Seniors Going Digital … How Can Marketers Connect?
Marketing to seniors has always been a challenge. Fitting wildly divergent groups of seniors into one catch-all bucket is tricky. What's more, today’s wired seniors are an even faster-moving target. They’re everywhere online — emailing, shopping and Facebooking. There's really no one-size-fits-all approach to capturing this surprisingly varied demographic.
As marketers, you can’t afford to ignore this critical and growing market segment (more than 10,000 people turn 65 every day, according to the U.S. Census Bureau). Seniors are living longer and leading much healthier, active lifestyles and they aren't afraid to spend. Seniors currently account for more than 60 percent of healthcare spending, 41 percent of all new car purchases and more than 80 percent of all luxury travel.
The fact is, the U.S. population as a whole is getting older. Marketers need to understand more about this segment — what they're doing, how they spend their time and money, where they can be found. Not only do you need to know what they're doing, but you also need to master the art of communicating and connecting with this group in an increasingly digital age.
Connecting with seniors isn't a one-size-fits-all approach
Most marketers get the big picture on seniors — i.e., that not all seniors are alike. They know that baby boomers have disposable income and that internet usage by seniors has doubled over the last five years.
Marketers, however, often miss the fact that within the senior demographic there are many subgroups, each with their own distinct wants, needs and preferred methods of communication. Beyond baby boomers lies the “mature senior” market, or "Silent Generation" of 65-year-olds to 73-year-olds. Older yet is the so-called GI Generation of seniors aged 74 years and up.
While the members of these three broad groups do share similarities, they exhibit distinct differences in what they do online, how they like to be communicated with and what technologies they're using.
Where are they?
Truth is, today’s seniors are everywhere in the digital space, but that doesn’t mean marketers always know the best ways to engage them. Seniors use multiple forms of communication online, with different ways of accessing the digital environment. They do many different things online, from buying products to researching information. The key to engaging online seniors lies in customizing your communication strategies and marketing channels to the particular subdemographics you wish to target.
Seniors typically see themselves 10 years to 20 years younger than their actual age, so of course it makes sense to not make anyone in these groups feel old in your communications. Most seniors want to be marketed to in a manner that makes them feel understood, respected and vibrant.
How to communicate
Be clear about your offer. Don’t employ any trickery to get seniors to respond. Remember this group is inherently skeptical — they've seen and heard it all. Give aging eyes a break with type that's at least a 12-point font and avoid flashy typographical tricks. Black type on a white background is foolproof for this group.
When you want to motivate a senior to action, be up-front and commanding. Use the words “Click Here,” “Buy Now” or “Add to Cart.” For health-related or financial services sites, phrases such as “Submit Info,” “See if I Qualify” or “Call Me” on forms can increase conversion.
Marketing to seniors in the future
By the year 2020, one in six Americans will be over the age of 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Savvy marketers who are able to connect with this group in the digital environment will find success. Consider these tips for making sure your marketing message connects with this potentially lucrative group:
- Don’t make them feel old.
- Make sure you have an effective search engine marketing campaign.
- Use email appropriately for this demographic.
- Make sure that you use generous “expert” content.
- Use trusted symbols such as security certificates, Better Business logos and your brand's logo.
- Appeal to seniors’ families, caregivers and trusted networks.
- Be clear and concise in all communications (don’t forget that this is a somewhat skeptical group).
- Use high contrast type (black text on white background or something equivalent).
- Use appropriate imagery (active, vibrant seniors interacting with their grandkids and family, for example).
- Ask them for their business and clearly direct them to what you want them to do.
Brent Wheeler is senior vice president of customer acquisition services at Response Mine Interactive.