While there is a lot of talk and data around Millennials marketers seem to be confused by aging Boomers who, in 2017, are approaching half of the U.S. adult population and control a full 70 percent of the disposable income. By 2050, there will be 161 million 50-plus consumers, a 63 percent increase over 2010. Globally, the spending power of consumers age 60 and older will hit $15 trillion by the end of this decade, up from $8 trillion in 2010, according to research from Euromonitor.
According to Business Week baby boomers, 8,000 of whom turn 65 each day in America, have reinvented each stage of life they’ve entered, from young adulthood to careers to parenting. And whether they’re working or retired, wealthy or on a fixed income, living alone or with other seniors, they aim to redefine what it means to be old. Boomers watch 174 hours of television a month, 63 percent more than Millennials, the 18-to-34 year-old generation. More than half of them are on Facebook. In 2011, the peak age of vehicle buyers shifted upward to 55-to-64 from 35-to-44, according to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, and that trend is here to stay.
Only a very small part of brands really understand the nuances of the senior market — it’s still a gray area for business. That helps explain why only about 15 percent of advertising dollars are spent on this demographic, despite accounting for almost half of consumer packaged-goods sales, according to Nielsen data. Seniors today are looking for new experiences, and two-thirds of them plan to spend more time on hobbies and interests than they do today. In marketing-speak, they’re “winnable.”
A survey of 3,000 consumers over 60 by consulting firm A.T. Kearney found that they’re not particularly price-sensitive, even if their incomes are below average. Although earlier generations of seniors were frugal, there are signs that boomers, a group steeped in consumer culture like none before it, will continue to spend as they age. Even though many boomers have saved far too little for retirement, the sheer size of the wave gives it buying power never before seen in an emerging group of elderly.
Atkearney conducted interviews with more than 3,000 consumers 60 years and older from seven countries. The most important finding is that older shoppers do not think they are adequately served by marketers, retailers, or manufacturers. Most comments focus on the difficulties they face, including the inability to navigate large shops, with too many hard-to-reach products on shelves that are either too low or too high. “I am not as tall as I used to be and I do feel it when I cannot reach a product on the shelf,” explains Denise, 82, who lives in France. “I always wish someone would help me, but it is seldom the case.”
Product packaging is often difficult to open, and labels, prices, and directions in shops are hard to read. Of the study’s participants, 52 per cent in the 60-to-70 group, 58 per cent in the 70-to-80 group, and 66 per cent older than 80 say they cannot read labels properly, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses. Mature consumers complain that most shops are not only understaffed but also that the staff on hand is not trained well enough to help them. Most respondents—63 per cent younger than 70 and 75 per cent older than 70—say they would like to be able to sit down in shops.
On the whole, mature consumers want and expect a sympathetic understanding of the realities of age, but they do not want to be treated as old or elderly.
Older people enjoy shopping, not only as a necessity, but also as a social and leisure experience. They shop often: Two-thirds of those aged 70 to 80 say they shop twice a week or more. They shop at different times, preferring to go on weekdays, and relatively early in the mornings, when shops are less busy. Mature consumers spend proportionally less of their income on clothing and transport than people younger than 60, and more on food, beverages, and non-prescription health products.
Special offers are scrutinised—thoroughly. 43 per cent of study participants say they will buy products on special offers only if they believe the quality is comparable to their usual purchase, 34 per cent say they buy goods on special offer whenever they can, and 22 per cent say special offers have no impact on them.
Mature consumers have time and want to be well-informed, so they tend to be heavy Internet users and shoppers.
Advertising is a young person’s game, and despite the wealth and spending power of the 50-somethings, it is difficult to craft an age-neutral marketing campaign that appeals to mature consumers. The reign of the l8-to-34 target segment and the mother with kids segment is not over, but Forum members will do well to pay special attention: The agequake is easy to miss, but dangerous to ignore.