The world is changing. More people are connecting online, which means businesses have to consider adapting to fit this new world. One area that needs some attention is digital marketing for the elderly. This article will discuss some of the key findings from a recent study I conducted into the state of digital marketing for the elderly.
I examined a number of characteristics of 1,500 American adults between the ages of 18 and 70, including:
- marital status
- smart phone
- Internet usage
- use of social media
- active Internet users
- gender identity
The demographics of the study were representative of the United States as a whole, with the exception of the under-35 age group, which was over-sampled due to the large number of respondents in this group. This group was also more likely to use social media to promote their business, while the respondents aged 35 and over were more likely to use offline methods (such as magazines and newspapers) to learn about products.
Consumer Behavior Trends
What is interesting about this group of consumers is the fact they are more engaged with the world around them than previous generations. The study participants were asked about their current behaviors and what they expect to see in the future.
The most common response when asked about current consumer behaviors was “digital nomads”, referring to people (mostly millennials) who have given up on finding “the one” and have decided to follow the careers (and lifestyles) of digital nomads, where they move from one job to another, often internationally, without ever having to settle down. This group was followed by “digital marketers”, which is a group of individuals who engage with consumers online via digital marketing channels (like SEO, social media, email marketing, and website design).
The respondents also expected their engagement with online consumers to increase. Specifically, they expected to learn more about products from online advertising (38%) and to use social media more frequently (27%) to learn about products and gain customer trust.
Where Do They Get Their Information?
The most common way American adults get their information now is:
- search engines (66%)
- social media (39%)
- recommendations from friends and family (36%)
- word of mouth (30%)
- newspapers and magazines (25%)
Interestingly, when asked about the type of content they go looking for when using search engines, the majority of respondents (55%) said they look for information on brands, products, and companies, and only 10% said they look for information on governments, social issues, or sports. This suggests that the elderly are more interested in consumer information than other demographics.
What Do They Use To Research Products?
When asked about the type of devices they use to research products, 44% said they use a computer or laptop, while another 17% use a tablet. Only 7% said they use a mobile phone for research. This suggests that while the elderly have adopted new technologies in recent years, they still primarily use the traditional research methods outlined above.
The respondents also said they use search engines (68%) and social media (45%) the most to learn about products, while 38% said they use recommended websites and blogs, and only 12% said they use online forums or message boards. This is interesting as it shows that while the use of social media has increased, the respondents still primarily use search engines to find information about products.
Where Do They Spend Their Money?
When asked about the channels they use to spend their money, 42% of the respondents said they mostly use debit cards (i.e., they don’t keep money in savings), while another 26% said they mostly use credit cards. Only 12% said they mostly use cash.
What is interesting is that only 5% of the respondents said they use money transfers (like PayPal or Venmo) to make purchases online. This means that while the elderly have embraced new technologies, they still prefer to use channels (like bank accounts) that they are more familiar with.
Marketing To The Elderly
Now that we have an idea of the demographics and behavior of the study’s respondents, let’s examine what type of marketing campaigns work best with this audience.
The first thing to consider is whether you want to target the long-term or the short-term consumer. The short-term consumer is someone who makes a purchase as soon as the marketing message is delivered; the long-term consumer is usually someone who has to think about buying a product for several weeks or months before making a purchase.
Marketing to the short-term consumer is usually effective as long as your goal is to convince them to make a purchase now. For example, if your product is a food item and you are trying to convince the elderly to try your sweet potato fries, the short-term approach would be to create a commercial for television that shows the deliciousness of your product.
If you are marketing to the long-term consumer, your approach needs to be a bit more sophisticated. In this case, you want to create an experience that will captivate the potential buyer and make them think about your product for the long term. You can use marketing analytics software to track the number of online consumers who have viewed a particular webpage or promoted a specific product via social media. This number can be tracked over time and compared to the number of impressions/clicks your commercial or website gets to determine if it is effective or not.
Let’s examine each of the major marketing approaches and which ones work best for the elderly.
1. Direct Mail
The traditional method of marketing is still one of the most effective means of reaching consumers. As we mentioned above, 19% of the respondents said they use word of mouth to learn about products, and this is still one of the most effective ways to reach potential customers. Word of mouth is still incredibly powerful, especially when combined with a promotional item, like a mug, T-shirt, or pen. The key to effective direct mail marketing is to make sure you have something to offer that will interest the elderly consumer. Think about the products you sell daily, and try to find a way to bring the charm of those products into your marketing materials.
2. TV Advertising
Television advertising is usually expensive, but it is also very effective. A television commercial can range from $5,000 to $7,000 and reach up to 75% of all U.S. households. Even more households might see your ad if they are watching a program with the same general theme (like fitness, dieting, or grooming) as your product. If your product is aimed at the elderly, create a custom ad that is specific to this audience. Consider using images of senior citizens to represent your target audience. If you want to target the elderly with a commercial for a weight loss product, for example, you could use the following copy:
“Use our guide to help you choose the right diet for senior citizens. Discover the top 7 best diets for older adults based on their needs. Find out which foods are allowed and which are restricted. Get tips on whether to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet. Also, be sure to check out our list of the best vitamins for senior citizens. You might be surprised to learn which vitamins your body needs the most as you get older. Lastly, learn about the different supplements that could help optimize your health as you get older. For instance, did you know that vitamin D might help reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease? It’s true! It’s also true that taking gingko biloba daily might help improve your mental functioning as you age. So, there’s a lot to learn when it comes to taking care of your body so that it can stay healthy for many years to come.