Senior Citizens as Target Group

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 4209 , Published on 12 August 2013
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Age and ageing are topics with immediate interest. We have more senior citizens in society than ever before. At present, senior citizens are the target market only for products like medicines, insurance cover, savings, banking, etc. Its time marketers think beyond the traditional products. Senior citizens with heavier pockets and growing life expectancy are easy targets of lifestyle products too. The Senior Citizen Market known as Mature Market (or Baby Boomers Market) is huge and growing fast. It is the wealthiest group of consumers in India. Even the corporate India's movers and shakers are all in their fifties. With decline in fertility and mortality rates accompanied by an improvement in child survival and increased life expectancy, a significant feature of demographic change is the progressive increase in the number of elderly persons. The demographic facts and trends make the elderly in India an increasingly important segment of the population pyramid in the coming years.


image:freedigitalphotos.net


Characteristics of 50-plus target group

Senior Citizens are more willing to invest on products and services that they like. Senior citizens today know that they have worked hard for their money and now they desire it to work for them.  When it comes to retirement, many 50+ will seriously ponder about it. Nowadays, they are willing to postpone their retirement too. Prior to social networking sites, an elderly person’s social circles disintegrated with age, but now they are socially connected. It is considered that they are powerful spenders in retirement like no generation before.


Shopping Habits of Senior Citizens

The silvers, as they are rightly called, might not splurge on luxury products, but it is incorrect to assume that older consumers are resistant to change. They are the charmed generation, which has a level of spending power unlikely to be matched by future generations. Though the sheer number of silvers in India makes them a huge force as they have a huge spending power, companies have not paid enough attention to this segment. The shopping habits of the 60+ generation are similar to that of the 18 to 35 age group. However they differ in that they are generally more literate and delve more deeply into the products / services they purchase and make a well informed decision.

Exposure to Internet

Going by their internet habits, it’s been said they spend an average of 44-45 min. per day surfing and that means about 750,000 min. per day and that's not simply keeping in touch with friends and family. Seniors also have more credit cards and income. Categories such as apparel, shoes or even sanitary ware could develop products designed to suit the needs of the silver generation. Older adults in general, see life through different lenses than younger adults and have become disenchanted with traditional marketing approaches. Marketing messages fail to connect with elders as the vibrant consumers they are today. Advertising is an industry dominated by young professionals, whose naturally biased views of older adults are often reflected in the marketing messages they create for boomers. But the problem they face is that good information that is relevant to the over 50 generation is either hard to find or outdated. This is so because most marketers out there simply don't know what their needs and wants really are. One of the requirements of successful marketing to 60+ is to know this target market thoroughly.


Myths associated to this target group

Many brand markets believe that the older the generation gets, the less willing they become to try new products and brands. This is not at all true as older people, especially those who have a sufficient income at hand, want to try new things. Another myth is that the older the generation gets, the less responsive they become to advertising. On the contrary, most of the older generation people like watching television and the advertisements too for learning about new products in the market. Many brand strategists even believe that they can either make ads for younger generation or for older ones as they are exclusive groups. With age gaps vanishing, the concept of watertight target group is a history. Many even believe that older people may have the money but will not spend it. On the contrary, they like spending it nowadays, rather than leave it for their children (most of them).


Portrayal of Seniors in Advertising images

The majority of today's advertisements have the "yuppies", teenagers, young couples, etc. Very few products are advertised using positive images of older people. Notable exceptions include food supplements, pain relievers, pensions and insurance products. In fact when older people do appear in advertisements, they are often one-dimensional stereotypes -- the grouchy older man, the enfeebled grandmother. Seniors may not want to see 20-something models in marketing materials, but it doesn't mean they like images of people in wheelchairs either. Mid-30 to 40-something type images relays maturity, without suggesting infirmity. It's been well documented that most seniors see themselves as being 15 -20 years younger than their biological age. However, there are some exceptions and advertisements that do use challenging or unconventional images of older people. Such ads often attract a lot of attention - precisely because they are unusual. Seniors want the same sort of services and products that everyone else does.  They demand everything from mp3 players, to ring tones, to RVs, to toys for the grandkids, to expensive holidays. Senior dating services are also becoming a massive growth industry.


Where the problem lies?

The problem seems to be two-fold: first, marketers have not seemed aware of the expanding senior citizen target market, and secondly, the marketers have trouble in directing their messages toward the stereotyped senior citizen group. Insufficient data about the senior citizen group has resulted in a lack of focus on this rapidly expanding target market. Businesses that continue their "fixation" on the youth market are doomed to sacrifice lost profits for their marketing myopia. Significant marketing potential exists for products such as health products, home care & maintenance services, bargain priced restaurants as well as leisure pursuits such as travel, overnight lodging and recreation sports. Because they have the time, money and energy to travel, they represent an important targeted market group for travel, making up a majority of the cruise tour market and escort guided lodging and tour market.


Difference in marketing to seniors

Age, generally speaking, makes you wise. Seniors also tend to have more available time to make purchase decisions. They are life savvy and for the most part, research well. They will ask questions before making a purchase - sometimes many, many, many questions. And this makes them informative consumers. They want enthusiastic products, providing clear and complete information.

Seniors seek credibility. To capture business from senior citizens, marketers need to establish their credibility. They should ensure that their privacy policy is clear, that terms and conditions are in plain English or Hindi, that the site is secure – and these aspects should be well promoted. An easy marketing copy without any fringes grabs their attention.


The benefits of catering to seniors

While seniors may not have the "scan, click and buy" mentality of younger people, once marketers have gained their trust, they can be very loyal clients. They need to invest more time initially in converting, but this will definitely pay off in the long run. Perhaps the biggest recognition by advertisers is that the elderly cannot be treated as a homogeneous group. Older people also are less gullible than younger people and less prone to social pressure from peers. Thus, the growing buying power of the elderly and the declines in numbers of younger adults may result in advertiser's thinking less of age and more of likes and dislikes of people.


Television and Entertainment

The elderly watch a considerable amount of television. Most programs shown on the television, however, are aimed at youth or young adults. They watch TV for cricket match, for latest shows, for movies and most importantly, news. If they get a wide platter of product information not only about healthcare and finance, but also about lifestyle, latest trends and other such range of products, the brands will get a sufficient space in their shopping bags.


Changing Trends

Many companies are now beginning to attract older customers. Chocolates, clothing for mature figures, sugar-free coffee, and cosmetic products for the older persons are some of them. The elderly person also is being seen as a new and potentially large audience. Elderly are portrayed in a new avatar altogether with they getting a huge share in commercials nowadays. Gone are the days when they were portrayed as old and tired. But still, commercials have a long way to go till they portray seniors for lifestyle products. It is not necessary to show senior citizens in the ads and shows to attract them as they do not prefer such visuals while making a purchase. They are young at heart and they want products which younger generation is using.


The article has been authored by Aayushi Tulsiyan, School of Petroleum Management, Gandhinagar


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