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Seniors Overlooked, But Present Big Marketing Opportunity

Elderly Americans weren’t raised with the internet, but many are tech savvy and represent an attractive market for digital marketing.

Yet, many brands have either overlooked marketing to older individuals or have launched campaigns that cast senior citizens in a negative light. Like any generation or age group, furthermore, senior citizens have unique characteristics that are appealing for digital marketers.

Marketers in the retail industry in the United Kingdom are just one example of brands overlooking seniors. A recent study by Hitachi Consulting found that 74% of stores are focusing their services on courting 19 to 38 year olds, reports The Drum. In doing so, brands are seeking to benefit from mobile and digital spending. They're also seeking to win over long-term loyalty of the next-generation of shoppers. In the process, marketers are overlooking more than 23 million people aged 50 or older, or approximately a third of the U.K. population.

However, elderly individuals are regular technology users, so they can be receptive to digital marketing, reports the Search Engine Journal. The publication reports that a recent Ofcom study found that 58% of individuals in the 55-64 age range have a social media account, 43% watch on-demand or streamed content and 96% use mobile phones. Even individuals within the 65-74 age range are frequent users of technology. Within that group, 34% have social media accounts and an equal percentage watch on-demand or streamed content.

Challenges associated with younger generations, furthermore, may be less prominent among seniors, reports econsultancy. In a survey by Awin of 1,000 business owners, nearly half of respondents said Generation Z, which is the generation that immediately follows Millennials, is the hardest generation to market to while only 23% said Baby Boomers are the hardest. Survey respondents reported that Generation Z is challenging because the age group’s constituents have short attention spans, are unpredictable and are more skilled at using ad blocking technology.

The Search Engine Journal also explains that seniors tend to be less fickle than younger individuals. Among those ages 16-24, some 30% say they have recently used a lot of websites or apps that they hadn’t previously used. However, among individuals older than 55, the percentage drops to only 10%. In other words, some 90% of individuals older than 55 are likely to remain loyal to the websites that they use.

The value of providing digital marketing to target elderly individuals hasn’t been lost on Coming of Age, which is a marketing agency that focuses on individuals older than 50. The agency’s website features samples of social media pages, webpages, and email campaigns for companies, such as Philips Lifeline, which offers wearable technology that individuals can use to communicate during emergencies.

For digital marketers targeting seniors, the challenge is to provide compelling content and services that can boost engagement. Unlike younger generations that are primarily consumers of digital content, seniors are likely to embrace both traditional media and electronic communications. Therefore, marketers should consider omni-channel campaigns that may include outdoor advertising, print advertising and direct mailing along with digital.

Marketers can also capture elderly individuals’ attention by conducting promotions through community centers and organizations that appeal to senior citizens. Unlike younger individuals that frequently seek online content for entertainment, seniors often seek informative content, which in turn can lead to high levels of engagement, reports Fast Company. Indeed, 66% of seniors say they have shared online content that they found helpful. The article maintains, however, that most marketing to seniors isn’t compelling, with many brands featuring information on reverse mortgages, erectile dysfunction treatments, and bathtubs that won’t kill their users.

Yet, some brands have portrayed seniors in a more positive manner. Nike, for example, has featured an 86-year ironman athlete and Mercedes-Benz ran a campaign based on an aging Baby Boomer who starts to fully appreciate his son. 

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