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The Graying of America – Marketing to Seniors

Lynette Rambo | August 10, 2017 

I loved my grandparents and still reminisce about all the great times my siblings and I shared with them. They worked hard, saved their money, took us on fun outings, always had a handy supply of candy. I survived a slew of homemade, double-knit polyester pantsuits growing up. Usually some kind of plaid pattern. From my point of view back then, my grandparents seemed to be perpetually “old”. Now that I’m 53, however, “senior citizens” no longer seem that old.

Marketers Take Note

Each year since 1988, August 21st has been designated National Senior Citizens Day. A record 46 million seniors live in the United States today. Older Americans — those age 65 and older — now account for 15% of the overall U.S. population. By 2050, 22% of Americans will be 65 and older, according to U.S. Census Bureau projections.

According to a recent report by the Pew Research Center, more older Americans are working now than at any time since the turn of the century. An estimated 19% of seniors are currently employed full- or part-time, up from 12.8% in 2000.

Growth in Senior Spending Outpaces Other Age Groups

The subset of seniors between 65 and 74 — 25 million Americans — have done better economically, as a whole, than any other generation. An excellent New York Times article titled, America’s Seniors Find Middle-Class ‘Sweet Spot’, points out that while most Americans suffered serious losses during and after the economic downturn in 2007, seniors were supported by social security, pensions, and investments.

In addition to better weathering the economic storms, many seniors …

  • are retiring later or working part time during retirement
  • have profited from rising real estate prices
  • still enjoy a traditional pension, for the most part
  • have full Social security benefits (something later generations may not have)
  • may benefit from shared expenses. According to Pew, a record 6 million Americans now live in a multigenerational household.

Between 1989 and 2013, the median household income for people in the 65-to-74 age group doubled, entering more seniors into “middle class” status. The article reported that older Americans spent 18% more per household in 2013 than in the late 1980s, while spending for other age groups remained relatively flat. While healthcare accounted for some of the difference, seniors reportedly spent 57% more on entertainment, and significantly more on other items — such as homes, rental cars and even alcohol.

Three Key Trends that Shape a Generation

The Center for Generational Kinetics, a research and solution firm that focuses on Millennials, Gen Z, and the generations, classifies a generation is a group of people born around the same time, raised around the same place, and who exhibit similar characteristics, preferences, and values over their lifetimes.

The Center also subscribes to three main trends that shape each generation:

  1. Parenting
  2. Technology
  3. Economics

While seniors are the group most likely to say they never go online, a recent survey conducted by Pew Research Center found that seniors are moving towards being more digitally connected. Younger, more affluent, educated seniors are helping drive this growth.

According to the 2017 report:

  • 42% of adults ages 65 and older now report owning smartphones (up from 18% in 2013).
  • 67% of seniors use the internet.
  • And for the first time, half of older Americans now have broadband at home.

When Marketing to Seniors …

  1. Employ multi-channel marketing campaigns. For seniors, that will probably still include print and tv ads, as well as digital.
  2. Don’t stereotype seniors. Senior Living Magazine says that “most people view themselves as about 10-15 years younger than their actual age.” Use images that are appropriate.
  3. Focus on lifestyle. There is a reason independent, active adult communities have become so popular among retirees.
  4. Personalization is key. The Center for Generational Kinetics did a study on how the various generations feel about gift cards. The study found that positive feelings toward a brand almost doubled when the gift card was personalized. And the likelihood of consumers acting on an offer increased by 57% as a result of enhanced, personalized customer delivery technology. One example of this is the Ruby Tuesday gift card I made for my Mom one Mother’s Day. It incorporates a photo of the two of us. She carries the plastic card with her today even though there’s no longer a balance on it.
  5. Alleviate concerns up front. Security, stability, and value are all important factors that go into purchasing decisions.
  6. Focus on family. Seniors often buy for their children and grandchildren. And, don’t forget that kids and grandkids buy for their elders, too.
  7. Make solutions easy. Make it easy for seniors to buy from you. Be sure your message and any instructions are easy to read and understand. Avoid cluttered communications and campaigns.
  8. Make it special. Create specific sales, discounts, or offers just for seniors.
  9. Encourage testimonials and referrals. Word-of-mouth can be gold — especially in retirement communities.
  10. Give good customer service. Be willing to take more time with seniors, and don’t forget to listen.

ListEngage has been helping companies market to their customers and prospects on the Salesforce Marketing Cloud since 2003. Let’s talk about your marketing needs and how Salesforce and ListEngage can help.

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Lynette Rambo

Lynette Rambo | Marketing Consultant

Lynette Rambo is a Certified Email Marketing Specialist and a Marketing Consultant for the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. She has over 20 years of marketing, communications, design, and public relations experience for both small businesses and larger corporations. As a Marketing Consultant for ListEngage, Lynette consults clients on email marketing best practices, strategic planning, content creation, campaign management, and provides training and demos on the Marketing Cloud. She also works with the Salesforce CRM and connecting Sales and Marketing initiatives. You can contact Lynette at lrambo@listengage.com.