Commentary

Boomers Matter (More Than You Think)

One terrifying day in 2008, I got a Facebook friend request -- from my mom.

I sat on it for a couple of weeks before I shook off the disbelief, and braced myself for the questions I knew would come over the years. (Highlights have included the Farmville fad, explaining retargeting, and every UI update.)

Still, my illusion was shattered -- the one that said my mom and her Baby Boomer generation had a technology IQ that rested somewhere between NES and PC solitaire.

The reality is that in the last three years, Facebook’s over-55 user base grew by 80%, according to reports by iStrategyLabs. It’s also been cited that Boomers represent 33% of the 195.3 million Internet users in U.S. and log 27 hours each week online. (That’s two hours more than their Millennial counterparts.)

Assuming that Boomers are stuck in their ways and can’t be won over is a major marketing oversight. (And you know what they say about what happens when you “assume”.)

Boomers Pack a Purchasing Punch

While Millennials have been getting more marketing love as of late, Boomers represent a significant opportunity for the savvy brand. According to a Nielsen study of "Marketing’s Most Valuable Generation," consumers over 50 years of age represent 44% of the US population, control 70% of disposable income, and account for 49% of all spending on consumer packaged goods. (Daaang.)

But winning business from these serious shoppers means engaging them -- the right way.

They’re doing their homework

Back to my mom. “Did you read the reviews?” and “Have you checked Consumer Reports?” rank among her more frequent questions posed to me when I’m looking to make a major purchase. And that’s not uncommon.

In a survey conducted by MarketStrategies International, Boomers beat out Millennials when it came to using “consumer websites and publications” for online research. Prosper Insights & Analytics found that almost 50% of U.S. boomer Internet users researched online before buying electronics, while more than 20% said they did their online homework before purchasing apparel or appliances.

And with smartphone and tablet usage on the rise, don’t overlook the fact that Boomers are growing more tech-savvy by the day. Transparency and quality content available on multiple channels create convenience and fosters trust.

So what can you do?

Tap into advocacy.  Make sure your brand has recent and accessible consumer reviews. Amplifying positive social recommendations from within the Boomer networks can quickly turn research into a purchase.

And that works both ways. When you’re looking to reach Boomers, engage those they’re talking to online. A positive recommendation from Gen X-ers might just be your ticket to an impending loyal Boomer.

Leverage loyalty programs. Recent consumer loyalty research states that Boomers are even more interested in joining loyalty programs than their younger counterparts- especially for home improvement, groceries, and household products.

And according to DailyBreak Media, over 66% of baby boomers reported that loyalty programs drove them to interact with a brand online. More engagement means more opportunities to communicate your offerings while learning about what’s important to this powerhouse demographic.

Don’t interrupt.According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are nearly 77 million Baby Boomers in the United States. And not all are alike.

Tracking and understanding the online behavior of Boomers is only half the battle. Marketers must have a complete data-driven view of who these consumers really are. Older Boomers may be spending more on healthcare, for example, while younger boomers spend more on beauty care.

No one wants to contribute to the noise. Instead of spamming this group with irrelevant offers and messages, equip yourself with the right information. By combining purchase data, online data, social and psychographic data, brands can effectively act on those newly gleaned insights to ensure they’re delivering the right message on the right channel, building trust along the way.

When marketing to any significantly large demographic, it’s important to remember that one size does not fit all. By using technology to your advantage, you can discover how to fine-tune your boomer marketing efforts.

Don’t miss out

So maybe it’s time to consider skipping the lion’s share of your digital marketing spend on those still digging themselves out of student loan debt, and instead focus your efforts on understanding who these Boomers are, how they’re using technology, and how your brand can add value by delivering what they’re looking for -- when they want it. There’s still time to capture the attention of Boomers and keep them coming back to your brand for many years to come.

And while my mom is now on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter, it’s likely she’ll still print this and put it on the refrigerator. (It’s nice to know some things never change.)

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