The Digital Landscape: Seniors & Baby Boomers

The current landscape for Seniors online involves tremendous opportunity and purchasing power. While Seniors are considered to be 65+ years-old, there is another audience to take into consideration as well: Baby Boomers. These are individuals born between 1946-1964, meaning that in 2016, this group is between 52 and 70 years-old and shifting into the next phase of Seniors.

Figure 1:

Source: Nielsen Marketing

This 50+ year-old population will control 70% of the United States disposable income, and inherit $15 trillion over the next 20 years. In addition, Baby Boomers spend the most money across every product category out of any other generation, but are only targeted by 5-10% of marketers (Source). This audience has the numbers and the dollars.

In addition, Seniors and Baby Boomers have a larger online presence than most would think. By 2018, 60.7% of people ages 65+ will be using the Internet as illustrated in Figure 2. Their social network penetration is on the rise as well. Figure 3 focuses on the forecasted, steady growth of U.S. social networks by age.

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Figure 3:

Consumer Preference

These two audience segments are unique and distinct from others and each other. Therefore, it will be important for advertisers to have an understanding of their history and values in order to connect with them.

Today’s Seniors place extremely high value on sustaining their independence and ability to be self-sufficient. Technology is expected to play an increasingly large role in helping Seniors support an independent lifestyle. Although we can note some characteristic overlaps between The Silent Generation and Baby Boomers, even these two groups have variances. See Figure 4, which outlines the foundational differences across generations.

Figure 4:

Advertisers should utilize the consumer preferences in the visuals above coupled with the additional audience insight found in this report to craft messages that will appeal to their target market. In addition, not all Baby Boomers and Seniors are alike. Marketers should leverage personalized targeting tools to help them truly connect with the end viewer on an individual level. Otherwise, brands risk losing their business to competitors who are implementing customer-driven marketing strategies.

As you can see in Figure 5, the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers have some similarities, especially when compared to Gen X and Millennials. However, one huge difference is the population of the generation. The population of Baby Boomers is nearly double the population of the generation before it. Hence, the name and the opportunity to target this audience as they approach and transition to the category of Seniors.

Figure 5:

Similar to Seniors, Baby Boomers also respond better to traditional media, and do not respond well to online banner ads. To combat this, it will be vital for advertisers to execute upon omni-channel marketing efforts, not forgetting traditional media outlets like newspaper, radio, and TV ads.

You will see in Figure 6 that not only does age influence behavior, but gender does as well. This is a good reminder that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to this era of personalized marketing. This is a testament to the importance of defining your niche audience and designing campaigns that are customized and rooted in consumer behavior data. Below is a breakdown of the different types of advertisements that Internet users ignore, organized by age group and type of advertisement.

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Social Media Usage

50% of people 65+ years-old are social media users, which is approximately 11.6 million individuals. When considering frequency, 59% of this group is on social media every day (Source). A whopping 82% of Baby Boomers belong to at least one social network, and 71% of this group uses social media every day (Source). This means this audience is online and active.

Social Channels

Facebook is the preferred social media network for Baby Boomers and Seniors 65+ , hosting approximately 8.8 million Seniors; while 15.5% of Baby Boomers who have an account spend 11+ hours per week on the site (Source). Pinterest comes in second place with 2.3 million Senior users, followed by 2.1 million on Twitter and 0.4 million on Instagram. Refer back to Figure 3 featuring the growth of U.S. social network users categorized by age over time.

Social Media Strategy

Baby Boomers respond best to brands that use a “bucket list” approach (Source). Although Seniors may have medical conditions that require additional assistance, they’re still interested in consuming entertaining, youthful experiences.

In addition, it is important to Baby Boomers and Seniors to stay mentally and physically stimulated by learning new things. With this in mind, advertisers can adjust the positioning of their product or service to align with “bucket list” approaches and key value propositions that increase physical and/or mental activity, as well as promoting health.

Types of Content

Baby Boomers and Seniors engage with a variety of digital content. News and weather are the most popular types of content accessed by these two groups. Below is a breakdown of their most consumed content followed by the top domains (Source):

  • News and weather (66%)
  • Shopping (57%)
  • Coupons, Discounts and Daily Deals (45%)
  • Food info (44%)
  • Games and related activities (43%)

54% of the Baby Boomer and Senior population watch videos online. 82% of this group consumes videos on YouTube. The main intent for viewership is utility and entertainment. Currently trending YouTube videos for Baby Boomers are as follows:

The top YouTube video for Seniors is:

Baby Boomers and Seniors are attracted to self-fulfillment. Baby Boomers will respond best to products or services that make them feel like they deserve it. Seniors will respond best to products or services that will increase their human capital through education, or extend their lives.

As far as traditional media, Seniors consume television more than any type of media. Seniors 65+ years-old watch about 100 more hours of television than millennials do. Baby Boomers watch television 63% more than Millennials do (Source). Below is a breakdown of the daily time spent watching TV on weekdays versus weekends, organized by age group.

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As previously mentioned, traditional advertising methods (defined as television, direct mail, print, radio and outdoor) are more effective when targeting these two generations. One source of revenue often discounted is the telephone. Expedia continues to do 25% of its bookings over the phone.

We have also seen that Seniors are loyal to print. They read, on average, 25.2 books per year. Out of those Senior readers, 24.5% will be “e-readers” this year.

The top online activities for Baby Boomers in order from most used to least used are search engines, email, and shopping for products/services. The three most effective channels to reach Baby Boomers are television, search, and email marketing. Below is a breakdown of electronic device ownership among U.S. Millennials and Seniors.

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Conclusion and Recommendations

As Baby Boomers and Seniors retire, many of their incomes start to see a steady decline. As a result, they are interested in products as investments that are a good deal for them now, and that also makes sense for them in the long run.

The media usage of Seniors and Baby Boomers is primarily live television. In addition, a majority of Baby Boomers and Seniors are Internet users. As you saw in this report, Baby Boomers are more active online than Seniors. This goes for social media as well. Although Baby Boomers and Seniors are on digital and social media marketing channels at a much smaller rate than the rest of the population, it is still a population worth leveraging.

Baby Boomers spend the most money across every product category out of any other generation.

Only half of Internet users 65 and older are social network users, but this still computes to 11.6 million people. In addition, the smartphone usage of Baby Boomers and Seniors is on the rise.

When targeting Baby Boomers and Seniors, we recommend being honest and upfront. Baby Boomers and Seniors want to know who they are doing business with, so having a detailed About Us page, FAQ section, as well as accessible customer service on your website, will optimize their experience.

In addition, Baby Boomers and Seniors value businesses that care about their communities, so taking a local-minded approach as well as mixing in philanthropic activities will help in developing brand trust. Try a company spotlight on your target market’s local television broadcast.

We also recommend keeping Baby Boomer and Senior interests in mind. Some general interests that the aging population have include:

  • Educational courses
  • Products and services that extend life expectancy and enhance their quality of life
  • Growing old in their own homes
  • Services that help them remain independent
  • Senior living communities as an alternative to their own homes, so that they may remain independent with access to affordable in-home services

In terms of marketing to Seniors and Baby Boomers, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  1. Always consider access and usability. The older generation requires an experience that is easy to navigate, whether that includes larger fonts, products on eye-level shelves or having fast and easy access to customer service.
  2. Seniors respond better to traditional media like television, radio, and newspaper ads.
  3. A small portion of Seniors will conduct pre-purchase research online. Understand what they need to know across the customer journey and be there with answers.
  4. Seniors do not respond well to marketing messages that imply or acknowledge they are “old.” Messaging should remain positive and helpful to their lifestyle needs.
  5. Seniors are concerned about their privacy and are suspicious and worried by targeted ads. Don’t ask for too much information up front without building brand trust.

The digital landscape is ever-shifting and as marketers, it’s important to maintain a high level of education and awareness. This kind of data is essential to every business in order to maintain current success and also, to ensure it will continue to grow.

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