How to connect with digital's fastest growing demographic

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Marketing to seniors has always been a challenge. Fitting wildly divergent groups of seniors into one catch-all bucket is tricky, and today's wired seniors are an even faster-moving target. They're everywhere online...emailing, shopping, Facebooking. And, as you'll see, there really is no one-size-fits-all approach to capturing this surprisingly varied group.

As marketers, we can't afford to ignore this critical  -- and growing  -- market segment (more than 10,000 people turn 65 every day, according to the US Census Bureau.) Seniors are living longer and leading much healthier, active lifestyles -- and they are not 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, America as a whole is getting older and we as marketers need to understand more about this segment -- what they are doing, how they spend their time, and where they can be found. Not only do we need to know what they are doing, but we also need to master the art of communicating and connecting with this group in an increasingly digital age.

Connecting with seniors is not a one-size-fits-all approach

Most marketers get the big picture on seniors -- that not all seniors are alike. They know that Baby Boomers have disposable income. They know that internet usage by seniors has doubled over the last five years.

But I think that as marketers, we miss the fact that within the seniors demographic there are many, many sub-groups  -- each with their own distinct wants, needs, and preferred method of communication. Beyond the Baby Boomers, there lies the "mature senior" market or "silent generation" of 65 to 73-year-olds. Older yet is the so-called "GI generation" of seniors, aged 74 and up.

While the members of these three broad groups do share some similarities, they exhibit distinct differences in what they do online, how they like to be communicated with, and what technologies they are using.

Where are they?

Truth is, today's seniors are everywhere in the digital space, but that doesn't mean we always know the best ways to engage them. They utilize multiple forms of communication online, access the digital environment in different ways, and do many different things online  -- from buying products, to researching information about health and wellness just like the rest of us. The key to engaging the online senior lies in customizing your communication strategies and marketing channels to the particular sub-demographics you wish to target.

Seniors typically see themselves 10 to 20 years younger than their real 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  -- living life and loving it!

How to communicate

Be clear about your offer, and don't employ any trickery to get them to respond. Remember, this group is inherently skeptical  -- they have seen and heard it all. Give aging eyes a break with type that is at least 12 points and avoid the flashy typographical tricks  -- black type on a white background is foolproof for this group. When you want to motivate a senior to action, be upfront 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.



Aditya Jaykumar
Aditya Jaykumar June 4, 2014 at 3:15 AM

Brilliant article. One of the most actionable and highly researched articles i have read in a while. I have a question on this topic.

As a marketer in his late 20s, how can one avoid the age bias that this demographic might have towards the younger generations. In other words, is there an inherent belief among this age group that only a person his/her age can truly understand his/her needs and pains?

Are there any strategies (apart from product quality and service standards) that can help win them over and build goodwill and trust?

Thanks once again for writing this article!