The new Apple 4GS iPhone is one of the fastest-selling devices of all time—they’re simply flying off the shelves at Apple Stores and other retailers. While it doesn’t look much different than the iPhone 4, the new iPhone has some significant differences that may make it a game changer for Boomers and the marketers who love them.
According to the Pew Research Center, 35% of American adults own a smartphone, but the ages are not distributed evenly. Over half (52%) of Americans between 18 and 29 own them, while only 24% of people between the ages of 50 and 64 and 11% of people 65 and over have made the leap. There are a few reasons this new phone could start to move Boomers into the ranks of Apple iPhone devotees:
The biggest leap forward, however, is Siri, the voice-activated, artificial intelligence assistance that comes with the phone. Officially still in beta, there are still many kinks to work out but the potential is vast.
I have been testing it over the past few weeks, and it’s hit and miss when making commands and asking questions unrelated to your phone. It often defaults to a Google search, but because it doesn’t work as well as Google’s own native voice search app, those who are in it for the voice-driven searches are better off using Google’s app than Siri.
That being said, Siri works great when working with the iPhone’s functions. It was nearly flawless at sending emails and texts, calling contacts and creating and recalling calendar items. These tools are key when you’re in the car, or for those who have trouble typing and seeing on the relatively small screen. So, despite its flaws, it’s clear that it will improve over time and become a major component of the mobile user interface.
The addition of the upgraded camera, faster Internet access and Siri pushed my young Boomer wife over the edge to becoming a smartphone owner. And it’s only a matter of time before mobile commerce is within her sights. This is not to say that just because my wife made the switch, millions of others will, too. Hardly. That assumption can easily be made based on the clear trends emerging in the marketplace.
The updated iPhone is taking beyond its fair share of the overall smartphone market share. This means that carriers are aggressively selling Android phones and almost giving away the iPhone 3GS, which eliminates cost limitations that once existed. My prediction is that many Boomers will be upgrading from their feature phones over the next 12-15 months. And, the long-awaited iPhone 5 will likely be released during that general time period.
Of all implications for marketers, the most important is going to be the elimination of the excuse: “My audience isn’t on mobile.” Consider this your official warning. It’s time to brush up on mobile best practices for the iPhone and beyond.
As for Siri-specific implications? The most obvious are going to be search-related. Siri inevitably links into established databases like Yelp and Google. Basically, if your business isn’t there, you’ll be left out. Since this makes CPC ads and search ads less effective, you may consider reorganizing your search budget to parallel mobile usage by your audience. Additionally, marketers will really need to rethink their keyword and content strategies to make sure they appear high in Siri’s results. Users may go a few pages deep on a large desktop/notebook screen, but not so much on their phones.
Companies targeting Boomers need to jump into the mobile game now. Get a head start—you’ve got a year or so to get good at it. Consider both apps and mobile sites. Make sure they’re optimized and that they speak to your customers. And then address your search results and online listings. Be everywhere that Siri wants you to be. She will rule the mobile world very soon.
Boomers may be lagging a bit, but they are about to start catching up.