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Five Common Misconceptions About Marketing to Seniors
With all the possible target markets, why would anyone want to do business with seniors?
Some see them as a “lost cause” and label them as too old, too disabled, too careless, or too thrifty. While these monikers may apply in some cases, it’s amazing how wrong these notions are when you look at the reality of the shopping public today despite a sour economy, real estate crisis and unemployment at its worst levels in decades.
Suddenly, seniors are very attractive to some, if not all, marketers because of a few important facts:
Misconception #1: Seniors are in the minority
Reality: 76 million baby boomers in the United States are now turning 65, a fact that puts senior citizens in the majority. As of February 6, 2011 New York Times In an article on the issue of aging, these new seniors differ from previous generations and expect a longer life expectancy than in the past – a period of at least another twenty years. The United Nations estimates that the proportion of the population 65 and older worldwide will more than double, from 523 million to 1.5 billion by 2050. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that there are more women than men nationwide, with the Northeast leading the way this difference and also that it has the largest percentage of people in the 65 and over age group. While more people will delay their retirement in order to maintain a sustainable income, those who do decide to retire will have a lot of time on their hands for which the only salvation is to be busy. And to extrapolate the truth from reality, busyness means seniors will make up one of the largest markets in the country, too expansive to ignore and certainly too affordable to dismiss.
Myth #2: Seniors are too old, tech-savvy, and computer-phobic
Reality: With “senior citizen” defined as someone who has reached an advanced age (yet, to this writer’s amusement, still described as “ancient” in some dictionaries), the bulk of the baby boomers will be a relatively young group (aged 65). 74) until 2034. That’s a good twenty years for marketers to profit from. Baby boomers are not wallflowers who are intimidated by the prospect of stepping out to dance. In fact, it is our skilled, progressive, mature and experienced movers and shakers who have been major participants in, if not outright initiators of, today’s technologically advanced lifestyle for most of their existence. Hardly prone to disengagement, they are connected individuals aware of the ramifications of social media and Google rankings, alternately intrigued and exasperated by the accompaniment of political missteps and world events, and affected by the aftermath of job loss and home foreclosure. These are very conscious consumers of the most imposing stature.
Myth #3: Seniors are too “cheap” to spend
Reality: Seniors are the biggest spenders today. Baby boomer households in the United States spent about $2.6 trillion in 2009, according to estimates based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey. That’s a 45% year-over-year increase, as measured by a June 10, 2010 Gallup poll New York Times article by Catherine Rampell titled “Who’s Spending Again? The Rich and Old.”
While it’s true that seniors tend to be more conservative in their tastes and frugal in their choices, it’s also true that their spending habits are largely influenced by the wants and needs of those who matter to them: their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren . For example, if the son of an elderly person has lost his job and cannot support his family at the level of comfort they once enjoyed, it is not for the grandmother to watch him suffer. Many older Americans have welcomed the younger generations back into their homes and are now spending liberally to stay fat and happy, so to speak.
But there’s another reason seniors have loosened the tight reins on their often extra-large nest eggs. Recent gains in the stock market have a psychological effect on the way retirees think about investments, even if those investments are based on bonds or annuities, leading them to conclude that they are richer. Add this feeling to the rationale that seniors may feel that life is too short and now is the time to spend before it is too late. Some of these seniors, bolstered by years of moderately successful finances, now enhanced by the meager fruits of Social Security benefits, have substantial means and plan to experience life’s luxuries before time runs out.
What does it mean? That means vacations, cruises, luxury vehicles, and home entertainment purchases. This means shopping for clothes, jewelry and gifts for the kids. It means splurging on hair and nails, plastic surgery and a new smile. It means having dinner and heading out for an evening of pleasure. All regularly. Once they start, it’s hard to stop.
Myth #4: Seniors have no brand loyalty
Reality: Seniors demonstrate much more brand loyalty than members of today’s younger generations, who tend to be fickle and flit from one thing to another. While fads, trends and social influences lure youth from one product to another, seniors are seen as more valuable as customers, according to a September 26, 2007 report New York Times article by Matt Richtel on “Sticky Old People.” The senior will have time to carefully consider the decision and will usually stick to this commitment for longer.
Although seniors have a lifetime of experience to draw upon, a wealth of knowledge on a wide range of topics, and valuable skills representing a variety of careers, such wisdom is viewed with some caution in today’s fast-paced world. First, old age tends to bring forgetfulness and memory loss. Second, when it comes to knowledge availability, Google provides answers to everything and anything in milliseconds, which is hardly a level playing field for a senior citizen (or anyone else), no matter how smart or accomplished they may be. Finally, the skills acquired by seniors tend to be for things we no longer need or use, such as yesterday’s motors or outdated entertainment hardware that are now being replaced by state-of-the-art wireless computing technology. Although seniors have kept up with every technological development over the years, their motivation to keep up with such changes declines significantly after retirement, as does their ability to keep up with them. A younger person has priority here.
Myth #5: Seniors won’t buy anything unless there’s a discount
Reality: If there’s one thing seniors absolutely dominate, it’s the healthcare market, discount or no discount. No one buys more health-related products than seniors, easily making them the most valuable market for businesses in the industry, bar none. Old age naturally brings difficulties with balance, dexterity, autonomy and mobility, as well as maintaining and maintaining the senses. Some of these conditions encourage social withdrawal. Industries concerned with protecting the elderly from physical and psychological demise can only expect to reap the rewards of their manufacturing and marketing acumen. Still, it’s clear that the prospect of major investment in developing products that can serve such purposes is causing concern among companies poised to benefit. That’s because the seniors market is uncharted territory that hasn’t proven to buy new technology that protects health and well-being, even when it’s urgently needed. Rather, companies like Ford Motor use comfort, which has a hands-free, parallel parking system that eases neck strain (a common pitfall of aging), coupled with blind spot detection and a voice-activated audio system. their ability to sell to a broad market rather than just target the mysterious seniors for product success.
Coincidentally, while writing this article, I was contacted by a local non-profit called “Aging in Place” who said they needed a marketing plan to facilitate increased paid memberships. Aging in place is a concept used by national seniors’ groups to describe efforts to help older adults remain in their homes as long as possible while providing assistance from various outside services when needed to find solutions to any inconveniences or problems. problem confronted. This could include assistance with health, social, financial or nutritional needs to name a few.
At the same time, many real estate development companies across the country have embraced the idea that building senior-friendly residential or retirement centers that include new technologies to monitor the health and safety of their residents, as well as amenities, on-site dining, entertainment, fitness and physical therapy areas they are a sure bet for senior marketing.
Both scenarios certainly make sense if all marketers are concerned with the age-old question: what’s the best way to reach seniors? Or is it more a question of how to reach the adult children of seniors? While the options remain the same as trying to reach an entire market, all of which are expensive when an unknown response rate is always possible, there are ways to target seniors with some intuitive thinking. If you want an older demographic, think old fashioned; think creatively to appeal to the newly established “younger” older baby boomers or their grown children. Among a whole host of strategies, old-fashioned means advertising in the daily press; on conservative talk radio programs; or sponsorship marketing and live flyer presentations at senior fairs and community or religious center events. Creative marketing might mean using the Internet to reach more tech-savvy seniors through an email campaign; or the sponsored ads that accompany relevant Google searches barely touch the tip of the iceberg of possibilities. Probably the safest route to any senior is through their postal address, lists of which can be purchased by selecting age and a range of other parameters that may be appropriate.
And as with all marketing, one effort may not be enough. A diversified approach, as well as multiple attempts, is usually what means a more successful outcome, taking care to measure the response at each step of the process. However, keep one thing in mind. Seniors are victims of fraud more often than we admit. While some may still be helplessly vulnerable, others have become even more wary and distrustful of every marketing offer they come across!
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