How to Market to Seniors
Why Market to Seniors?
The senior citizen segment is made up of almost 75 million people. They have a large amount of disposable income, they’re looking for guidance to help live longer, healthier lives, and they’re open to a properly delivered marketing message. Marketing to them shouldn’t be a passing thought, it should be considered for every major campaign.
While it’s easy to think of the senior market as one population segment, it comprises four major groups:
- Pre-Retirees (50-65): The term senior generally starts at 55 years of age and up, but many people turning 50 are also planning for retirement. Additionally, younger spouses (ages 45-54) married to older retirees are often ready to make financial changes and pre-retirement decisions.
- Grandparents and Relatives (50+): Grandparents and older family members deserve separate segmentation, because they often spend considerable money on relatives and respond well to targeted advertisements.
- Late Retirees (65-75): Similarly to pre-retirees, this segment encompasses age groups above the standard retirement age who are still working.
- Active Retirees (65+): This group of seniors no longer earns active income. Their money is sourced from savings, assets, Social Security, pensions, and more. They live on a “fixed income”.
Senior Citizen Spending Power
Senior citizens spend just under 50% of all purchasing dollars in the United States, even though less than 5% of advertising is focused on them. They are the most affluent segment of our society – they comprise more than half of depositors in financial institutions, and control nearly 70% of all assets in the United States. In short, senior citizens have 5x the worth of the average American.
Earlier generations have operated on the assumption that their children will earn higher wages and live better lives, millennials (age 18-34) have bucked this trend, and are the first generation to have lower incomes and fewer jobs as compared to previous generations. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, they earn $2,000 less today than the same age group did in 1980.
By 2023, almost 70% of disposable income will originate from senior citizen spending. On top of this, by 2050 more than 83 million people will be 65 or older. While the current group of seniors carries more debt than previous generations, they also tend to spend more on hobbies and other non-essentials.
Marketing Techniques for Seniors
A mature audience is more likely to be influenced by strong, straightforward messaging. Keeping text clear and using relevant, plain language will help. On top of this, there are a number of other important factors in building out a marketing campaign targeting senior citizens:
Simplicity: When developing your programs, keep the user experience simple and straightforward, as you would with any task you ask your buyers to perform. working through any marketing problem, consider how it can be simplified. Everything from onboarding to check out should be uncomplicated and easy to use. People over the age of 65 didn’t grow up with technology. This isn’t to say technology should be dismissed as a way of interfacing with seniors, but it’s important to understand how to connect with an older audience without relying solely on technology to drive conversions.
Exclusivity: Building exclusive offers and promotions targeted towards seniors – such as sale days, free deliveries, and birthday gifts – can be effective. The idea is to run campaigns that give prospective customers a sense of pride and value. This also means assisting customers in sharing offers – through word of mouth or social media.
Trust: When asking seniors for personal details, make sure they understand why the information is needed, and why it will help with their overall experience. It helps to reinforce that their private information is safe and secure. Both testimonials and money back guarantees can also help foster trust.
Personalization: Don’t assume all of your customers are similar because they’re part of the same demographic. Not everyone over the age of 55 likes or cares about the same things. Make it a priority to define and customize the marketing and communication strategy by education, cultural upbringing, location, employment status, and more.
Support: Stay in touch with customers even after they’ve made a purchase. The majority want to feel connected and supported by their business, and by acting as a trusted brand, companies can show them that they care. Be responsive and helpful regarding support issues and ensure that their issue won’t sidetrack them again in the future.
Visuals: Image selection is a very important factor when marketing to seniors. A good rule of thumb is that most people see themselves about 5-10 years younger than they are. Keep that in mind when selecting images to accompany any content. The goal is to have clients connect with the person they see in their advertisements.
Best Practices for Reaching Senior Citizens
Seniors aren’t helpless people who can’t make their own decisions. They are often strong, healthy adults who appreciate making their own choices. Don’t direct marketing language towards their caregiving audience or their children in order to sell a product. There are numerous ways to directly target senior citizens, without diluting their sense of independence:
Adjust the Relevant Criteria: When selling a product, the basic goal isn’t to sell the product, but rather, what the product can do for the customer. Senior citizens don’t want the same thing that a teenager wants, but that shouldn’t stop marketers from adjusting their language to provide strong purchasing qualifications for both population segments. A product can be sold to anybody if the marketer can figure out why they would want it.
Use Multi-Channel Marketing: In 2018, 4 out of 10 adults over the age of 65 owned smartphones. While this number will continue to increase as the population ages up, it’s a strong indication that seniors spend more of their lives in an offline world. This doesn’t mean that mobile advertising should be ignored, just that multi-channel marketing can be harnessed to reach senior citizens anywhere and everywhere.
Personalize Their Experience: Older audiences are used to quality customer service, before automation and self-service sped up the process.
Retargeting: Seniors respond well to retargeting. It allows marketers to continue reaching seniors who have visited a landing page or expressed interest in a product or service, without ever having followed through.
Value-Added Marketing: When you provide prospects with an added piece that is free, useful, and valuable, you will boost response from seniors. A value added piece can be an objective, informational piece, a small gift, or something useful like a checklist or a calendar. Value added pieces can be offered in direct mail pieces or online.
Consider the language used when reaching an older audience. Inundating older customers with words such as “senior citizen” and “elderly” can be detrimental to your marketing strategy. And making older generations feel relevant can be straightforward:
- Don’t use images of older people sitting around using a product – try thinking of ways to show activity.
- Consider the concepts of youth and wisdom. Seniors enjoy being active, taking interesting vacations, doing all the things they wanted to do, or did do, when they were younger. But they also have the foresight to understand when something will make their experience more enjoyable.
- Avoid unnecessary messaging in favor of more thoughtful marketing. Explanations and product endorsements are especially appreciated.
- The mature market is more likely to respond to “reasons why” copywriting. Explainers that help customers make a decision will do better than writing that tries to hype itself or push the mature consumer into buying.
- Researchers have found that 31% more people will believe in a drug advertisement if they see a chart, rather than only a description. Charts will help persuade an otherwise skeptical senior prospect into becoming a customer or client.
How to Reach Seniors
Trying to understand how to reach older generations first means breaking down any stereotypes about senior citizens and technology. It’s bad marketing to assume that senior citizens have issues with technology – they actually spend more time online than millennials, and they represent almost a third of all social media users.
Many senior citizens use the Internet as their primary means of comparison shopping. Pre-retirees (50-65 years old) shop online with the most confidence of all senior citizens. On top of that, people older than 50 spend more than $7 billion annually on online purchases. According to Kelton Research, senior citizens are more likely to want to learn about new brand and products directly from the brand or retailers than millenials. 61% of Boomers feel rewarded when they receive an exclusive offer.
The senior market is easily identified for marketing purposes. Marketers can target the mature audience in a variety of mediums. Direct mail, email, Facebook, Twitter, and more make it easy to reach this group and without wasting money on unwanted segments.
Of all the major social media platforms, Facebook is still the main draw for senior citizens, over Twitter and Instagram. Facebook gives its users a rich feature set for communicating with others, and directly allows people to connect with old friends and family. Because of its ubiquity, older audiences tend to be more familiar with the platform. In 2016, 72% of American adults between the ages of 50 and 64 were on Facebook, as were 62% over 65. Seniors between the age of 50 and 70 are very responsive to Facebook advertising – 15% of users in this age range spend 11+ hours per week on the site.
Facebook retargeting allows marketers to advertise on Facebook to people who have shown previous interest in purchasing. Facebook also offers lead ads for gathering contact info, and Facebook video ads are especially well liked by seniors.
While support of Facebook will continue to grow, there are other platforms that are seeing increasing rates of adoption among senior citizens – Pinterest in particular. All the more reason to engage a mature audience on social media.
Native advertising is material within editorial content that appears similar to the main content while actually being a paid placement. The major benefit of native advertising is that it allows marketers to place content inside platforms with larger audiences. With native advertising, viewers get to consume marketing content natively – as if it’s a part of the site. This means that senior citizens – who appreciate context and want to know that their reading something they can trust, will have an easier time reading and believing natively placed advertisements.
Designing for mobile platforms has always been important to marketers, but in 2018, it’s becoming even more critical for people trying to reach senior citizens. Mobile marketing is simple, everpresent, and effective. People rely on their mobile devices for many reasons, from convenience to responsiveness. This is especially important for the slightly younger mature demographic – below 70 years old.
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