Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tips For Marketing To Seniors

We all know that the general population is aging. This means that online user’s ages are rising. According to a section in a recent marketing report, the number of US Internet users aged 62 and over is set to rise substantially over the next few years. In 2007 this figure was 9.7% of the US population. It is estimated that by 202, that figure will be 2.0%. Those couple of percentage points over the next few years represents 5 million people; i.e. 5 million potential online shoppers.

While seniors these days tend to be healthier, lead more active lives and have higher discretionary income than previous generations, they do tend to begin to have challenges with vision, hearing and cognitive functions, something that online retailers should take into consideration when designing their sites. Now there is something positive about all this web 2.0 stuff - all those darned big buttons and minimalist interfaces.

I can remember when combing my hair in the morning, many years ago, how I noticed the steady advance of grey working its way through my hair. I don’t have to worry about that any more as battle of the grey was won by the grey. Now its all grey. I guess that makes me an old man.

But what is actually "old" these days? One thing's for certain, the term "senior citizen" no longer means infirm. "Senior" does not necessarily mean retirement from work either. I know of many people in their late 60's and even 70’s who are still working; either through choice or necessity. Improved health allows them to continue to be very active in the workforce. In my early 20's, I worked in a labor-intensive field and the owner of business who worked as hard as anyone he employed was 74 years old!

Gone also are the days when the web was a place strictly for the young. Seniors have now embraced the Internet and many more are becoming are comfortable with online shopping. So Senior Shoppers, are a rapidly growing market and we should be addressing that.

Added to this the fact that, seniors control over 70% of all disposable income and currently spend over $7 billion online each year. Taking into account future general growth rates in terms of population age groups, accompanied by an ever increasing uptake of the web by this demographic slice, this is and will indeed be a lucrative market. It's just really kicking into gear now.

What do seniors buy on the web? Sure, seniors do buy all the products that we'd associate with "old age" - pills and potions and other health related products; but many of the seniors of today and into the future will view themselves as being young. In a nutshell, seniors want the same sorts services and products that everyone else does. Of course, there are some items that you probably won't have so much success with - such as the latest hip and trendy youth oriented fashions, or some of that new fangled music I hear blaring out of my grandchildrens radios and players’.
What is the difference in marketing to seniors? They say that 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 :).

Here are some Tips For Marketing To Seniors

Your Landing Page - As with marketing to any particular portion of the population, it's important that your pages reflect the tone. If you cover multiple age demographics, it can help to have a landing page dedicated to promoting your goods and services to seniors. Make the link to this section prominent throughout your site, but don't use patronizing text. Something as simple as "Special offers for seniors" should be sufficient as seniors do watch for this kind of verbiage. In years gone by, maturity and old age was respected, even revered. That has unfortunately changed in recent times, but the concept is still expected by our senior citizens. You may already have general discounts advertised - but the goal is to make this slice of the market feel that you have singled them out for special treatment.

Establish your credibility - This is important for general online success, but particularly so if you want to capture business from senior citizens. Ensure that your privacy policy is clear, that terms and conditions are in plain English, that your site is secure - and promote these aspects. Display your guarantees, industry affiliations and security seals prominently through your marketing copy.

Images on your pages - Seniors may not want to see 20-something models in your marketing materials, but it doesn't mean you need to go for images of people in wheelchairs either. Aim for the middle of the road - if you're going to use images of humans in your promotional copy; go for the mid-30 to 40-something type images as this relays maturity, without suggesting infirmity. It's been well documented that most seniors see themselves as being 5 -20 years younger than their biological age.

Using hype in marketing copy - Be very careful with this - remember that age brings wisdom and too much hype in marketing copy can be a red flag to a more discerning buyer. Be enthusiastic about your products, but focus on providing clear and complete information; quantify your claims - pose questions, give answers.

Search engines and seniors - If you are going to have a special seniors section, ensure that the terms "senior" and "seniors" along with keywords relating to your product are sprinkled throughout. This age group most definitely searches using "senior" as part of the criteria when looking for a good deal.

The benefits of catering to seniors - While seniors may not have the "scan, click and buy" mentality of younger people, once you have gained their trust, they can be very loyal clients. So while you may need to invest more time initially in converting, this can definitely pay off in the long run.

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