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What can marketers learn from the shifting habits of seniors online?

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There are a number of misconceptions and stereotypical behaviours surrounding the online habits of older adults. According to recent research from Google and market research firm, Known, the idea of baby boomers struggling to understand social media or use their smartphones couldn’t be further from the truth.

The research uncovered that around 86% of those aged 55 and over, spent at least 6 hours a day online, owned an average of 5 devices, and 82% used their smartphones every day.

Clearly, marketers would do well to set aside demographic stereotypes and instead take note of both the spending power and customer loyalty of baby boomers and Gen Xers.

The Digital Senior

The Office of National Statistics reports that 80% of adults over the age of 55 in the UK are online, with the number of those online over the age of 75 doubling in the last 7 years.

In its own research, Google found that older people used digital platforms for a wide variety of reasons. 91% used it for communication and staying in touch with family and friends, 87% to help them organise their finances, and 73% for health and wellness-related reasons.

For many older audiences, there is a recognition that having an online presence is not simply a choice but is key given the role that such platforms play in our lives. These factors, especially combined with the pandemic where life moved even further into digital spaces, has led to the rise of the “digital senior”.

Impact on Consumer Behaviour

Crucially for marketers, the changing habits of seniors online also impacts on shopping behaviours. For example, one UK study found that 36% of customers over the age of 55 reported that they expected to shop for clothes online within the next 6 months, representing a 19% increase from before the pandemic.

This rings true across multiple sectors, including the beauty industry. It was found that of those aged 55 and over, 77% had made a beauty-related purchase online, 69% used digital platforms to browse and discover products, and over 40% read online customer reviews.

The increase in digital seniors has implications for how marketers effectively reach them. For many, there has been a focus on traditional media such as TV and print in reaching older audiences, but EMarketer predicts a decline in the time baby boomers will spend watching TV, while Comscore reports that time spent watching YouTube in those aged over 55 grew by 10% between May 2020 and May 2021.

Marketing to Seniors

With a strong e increase in digital savviness amongst seniors, marketers must begin taking the steps necessary to reach them where they currently are. This begins with dispensing with stereotypes around how seniors use online spaces, and instead underpinning marketing strategies for older audiences with data and insights.

As with any audience segment, it is imperative to meet them where they are. In older audiences, this often means YouTube, so it makes sense to increase your investment within this space so you can continue to build awareness and consideration.

YouTube also offers a wide set of intent signals, allowing you to laser-focus in on high-value audiences, not merely broad ones. These include local, in-market and similar audiences, which enable you to reliably reach your most valuable customers.

It should also be noted that older audiences are less likely to explore, with Ofcom stating that 90% of senior people are likely to keep you as their digital “go-to” if their informational needs are met. Investment in seamless user journeys, resource hubs and digital simplification between marketing channels becomes ever more important with older audiences.

A Digital Marketing Opportunity

The changing digital habits and behaviours of older generations present a huge and somewhat untapped opportunity for marketers who take the time to understand and cater to this segment of their audience.

By using data-driven insights to understand how best to connect to older customers, and how to tailor experiences to meet their needs, marketers can better access a segment of loyal, high-value customers.

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