16 lessons from 12 years working with the 50+ demographic

While you may not want to admit the 50+ market accounts for a large percentage of your business in case it tarnishes your brand, check out your sales data, look around the shop or even just the street when you’re walking.

Who are the active ones? Is everyone aged 50+ sitting around reminiscing or are they getting busy living?

Having spent the last 12 years building up GrownUps’ membership base to 140,000 people alongside 200,000 visitors a month, Poole has a thing to there are a few themes, myths, stats and general points of interest to share.

He says while the 50+ demographic is not buying every single product or service available, if you think more about it, they play an important part in the purchasing funnel by influencing other generations both up and down their family tree.

Want to know more? Here are his 16 lessons from working with the 50+ demographic*.

1) Not just one but four generations

The 50-69 years old group not only look after themselves (buying everyday items, traveling, taking care of their health etc), however, they often look after their elderly parents (think a roof over their heads – retirement villages, downsizing, legals etc), increasingly assist their children (first homes, cars, education) and they help kick-start their grandchildren’s lives (clothes, bank accounts, health insurance and again increasingly pay for their often private education).

2) Are generally extremely tech savvy

After all Steve Jobs designed the iPad with the more mature market in mind. 78 percent use Apps, 41 percent stream TV or movie content, 97 percent have the Internet at home. AARP (US) research shows that 70 percent of people 50+ use a smartphone.

3) Buy Online

Yes, there is a tendency to think that older people are very conservative with spending habits online. Many are, particularly given the scammers that do exist out there who unfortunately tend to target older people. However, 75 percent do buy online. Specifically 54 percent buy gifts, 43 percent buy clothes/footwear, 31 percent buy health and wellness products, 26 percent purchase entertainment and 26 percent buy electronic goods online.

4) Are well-connected social media participants

Whilst it’s difficult to get a specific breakdown, around 18 percent of global Facebook traffic is from people aged 45+. Interestingly in NZ, the latest stats suggest 32 percent for the same age range. (Source: statista.com) 80 percent of GrownUps people use social media.

5) It’s not about age, but rather stage. Everyone is an individual.

It’s best not to group everyone in a bunch. Having said that, by using your data, much like any other age group, there will be trends and specific groups within. Therefore, it’s key to personalise your advertising wherever possible and don’t whatever you do, speak with the audience as if they are ‘old’. Be positive and tactful.

6) Are a key demographic running and selling private businesses

These individuals often have not only cashflow, but can be cashed up and wish to reward themselves. Do not judge a book by the cover when a person walks in off the street or contacts you and especially not if you are made aware of their age. You absolutely never can tell. Just visit a Motorhome expo near you and observe.

7) ‘Own’ the travel market

A recent British stat from Saga.co.uk talks about a nine percent increase in the overall percentage of travel expenditure by those aged 50+ in a few short years. The 50+ demographic now accounts for 58 percent of the overall travel market. For GrownUps, 93 percent take at least one holiday per year, with 65 percent travelling one to three times internationally each year.

8) ‘Own’ the health market

60 percent on GrownUps purchase health supplements. According to the Natural Products NZ Survey 2014, the natural products market alone was worth $1.4 billion.

9) Are for the most part fit and healthy

94 percent take part in some form of sport/exercise. Having participated in local triathlon events, there are countless competitors into their 60’s who having looked that their split times are often quicker than those in their 40’s. If you witnessed the Masters’ Games in Auckland last year, one athlete was 101.

10) Own assets
Yes, it is very tricky and indeed scary to contemplate needing to survive on the pension alone, without other cashflow options or capital reserves. Despite this, 76 percent own their own home and 24 percent own investment properties.

11) Have a lot of disposable income

According to a New York Times article by Braden Phillips ‘Marketers Take Second Look at Over-50 Consumers’, US Consumers over the next 20 years will control 70 percent of all disposable income and inherit $15 Trillion.

12) Are not necessarily loyal (i.e. they like to try new things)
Don’t bank on the fact that if a person aged 50+ has spent with you before, they’ll do it again. The market is more than capable of finding the best deal, the best service and at the same time like anyone else, need to be wined and dined.

Do not take them for granted and don’t ignore them for younger audience.

13) Don’t view themselves as old

So….don’t advertise to them or speak with them, using old looking people. In fact, speak with them not at them.

14) Like to dream and make the most of everyday, just like everyone else.

Offer the demographic a chance to dream. Your customer may not be able to buy today but they will work out a way and add it to their bucket list if nothing else. Whether taking up cycling, entertaining friends, planning their next overseas trip, meeting new people, wanting to learn new things (you can teach an old dog new tricks.), we all have dreams and we’re all motivated to do more.

15) Can’t stand the word seniors or the old idea of retirement

These are descriptions from 20 years ago. Please think of something else. Retirement in the old definition, meant that once you stopped work, you often stopped truly living. Now it’s a transition period that never really ends – it simply evolves into the next thing.

16) Are starting and running amazing businesses. (And are in fact more successful on average than younger entrepreneurs.)

Now I’m not suggesting that you delay starting a business until you are 50, however, it’s a fact that on average, older people have more success per capita at starting and maintaining a business. (To be fair, there are a lot more people under 50 starting businesses and giving it a go but the fact remains). Regardless of age, building businesses is extremely tough, takes plenty of hard work & unwavering persistence. However, when you think Colonel Sanders, Ray Croc, Ray Dalio, Sir Richard Branson, Warren Buffett etc, you get the picture.  It’s never too late.

With around 1.65m New Zealanders alone aged 50 and over out of 4.5million of us, it’s a good percentage to be speaking with, who are getting busy living.

*Please note that stats are published GrownUps audience stats, unless otherwise noted.

  • Richard Poole is currently a ‘half-time’ consultant for GrownUps, with the other time spent as a Marketing, Business & 50+ Audience Consultant via Co-Pilot.’

This story is part of a content partnership with GrownUps.

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