6 Keys to Engage Seniors Online
Marketers continue to struggle to effectively reach seniors online. They are up against a fierce battle as studies show that many consumers over the age of 65 prefer offline communications and transactions. Yet, there's a growing population that favors the online space. In this omnichannel world, marketers must learn to segment seniors to respond to their individual needs. Here are six key insights to help build your engagement strategy.
1. Engaging Seniors Online Is Challenging
It's not just you. Most brands struggle to engage this audience on the Web. Studies show that consumers over the age of 65 continue to prefer offline communications and transactions. According to our Channel Preference Study in 2012, direct mail is still considered the most trust worthy marketing channel, particularly for older audiences.
As a result, most organizations struggle to persuade seniors to convert their offline behavior to online. However, channel preferences are shifting. In 2013 47 percent of seniors ages 50 to 65 years old and 30 percent of seniors 66 and older preferred online communications and transactions. In 2013, those numbers increased to 65 percent of seniors 50 to 65, and 34 percent of seniors 66 and older preferring online.
2. Seniors Behave Differently
The online channel is growing every year. Overall, more than 60 percent of purchases are made online. While seniors make up a small portion, their yearly percentage of online shopping is increasing. What's more, consumers ages 50-to-65 increased their online shopping twice as much compared to consumers 66 and older (8 percent versus 4 percent, respectively).
While these may be small year-over-year increases, the market for consumers 50 to 65 years old is outpacing the national sales average in the growth of active households. Additionally, the 66 and older market is still growing, but at a slower pace.
3 Segmenting Your Senior Audience Is a Good Idea
In the 50 to 65 year-old senior group, boomers are prevalent. They are more online savvy and have more credit affinity than the older segment.
In the 66 and older group, the universe is still increasing from boomer migration and higher life expectancy. This group still prefers to pay through the mail using checks or money orders—some at a rate as high as 80 percent. For most direct-to-consumer offers (including sweepstakes, collectibles, fundraising and publishing), a 50-plus percent mail order rate is the norm.
4. Senior Online Behavior Is Rising
Data from our Abacus Cooperative, a database of aggregated merchandise purchase data, shows that both age groups are comfortable online and are showing growth each year. Further, the percentage of households converting online is accelerating in the most recent 12-month period.
5. Use Data Trends to Target Online Offers by Age Group
To make smarter decisions about marketing to this audience, it's important to look at recent data trends. For example, according to the Abacus Cooperative, the following trends are evident for consumers 50-to-65 years-old. Use this category information to better understand what this age group is most interested in purchasing with targeted online offers.
In the 66 and older age group, the category spend trends differ for its younger counterparts. For example, this group currently shows trends such as:
- 2 percent sales growth in children's apparel and accessories, gifts, health and wellness, senior products, sports, active wear, outdoor merchandise and tools and electronics
- Negative fluctuation in arts and crafts, collectibles, fundraising, backyard gardening and media
Not all seniors spend alike. Marketers must understand how the different age groups spend their money.
6. Let Data Drive Your Senior Targeted Segmentation Strategy
To be successful, marketers must divide the senior audience into smaller segments based on their behavior. As noted, the 50-to-65 year-old group behaves and spends differently than the 66 and older group. What is the best way to understand seniors' shopping behavior? Marketers should examine the data and let the insights drive their segmentation strategy.
Seniors are a diverse audience with different wants and needs. While some may require additional support in transacting online, others are as well versed as Millennials. With a data-driven strategy, marketers can acquire, maintain and grow their relationships with senior consumers.
Rob Reger is senior vice president of data solutions at Irving, Tex.-based marketing data and services provider Epsilon. Reach him at email@example.com.