Marketing Technology for Growth

Don’t Forget the Seniors: They’re Online, and Spending Money

seniors becoming m commerces usersAs marketers scramble to re-calibrate their online marketing strategies to focus on the emergent social mobile consumer, many are ignoring the old folks. In fairness, when I think of the online consumer, images of a tablet-toting, Justin Bieber-esque Gen Y hipster come to mind. As it turns out, this is only one element of an increasingly complex online landscape. In fact, a new report by analyst firm Forrester Research found that 60% of US seniors (aged 65 and up) are online. That’s 20 million people who are comfortable with online technology and reasonably tech savvy- at least savvy enough to figure out how to purchase something online, as 59% of this demographic have done in the last three months. By my calculations, that means roughly 12 million US seniors have purchased a good or service online during the last quarter.¹

I can personally vouch for the validity of this point (no, not because I am a senior). Every time I visit my father, himself a senior citizen, I have trouble navigating around all of the boxes littering the entranceway. He loves shopping online. Better still, by any measure he would have to be considered an m-commerce early adaptor, using his Kindle Fire for most transactions.

Don’t look at me, I didn’t influence him. He made the choice himself. In a nutshell, he believes that online commerce is a more secure, convenient, and sensible solution. In fact, he may be more advanced in his thinking than me on this level. After all, he’s even buying groceries online, often from his mobile device.

In February, Pew Research came out with the following data on US smartphone usage as part of its Internet and American Life Project:

smartphone ownership by age

In many ways, my father is an exemplar of an ideal demographic for many Internet marketers: he’s educated (MBA), middle class (not wealthy by any means, but has enough income to purchase goods and services online), and reasonably comfortable with technology.

I use the term “reasonable comfortable” for a reason. He’d be the first to tell you that he doesn’t get half of the stuff that his laptop and tablet are capable of doing, but he doesn’t care. He understands the technologies enough to connect online, surf the web, enjoy a few apps and games, and engage with his kids and grandchildren on social media- in short, to enrich his life.

In many respects, my father is an ideal online buyer persona: he’s embraced the core online marketing technologies of the Internet, social, and mobile, seeing them as a means of enriching and simplifying his life.

I wonder how many seniors out there are like him.

From a demographic perspective, other than his elite education, he’s a reasonably average senior citizen. According to the graphic above from Pew, he falls into the 20-27% of seniors with smartphones.  In the Forrester study, he’s just one out of 60% of seniors who are online, one of 59% who have purchased something over the Internet in the past three months, and one of 49% with a Facebook account.¹

For many, seniors make the best clients. They often have more disposable income than their Millennial counterparts. They’re also more brand-loyal, with 63% of online seniors agreeing that when they find a brand they like, they stick to it, compared with 53% of all US online adults.¹  Importantly, many seniors have another disposable asset- time. For marketers trying to boost on-site engagement numbers, seniors are an ideal demographic.

This is true of my father. He swears by Amazon, and engages on Facebook more than I do.

Here’s the point: as much as I love him, he’s not unique. This should be very instructive for online marketers.


¹ Forrester, “The Data Digest: Digital Seniors

Info-Graphic courtesy of PewInternet

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Topics: Marketing Technology Trends