The largest, wealthiest generation in history is now retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day, a trend that will continue every day for the next 15 years. The better part of the nearly 76 million Baby Boomers are now in the process of “reverse commuting” – shifting their daily focus from the workplace to the home-place. As the hours that were once spent commuting and at work are reallocated to the home, the dynamics of how the home is used and how lives are lived within it will undergo sweeping changes.
This shift is an opportunity to market products and services that align with newly emergent needs and desires of a home-centric lifestyle. Google’s purchase of home systems innovator Nest Corporation for a reported $3.3 billion is just the “tip of the iceberg” and the latest indication that the remigration to the home-place is a real marketing power trend. When a high-tech software company such as Google decides to invest billions in home-based consumer technology, they must believe that the market for these products and services has a great deal of room to grow.
This trend will manifest itself in many ways, beginning with the house itself. If there’s no place like home, then imagine what it feels like to live in a newly renovated home. The typical Boomer home has evolved from a comfortable nest that once nurtured a growing family to a space that is in transition. The prospect of more time at home is triggering a desire to alter the home in a way that nurtures the inhabitants’ dreams for their future. It is time for the “Me” generation to rediscover aspects of their lives interrupted by family and work demands in the years prior.
Data from the National Association of Home Builders shows that 73% of buyers aged 55 and up don’t want a second-floor master suite. Boomers wishing to save their joints and avoid stairs have helped fuel this trend. First-floor bedrooms and bathrooms, wider doors and hallways, better lighting, bigger windows, and easy-to-maintain exteriors and landscaping are becoming common.
Space vacated by grown children is being repurposed to support the passions of Boomers. The home is being transformed into a space to entertain others and to enjoy quality friendships in a comfortable setting. Whether a sewing room, man cave, or home office, the way in which home space is used is being transformed, and because the endeavor is driven by passion, Boomers are spending considerably more to convert living space into lifestyle space. For the more affluent, expect renovation and expansion on a grand scale.
The flip side to that is that more than a few Boomers will be coming home to a full house, not the empty nest they may have dreamed of. The share of Americans living in multi-generational households is the highest it has been since the 1950s. Boomers have become the latest “sandwich generation”.
The trend toward multi-generational living – gathering momentum since the 1990s – has been accelerated by the combined pressures of a systemic economic contraction, depressed housing values, an uncertain employment picture, the inability of many families to find affordable childcare, and an overall devaluation of retirement savings. With Boomers’ parents moving in and the kids not moving out, many Boomers will find themselves managing an even more demanding home dynamic.
This will provide marketers with the opportunity to address a multi-generational home as a household as opposed to a collection of separate and distinct consumers. This unique household composition will affect a plethora of industries, from consumer packaged goods to transportation to travel, and will have an obvious impact on housing.
If you’re marketing to age, it’s time to make sure that your efforts hit home. Virtually everything bought in a grocery store, a mall or the web lands in the home to be used there; in essence, home is where most brands live and it’s also where the Boomers are going to get down to some well-earned living. The “work hard, play hard” generation is catching its breath and getting ready for what comes next, and the next phase will fundamentally involve the home. The most important generation in the history of marketing is about to experience the most dramatic lifestyle change since they were married and started families decades ago. Change begets opportunity, and now is the time to put the home at the center of developing new products, services, experiences, and messages for the new aging consumer. It seems that there really is no place like home after all.
Next, consider that a healthy home is a happy home. One of the most important aspects of aging is “liberation”. Typically this feeling is triggered by a shift from the structured demands of the workplace to a more flexible post-work lifestyle. Liberation is characterized by the ability to focus on life priorities that were previously sacrificed to the priorities of work and career.
Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) research indicates that Boomers are taking more personal responsibility for their own health. As such, “healthcare at home” is being redefined – not with their parents’ medical equipment, but with mobility-enhancing products, technology, and devices that provide at-home solutions. Active Boomers will seek and pay a premium for products that work without calling attention to an age-related disability.
The NMI research also indicates that more than half of Boomers indicate their biggest fear of aging is “restricted mobility or difficulty getting around”, up from 44% in 2006. Mobility will be the greatest new high-order benefit, and exercise and diet will be integrated into a virtuous circle for more aging Boomers. Expect Boomers to purchase home exercise equipment and establish home workout routines to stay fit and feeling great.
As they return to the home-place and re-nest for the next phase of their lives, the passion for protecting the environment and sustainability has become a worthwhile and enduring value for the majority of Boomers. This belief is on the rise. More than eight in ten Boomers think we live in a wasteful society and are trying to save and reuse as much as possible. Three out of four care about products that use recycled materials.
So sweep off the welcome mat and leave the front door open. Marketing’s Most Valuable Generation is coming home to the place they value more than any other. The Boomers are back to where it all started, and they’re getting ready to start all over again.
This post is an extract from the author’s new book “Getting Better With Age: Improving Marketing In The Age Of Aging” (Lid Publishing, 2015)