Commentary

Boomers Are Not a Generation New To Technology

Boomers adopt tablets, wearable devices and other technologies just as energetically as younger users, according to participants at last year’s Booming Tech forum, which focused on the use of technology in that generation. 

Boomers “are not a generation new to technology,” said Joseph Coughlin, director of the AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This notion that older adults don’t love technology — that’s not on older adults, that’s bad technology"

And Boomers movement into digital life continues to deepen, according to data from the Pew Research Center. Boomers ages 51 to 69 have relatively substantial technology assets, and also has a positive view toward the benefits of online platforms. This indicates huge potential to gain new customers in this space.  

Plus, this demographic, which makes up the majority of the U.S. adult population, can afford to spend money on tablets, cars with onboard computers and wearable devices.

The key is for technology companies to take the time to understand the physical changes, of Boomers as well as the changing manifestation of human values and motivators that we experience growing older. 

As we age, we encounter physical changes that affect the quality of our lives. We can't see or hear as well without assistance, and we lose some of our taste, smell and touch sensitivity. Companies developing products like smartphones, tablets, computers and other technological products would be well-served to consider these changes in the design of their products. Also, when selling products to these groups, warranties, guarantees and “try it” programs are effective in convincing them to take a chance on new or unfamiliar technology. 

Also, the psychology of marketing and sales to Boomers has to connect with their life-stage values, and the tech company's value proposition has to align with what the consumer wants and needs. Does the product help them connect with family, grandchildren or friends? Does it provide more control in their life? 

Does the product provide them desired experiences? Opportunity also lies in creating advertising that takes the high road and compliments rather than criticizes target-market values. Messages should elevate rather than denunciate. 

Boomers are more experiential in their approach to new products, offering demonstrations and trials could be successful in testing new technology, but that could be an expensive strategy. Companies typically do this at the product-development stage, not in the sales channel.

Technology companies can help turn prospects into customers by creating experiences. Creating promotions, events and shopping environments designed to engage customers in a personal and profound way. Experiences create memories that are rich with sensations and personal engagement. Boomers are experience seekers. 

And tech companies can get consumers' attention by giving back to their communities. Most companies are not philanthropic. They exist to make a profit. However, the opportunity is always available for tech companies to embrace and support a worthwhile nonprofit cause and then enlist customers and stakeholders to participate in promotions that integrate advertising, sales promotion and public relations. 

Technology companies would be best served to try to make their products solution-oriented. Boomers, especially older Boomers, don’t always use technology for the same reasons and in the same ways as younger customers. Technology must have a purpose that serves a need in their life. It is not only for recreation or to replace another form of communication — for example: texting versus phoning. 

Many technology companies continue to be myopic when approaching Boomers. Products and services should address consumers' needs. Too many marketing communications are focused on features (all about them) instead of the problem they are solving (all about the customer). 

Focusing on bells and whistles doesn’t address Baby Boomers’ need to understand how the technology will provide them more control of their lives and make their lives simpler or better. Telling a compelling consumer story, and how product in use solves a problem and using cohort recommendations are all better approaches to winning over the Boomers. 

7 comments about "Boomers Are Not a Generation New To Technology ".
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  1. Jennifer Jarratt from Leading Futurists, LLC, June 1, 2015 at 1:47 p.m.

    After reading this, I thought of Apple's watch as a product designed for boomers (or one that could be). Higher cost probably one of its aspects, and the ability to customize the experiences and services provided.

  2. Chris Conderino from CC Media and Marketing, June 1, 2015 at 2:34 p.m.

    I don't get why ANYONE thinks of Boomers and Technology as NEW to each other!  Boomers were the first "hands-on" users of technology-solutions for businesses, which later, ultimately became the infrastructure for consumer and leisure usage.  Boomers were in their 20s and 30s using WENG and IBM mainframe systems on Compaq PCs using DOS software at the revolution of office and systems management. Boomers were designing the software needed to grow industries and the tools needed to manage them.  
    The companies that are considered today's cutting edge of technology are 30-40 years old.  Who do you think helped them grow up?!  IBM PC 1981, DOS 1981, Microsoft 1975, Macintosh 1984, Oracle 1977, mobile phones 1973, cable 1972, video games early '70s... etc. 
    Yes, Boomers are the largest population group, have more disposable income, and they have a big attitude about everything, AND they are entirely tech savvy. 
    You are right about one thing ... Boomers are discriminating and all about value.  Understanding how to communicate to them is key.  But if you're thinking of your old grandmother who can't see the buttons on the phone and don't know how to touch the screen ... think again!

  3. Jim Gilmartin from Coming of Age, June 1, 2015 at 3:16 p.m.

    Here's another perspective. http://boomertechadventures.com/memo-to-tim-cook-ceo-of-apple-re-marketing-for-the-watch/

  4. Chris Conderino from CC Media and Marketing, June 1, 2015 at 5:28 p.m.

    YEP!  Good note to Apple.

  5. Camille Meyers from Self-employed, June 2, 2015 at 4:32 p.m.

    This is all so true! I agree with Jim and Chris that understanding how exactly to communicate to baby boomers to incredibly key. Knowing about their needs, wants, and common ailments due to aging will really help businesses properly market their products. I've worked in marketing and many companies make the mistake of mainly focus on their features only, and not focusing on the customers pain points. In my opinion, that's a big mistake.

    There's a cool company I discovered that recently launched and I think they do this really well with regards to baby boomers and older generations. My parents & grandparents fit into those age groups, so I'm always on the look out for businesses that actually pay attention to their needs and this company, called Openoox, definitely does. From the start, Openoox made it clear that they're improving web accessibility for all and that it's especially helpful for older generations. They're all about being able to easily share findings on the internet and connect with family and friends over their easy to use site. The easiest way to think of its main functionality is combining all our top used sites (like Twitter, Pinterest, even Google, etc) into one main network. But out of everything, my favoroite feature that they highlight is easily the zoomable thumbnails. I can't tell you how many times I've heard about visibility issues with regards to computers and the web!

  6. Amy VanDeVelde from The OASIS Institute, June 15, 2015 at 6:52 p.m.

    I concur on all comments above.  Kudos to Jill for her appeal to Apple and for underscoring her decades long brand loyalty.  A whole new group of boomers are adopting iOS portable devices because of their ease of use, but I have heard from our membership that getting help at the Apple Store is often a challenge.  Just because a boomer says 'upgrade' instead of 'update' or doesn't know the proper lingo doesn't mean they don't understand what they need help with.  Camille is right--companies that make their website accessibile will not only attract boomers they will enhance usability for everyone!

  7. Jill Spencer from BoomerTECH Adventures, August 25, 2015 at 10:59 a.m.

    Thank you Amy and Jim for referencing my blog post that suggests Apple not ignore Boomers in the Apple Watch ad campaign.  We at BoomerTECH Adventures (http://boomertechadventures.com/) are not surprised by the information in the above post.  Everyday, we see Boomers and Seniors interested in all of the options their digital devices have to offer.  Faces light up when they figure out how to use Skype or Facetime to connect with grandchildren, but they also enjoy exploring blogs on topics of interest, creating their own music channels, and staying on top of their fitness levels. Boomers and Seniors are not ready to go silently into the night...the digital world allows us to connect, contribute, and create and we do!

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