Rx For Health Marketers: Gold Mine In Reaching Seniors Online

A virtual gold mine awaits online marketers in the health care sector--if they effectively reach seniors ages 50 and up, according to findings from a new study conducted by media agency GroupM and research firm Millward Brown.

While more seniors are seeking health information online than ever before, the majority--52%--remain cool to the idea. About 15% of U.S. seniors, or roughly 13.1 million people, don't currently go online. But they'd consider doing so if Web sites were simpler to use, they could find the information quickly, or a "gatekeeper" searched for them. This group, dubbed "Senior Hopefuls," represents a huge opportunity for marketers able to coax them online through traditional channels.

Roughly 11%, or approximately 9.6 million seniors, fall into another category: "Trust Challenged." This group routinely goes online, but chooses not to seek online health-related content because they tend to doubt its credibility.

Gatekeeper users--about 12% of seniors, or about 10.5 million people--are not confident using the Web on their own, so they have friends and/or family do it for them, according to the study. GroupM Interaction suggests that marketers develop easy-to-find, one-stop-shop content in an effort to appeal to this segment.

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"These seniors are Web-savvy and routinely go online, but they doubt the credibility of the health information they find on the Internet," according to the report.

GroupM Interaction advises that marketers certify their messages via promotions that include recommendations from credentialed health care professionals, such as physicians. The agency also recommends enlisting other online seniors as word-of-mouth advocates.

A fourth group known as the "Old School"--which constitutes about 9%, or roughly 7.8 million seniors--is considered largely unreachable for marketers via the Internet. This group doesn't go online and believes there is no reason to use the Web. The study suggests that access has little to no impact on this segment's decision not to surf the Internet.

GroupM Interaction recommends that marketers craft messages specifically for the gatekeepers. Other possible tactics include promotions that encourage the gatekeepers to surf the Web with their loved ones or teach their loved ones how to conduct searches on their own.

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