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How to target older consumers in the digital age

21st Dec 2017
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In the UK, someone turns 50 every 40 seconds and by the year 2020, more than half the population will have reached half a century or more. But from the perspective of businesses, the more interesting stat is that people over 50 years old control a massive 79% of all disposable wealth.

Older people are healthier and wealthier than they ever have been, so chasing the grey pound should be a much bigger priority for many businesses than it currently is. With that thought in mind, here are five tips your business can use for targeting older consumers in the digital age.

#1 Understand that over 50s use connected devices in a different way

Research indicates that two thirds of 65-74 year olds use the internet and people over the age of 55 typically check their platforms every day. The older generation love new devices almost as much as millennials; it’s just the way they use the technology that’s different.

Younger audiences might be migrating away from Facebook to the likes of Pinterest and Instagram but among an older demographic, the platform’s user base is still growing. A study by iProspect reveals that over half of people aged 70 in the UK are on Facebook, and 68% of 50-59 year olds.

Older users are also far less likely to have a smartphone addiction than digital natives. Instead, they use the web more to source information that informs real-world actions. As a result, in-depth reviews and blogs are better for engaging with over 50s than snackable content such as video and infographics.

#2 Become a thought leader

Because over 50s tend to engage better with in-depth articles, becoming a thought leader within your industry could prove highly effective.

Becoming a thought leader in your field is not easy and will require a lot of hard work. It will involve, among other things, building a healthy online presence, including a significant audience on the right social media platforms and a consistent stream of fresh content such as blog posts and ebooks.

Putting yourself out there will help build your business’ brand at the same time as providing the type of useful and intriguing content that older audiences engage with the most.

#3 Don’t make them feel their age

Recent research by LloydsPharmacy revealed that half of British adults feel at least six years younger than they are, while many feel up to 15 years younger. For many people age is a state of mind, which is hugely important to consider when creating marketing messages.

45% of UK ad agency staff are under 30, which means there is often a considerable age gap between the people creating messages and the people receiving them. To get those messages right, employing people over 50 who can better empathise with the target market is an option.

Reminding consumers of their own mortality is not an effective way to get them in the mood to buy. So remember, the style and tone you use to communicate with older consumers should be vibrant and appeal to people who feel in the prime of their life.

#4 Adopt a multi-channel approach

Despite what some think, over 50s are not more likely to shop in brick and mortar stores. Recent research implies there is no age-based digital divide when it comes to online shopping, with consumers sharing the same attitude to ecommerce whether they’re aged 30 or 70. 

In fact, among over 50s, reverse showrooming is an online shopping trend that is more common than with any other age-related demographic.

For this reason, creating a seamless experience from site to store is key to chasing the grey pound. Starting with a website that boasts a clear and concise structure, strong calls to action, reviews, engaging content and ending with an in-store experience that is consistent with these values.

#5 Not all over 50s are the same

Many over 50s believe that advertising treats them in a patronising manner. When addressing older generations, it’s important not to fall back on stereotypes. If you view all over 50s as one segment, you’re making a mistake that could cost a lot of money.

As a group, over 50s are as diverse and complex as any other segment. Therefore, treating them with respect and in a manner that demonstrates understanding is crucial to creating a successful process for targeting older customers.

Find out more about marketing to customers in the digital age by downloading NewVoiceMedia's paper ‘Disruptive customer care: how to do it every day’. Got any thoughts on how businesses can chase the grey pound better? Share them below.

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