Valentine’s Day is in the rearview mirror, but Boomers are more romantic all year round than one might think. In fact, one study found that finding love is the #1 New Year’s resolution for nearly 60% of single people over 50.
As the Boomer divorce rate continues to increase, a growing number of singles in that age group is looking for romance. A 2016 Mintel study on marketing to Boomers found that loneliness can lead to early death. Since 30% of Baby Boomers, and nearly half of older Americans, live alone, forming strong bonds with others is key to their well-being.
Yet, in spite of the fact that Boomers want to be in relationships, many are struggling. According to a recent survey by OurTime, one of the largest dating sites for people over 50, nearly half haven’t been on a date in over five years.
With that need to fill, there is a lot of potential for marketers to help Boomers create love connections while showing some love to their own businesses. One of the best venues for tapping into that potential is online dating. Match.com calls people over 50 its biggest growing market, and a Pew Research study found that the number of people 55–64 using online dating sites has recently doubled, growing from 6% in 2013 to 12% in 2015.
However, there seems to be much room for improvement in the online dating category. In a recent Consumer Reports ranking of online dating sites, the category scored the lowest of any business the organization reviews (even lower than tech support). OurTime and SeniorPeopleMeet each received only a 46% approval rating. Considering the reputation of these sites, what improvements should they make? We asked a few brave Boomer daters for their advice:
1. Make the site look good. Online dater Dave, 58, complimented eHarmony for its visually appealing and intuitive interface, but he found Plenty of Fish crowded with information and hard to navigate.
2. Make dating easier. Dave also felt that Tinder — with its lightning-fast swipe left, swipe right approach — was better suited to spontaneous Millennials, but he also didn’t have time to wade through the hundreds of compatibility questions asked on eHarmony. He’d prefer something in the middle.
3. Find a niche. Just because two people are the same age doesn’t mean they are in a compatible stage of life. Some are grandparents, others have kids at home, some are working, others are retired. Maybe that’s why 40% of Boomer online daters have visited sites for people with shared interests. There are sites for vegetarians, book lovers and even farmers — and probably room for more options.
4. Don’t call them cougar. According to the OurTime survey, 67% of women dislike that term. And marketers should not only avoid stereotyping their audience, but their sites as well. Boomers didn’t mind the name “OurTime,” because it subtly suggested that they now had time to do something for themselves. “SeniorPeopleMeet” was less appealing.
5. Help them! Often, divorced Boomers have been out of the dating market for years. Professional photographers can capitalize on the need to avoid the “selfie in the bathroom mirror” look. Writers can find a market for professionally written bios. And dating coaches can help Boomers learn the do’s of online interaction — and the don’ts (like lying about your income or weight).
6. Screen out scammers. Boomers are easy targets for young, beautiful people who live too far away to get together, but not too far away to request a Western Union money wire.
7. Get Boomers off the computer. Boomer Dave welcomes sites that offer social events at physical locations. For instance, Meetup.com is designed not to arrange dates but to connect people with groups that share their interests.
Now that Boomers are comfortable buying everything from laundry soap to mutual funds online, there’s no reason why they can’t feel the same level of comfort with mate-shopping. Online marketers can leverage the growing single Boomer demographic by helping this audience connect with romance and friendship, which can lead to them living happier, healthier and potentially longer lives.