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How to Find and Reach Your “Older” Target Audience Online

Blog - How to Reach An Older Audience

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my business target customers or clients who are over 50 years old?
  • Am I marketing to this target audience online?
  • If the answer to the second question is no, then ask yourself why not?

Companies marketing to a senior demographic have traditionally put most of their time and money into offline media. There is a long-standing belief that people over 50 are either not on the internet at all or are only going onto sites such as AARP.org or WebMD.com.

The fact of the matter is that seniors control 70% of America's disposable income and they are far more web savvy than most people believe.

Recent Studies show that in 2014, 70% of the 50-65 age bracket use the internet, while 38% of those over 65 years old go online.
Of the "wired" seniors:

  • 94% use the internet for e-mail
  • 77% shop online
  • 71% are looking for health information
  • 70% use the internet to read news

The rate of senior Americans adopting social media is steadily increasing. For the first time, more than half of all online adults 65 and older (56%) use social media, Facebook in particular, according to Pew Research Center’s Social Media Update for 2014. This represents 31% of all seniors in the US.

While these numbers may pale in comparison with the 18-29 (86%) and 30-49 (61%) groups, it should be noted that as of November 2008 (a short time ago) only 16% of the 50-64-year-old group and 4% of the 65+ group were using Facebook.

What does this mean for your online marketing strategy?

Simply put, if you are not already marketing to seniors online, then you should immediately hop on the bandwagon.

Advertising

Many companies whose clientele are heavily weighted to the senior market are already marketing and advertising online. According to Quantcast, 62% of the visitors to Sears.com are over 50. In an effort to attract more seniors, Sears advertises on a number of "senior friendly" sites, including Senior.com (see below).

senior

Another example of senior-targeted advertising is Bayer Pharmaceutical, which chose the PGATour.com site to advertise the erectile dysfunction drug Levitra. According to a Scarborough Research report, 68% of men's golf fans are over 45 and men's golf fans are 33% more likely to be over 65 than the general population.

pga tour

Once you've successfully driven "senior traffic" to your site

If you expect a significant portion of your potential clients or customers to be seniors, then it is important to understand that the senior audience presents specific challenges in terms of design and messaging.

Suggestions for making your website "senior friendly" include:

  • Make sure your font size is large enough for easy reading. Laptops and most monitors are relatively small, making reading difficult for many seniors. I suggest a minimum of 12 point.
  • Keep the navigation as simple as possible.
  • Age appropriate photos and graphics. If you are trying to get an older audience to buy, then make them feel comfortable and welcome on your site.
  • Understand the market. Marketing to seniors is a sub-specialty. Most internet marketers tend to be younger and don't quite understand the senior market. It makes sense to add at least one person to your marketing team that has experience working with senior consumers.
  • Create landing pages specifically targeted to the senior audience. If your online advertising is geared to attract a senior audience, then it makes sense to create a landing page or alternate home page specifically geared to that audience.

The Millennials

Conversely, there are the Millennials. The Millennials are the generation coming to power who will soon transform the market. The millennial generation is the largest in US history. As they reach their prime spending years, their impact on the economy is going to be huge.

Also known as Generation Y, the generation born between the early 1980’s and the early 2000’s is already considered a primary or secondary audience for nearly three-fourths of all marketing campaigns in the United States. The 80 million or so Americans considered Millennials are digital natives who came of age alongside the Internet, which has had a huge impact on how they interact with brands and make purchase decisions.

Millennials will soon dominate the market.

According to a recent study from Digitas, Millennials are about to take a sharp swing upward in the luxury brand space. That is because a nice chunk of Millennials are on the doorstep of affluence, with an increasing number expected to earn $200,000 or higher in the next 10 years - making them a massive target for luxury consumer marketers.

Another study suggests those that already qualify as wealthy are 17 percent more likely than their older (35+) counterparts to make a luxury purchase. Furthermore, while they were practically raised on brands, Millennials have an innate distrust of marketing. Still, this latest batch of twenty-somethings demand personalization, mobility and have an overriding need to be recognized as individuals. It may be a lot to ask if you’re tasked with improving a company’s online marketing ROI, but soon they will be in charge. You better start getting to know who they are and how to reach them.

Here are a few more hints: They are well-educated, and have also been well-praised by a generation of doting parents, which has led to negative stereotypes regarding their sense of entitlement. So they are hard to please yet at the same time demand to be pleased.

They’ve been exposed to interactive messaging from an early age and are adept at tuning out what is not relevant to them. However, they aren’t unreachable. Below are a few key steps luxury brands should take to make sure they’re reaching Millennials:

1. Start now. There’s already a small contingency of Millennials coming into a modicum of wealth, and studies predict that more will join their ranks over the next 10 years. A universal truth about luxury brands is that consumers feel loyal to them. Start building that loyalty online now so that Generation Y will already be attached to your brand once they can afford to buy it.

2. Engage online. It’s no secret that the Millennial generation is active online. They’re not your core audience yet, so don't drop your core marketing tactics, but this is where the next generation of buyers is most active right now. You should have a strong presence online (especially in social media) and use this time to start listening. Find out what they like and dislike about your brand and start gathering insights on how you can strengthen your brand in their eyes.

3. Be genuine. Generation Y believes they can see through phony marketing messages and have developed a love/hate relationship with certain over-the-top branding. Rather than using loud and overly promotional online messaging, identify what they like about a brand and develop a story around it that they will be excited to follow.

4. Leverage peer recommendations. With social media becoming an increasingly important part of Millennials’ daily routines, it’s important to keep peer recommendations in mind. This generation has 24/7 access to their social circles and it’s highly unlikely that they’ll make a major luxury purchase decision without consulting their friends and, or family first.

5. Focus on experience. Hard selling is considerably less effective than creating a memorable brand experience. Static messages don't register, so figure out how to get Generation Y to interact with your brand. It could be online in the form of a game or a microsite, or maybe it’s a live event or sponsorship. There’s an excellent example of how LVMH moved from hard selling to creating an enjoyable online experience in this NY Times article.

6. Show value. With the proliferation of online product reviews and peer recommendations, it’s becoming more important than ever to highlight the value and quality of your product. Millennials do extensive research before buying a luxury product, so make sure your positioning is very clear on the reasons your product is the best.

7. Offer exceptional customer service. Generation Y is hyper-connected and they expect their brands to be as well. Make sure you’re available on multiple communication channels to answer any questions they might have, without being pushy or trying to upsell. Upsell is seemingly less necessary with Millennials than with past generations because they are exceptionally loyal. According to a report by Edelman Digital, 70 percent will keep coming back to a product or service they like.

8. Do good. One of the best ways to start resonating with Generation Y now is to engage in social good. They grew up with volunteering as a major part of their high school and college requirements and consequently, being socially conscious has become a part of their core belief system. Show that your brand cares about humanity and the environment and you’ll start to build a positive image in the eyes of Millennials.

In Conclusion

Whether you are marketing to senior citizens or Millennials, there are set rules that must be followed in order to attract either niche. It is vital for the success of a business to understand and target their main consumer. In order to do so, a business must fully understand the demographic at hand.

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