen a decrease in their median family net worth, they still have a net worth that is 3x that of the younger generations
- Baby Boomers account for nearly $230 billion, or 55% of consumer packaged goods sales each year
- Boomers outspend younger adults online 2:1 on a per-capita basis
- 96% of Baby Boomers participate in word-of-mouth or viral marketing by passing product or service information on to friends.
The other serious error marketers make is their perception that Boomers are hesitant to embrace technology. Have you ever wondered about the online habits of this demographic? Here are a number of points worth pondering:
- In 2012, Baby Boomers (47-65) spent an average of 27 hours per week online, 2 hours more than Millennials (16-34) who came in at 25 hours per week.
- 89% of Seniors 65+ have personal email and use it on a regular basis
- 72% of Baby Boomers have broadband internet in their homes
- 36% of adults 50+ own smartphones and 44% of them access the internet and email daily from their devices
- Adults 50+ spend an average of $7 billion online annually
- 72% of adults 55-65, and even 47% of adults over 70 shop online
- 65% of all adult internet users engage in social media. In 2011 alone, Baby Boomers increased their use of social media by 60%
Companies often focus too much on percentages and not enough the actual impact those percentages might have on the final figures. For example, a firm might focus on the fact that Smartphone usage in the 50+ age group is only 66% of what it is for the younger demographic, so they might be slow to engage with the older audience. However, by 2015, people aged 50 and older will represent 45% of the total U.S. population, and they have a buying power 2.5 to 3.0 times that of the younger group. While their mobile usage may be less, the overall potential for revenue from this demographic is actually significantly greater.
Marketing techniques and best practices continue to evolve, and are changing rapidly. Put your business intelligence to work here; are Boomers and Seniors included as prospective customers in your vertical market? If you answer yes, but are not already doing so, you need to consider implementing a 50+ marketing strategy. Marketers who ignore the Boomer generation do so at their own peril. They need to recognize that as Baby Boomers are aging they are accumulating wealth, and their spending is growing at a pace that’s leaving younger generations far behind.
If you have a product line that appeals to 55+ consumers but don’t have a strategy for making your product relevant to this group, be prepared for a rough ride over the next twenty years. Do we feel that we should matter? As a Baby Boomer, I assure you that a common trait shared by my generation is the need to feel that we do matter, and that the companies with whom we do business appreciate our patronage.
Rick Hall, Business Development