Marketing to Seniors: 5 Real-World Tactics
What do you think seniors buy?
Rocking chairs, straw hats, and denture glue? Nope.
Nowadays they are more likely to spend their money on gaming monitors, exotic holidays, web hosting, and building out their IoT network.
Though seniors are now a tech-savvy bunch, marketing to them is still informed by a lot of out-of-date assumptions about what they want, who they are, and what kinds of media they consume.
In this post, therefore, I’m going to take you through why these assumptions are out of date, how the senior demographic actually interacts with media and some tactics that can be used to effectively market to them.
1. Seniors Should Be Targeted Directly
One of the most common misconceptions about marketing to seniors is that it is not worth targeting them directly, especially through social media channels. The perceived wisdom is that seniors are far more likely to listen to their children, professional acquaintances, the local news and the local papers, rather than pay attention to messages on their smartphones.
And like a lot of perceived wisdom, this is wrong. A recent report from Ofcom entitled ‘Adults: Media use and attitudes report 2019’, for instance, found that fully 96% of 55-64-year-olds use a mobile phone and that 58% have a social media profile. The rates for the 75+ category are a little lower, but not much, at 81% for phone use and 20% for social media.
This means that, as a marketer, you have direct access to this demographic: either through SMS marketing or via social media channels. If that sounds like a pretty standard social media marketing strategy, that’s because it is. Seniors might not use social media as much as millennials, but they still use it, and what works for other demographics will also work with seniors.
2. Seniors Are Loyal
Though a large proportion of seniors use social media (and the internet more generally) they use it in a slightly different way to younger age groups. The same Ofcom report states that “The propensity to explore online decreases with age; 30% of internet users aged 16-24 say they have used lots of websites or apps they’ve not used before and this drops to 10% of those aged 55+.”
In other words, seniors use the same websites frequently and don’t explore outside them very much. Partially, this is a matter of trust: it remains the case that seniors are a primary target of social engineering hacks, and many are hesitant to put their trust in a new company or service provider.
This is both a problem and an opportunity for marketers. It might be difficult to encourage seniors to use your website, but once you do you can expect plenty of repeat business. The key, in the first instance, is to build trust by using community-referral websites, location-based content, and planning in plenty of offline contacts (where feasible).
3. Educate and Inform
In the same way that marketing to seniors is often characterized by a lot of out of date misconceptions about this group, many seniors still have some misconceptions about the safety of websites and the frequency of data leaks.
The irony here is that arguably seniors are the group most likely to benefit from online services. Internet banking, for instance, took many years to gain popularity among this group but is now indispensable for many members of it. It’s worth considering, in fact, how this was achieved: visit most online banking platforms, and you will see content designed to stress the human face behind the system and to provide easy opportunities to contact customer service representatives.
Once trust is established, though, many seniors are happy to use online services. According to a report by MediaScope Europe, seniors use online tools more frequently than younger generations: this includes price comparison websites, online chat platforms, and even DIY software like Wix, a product that lets people of any age and experience (or lack thereof) create a website of their own in an afternoon. Yes, in case you haven’t noticed, seniors are taking part in e-commerce in a big way.
In addition to this trust-building content, an effective strategy is to provide plenty of informative, educational material. Contrary to the stereotype, most seniors are not adverse to change: rather, they merely require more explanation, clarity, and guidance through the information seeking and buying process.
If the uptake of your services or marketing is down among seniors, therefore, consider a campaign that goes back to basics. Explain the way in which your service works, and the benefits it can bring. Sometimes, simple is best.
4. Brand Experience
There has been an explosion in the number of brands using ‘brand experience’ tools in recent years, much of it focused on engaging apathetic millennials. The irony is that the demographic that responds best to this kind of real-world outreach are seniors.
In some ways, this makes a lot of sense. Seniors value personal contact, customer service, and traditional communication, and once they receive it are likely to be very loyal to a particular brand.
Developing a customer experience strategy for seniors is therefore critical, and relatively easy. Rather than the spectacular, immersive experiences that are aimed at millennials, keep it simple: give your seniors a call, and be polite.
This kind of real-world outreach is also be combined with online marketing to great effect. The trick here is to bridge the gap between the offline and online customer journey, in order to make it clear to seniors that the same company they can call is behind the website they are using. Consistent brand messaging and voice can also help in this regard, as can integrating your online and offline media campaigns.
5. Use Video
Yes, video. Today we are accustomed to video marketing targeting millennials (and even younger age groups). However, according to a study by market research firm iProspect, seniors watch more videos than almost any other age group.
This same study shows that seniors do not see their age as a barrier to online engagement, and in fact, many of them have seen their internet use increase as they grow older. 63% of people aged 70+ are now using the internet more than 11 hours a week, and this is (believe it or not) higher than use in younger age groups.
Seniors are also far more likely to watch online TV and YouTube videos than those immediately younger than them, with 33% watching a video on YouTube a few times a week. This will come as a surprise to many marketers but is just one example of how misconceptions can undermine the efficacy of marketing campaigns.
Forget The Stereotypes
Whilst the stereotypical senior may have existed once upon a time, they no longer do. Today’s older people are tech-savvy, open to change, and willing to learn about new products and services.
On the other hand, reaching them does require some unique strategies, albeit not the ones you would expect. Education regarding the security of your platform is important, as is ensuring direct contact with your senior customers. Surprisingly, video marketing is also very effective for this age group, as are social media campaigns.
The rewards for getting senior marketing right can be enormous. This group holds the majority of wealth and assets, and are willing to spend them with companies they trust. But first, you’ll have to earn that trust.