The Numbers That Make Boomers Number One For Many Marketers

The apocryphal story is told that when Willie Sutton, who spent most of his life in jail for robbing banks, was asked why he continued to do so when he was always getting caught, he replied, “That’s where the money is.”

Boomers hold 70% of all disposable income in the United States, so that’s certainly where the money is. If that’s not a market worth going after, I don’t know what is.

Boomers will spend:

  • $2.9 trillion a year
  • $35 billion on their grandchildren
  • $7 billion online annually
  • More than any other generation on health care

They represent nearly 80 million U.S. consumers. They will buy about 36% of new cars and account for 80% of all travel expenditures. Boomers are the leading consumers in 119 of 123 consumer packaged good categories, and close to 100% own a computer. And here’s a surprise: 41% of Boomers own an Apple product.



Unlike their parents, Baby Boomers are willing to spend, but only if “it’s just right.” In addition to being The Boomer Generation, they’re definitely The Entitled Generation. Boomers are placing new demands on retirement communities, on the home health services that they are starting to need, and on just about every other service provider with which they come in contact. A large part of the reason that Baby Boomers account for 80% of all travel expenditures is that many insist on traveling in style—luxury hotel brands just love them, and they, in turn, love being catered to.

Unfortunately for print media, these affluent consumers are ditching hard copy for the Web at an alarming rate compared to the previous generation. Boomers average only two hours a week reading a newspaper or magazine. This compares to 3.1 hours for seniors. 

So what are all these Boomers doing on the Web?

They’re the first generation to track their investments online to a significant degree. They regularly look at their IRAs, 401(k)s, bonds, and other personal investments on their desk computers and mobile devices. That’s a large part of why they are averaging 4.8 hours of online usage at home and 14.8 hours of online usage outside of the home. This compares to seniors’ usage of 1.9 at-home hours and 13.9 hours out of the home.

These Boomers aren’t just surfing the Web; they’re buying on it. The current $7 billion they spend in online purchases will grow exponentially as Boomers age in place, making fewer trips to brick-and-mortar stores and replacing those trips with more purchases online. And they’ll be the first generation to truly embrace the new wave of medical monitoring devices, home alarms, and environmental controls that the “internet of things (computing devices talking to each other)” will make possible.

It’s nice to talk to a cohort that has money and is willing to spend it, but nobody in this world is giving his or her money away. Marketers have to earn it. Although every individual is certainly special and different, luckily for us marketers, Baby Boomers as a group do have clearly defined characteristics and purchasing patterns. By recognizing these patterns, we can develop meaningful marketing strategies and choose appropriate media.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to take a serious look at the numbers and consider whether or not Boomers belong in your business plan.

3 comments about "The Numbers That Make Boomers Number One For Many Marketers".
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  1. Jill Wagner from MMI Consulting, September 22, 2014 at 10:15 a.m.

    Smart, thoughtful marketers know this and build marketing plans around this but why does Silicon Valley completely ignore this critical cohort?

  2. Suzanne Stewart from Bloomers Marketing, September 30, 2014 at 4:34 p.m.

    TV execs and sponsors have completely ignored this demo, too. Still using ratings systems based on 18-45 viewers?? WHY? Most new college grads are under or unemployed, while living with Boomer parents and grandparents. Follow the money! Wake up and smell the roses!

  3. Erin Read from Creating Results, Inc., October 7, 2014 at 8:52 a.m.

    One more thing Boomers are doing online: Use email to share content with friends and family. Creating Results' "Social, Silver Surfers" research found that 82% of older Boomers and 81% of Gen Jones do so.

    What's actionable about this insight is that as Boomers shift from print to digital consumption, marketers can track that sharing behavior. We can learn which content best appeals to these very valuable consumers, and which media they're using.

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