We recently published an article highlighting the increasing importance of millennials to the economy as their buying power grows and how to market to them effectively. But we’re not suggesting that you should abandon older generations – particular not baby boomers, who continue to outspend all younger generations combined online.
“Baby boomers” refers to anyone born between 1946 and 1964, which makes up almost half of the total population, yet accounts for over two-thirds of the wealth. While millennials dominate the headlines when it comes to online marketing, baby boomers tend to be highly tech-savvy and active in social networks and e-commerce, contrary to popular belief. Just like millennials, they can be just as hard to win over, so learning how to market effectively to this generation is vital.
When speaking about an entire generation, we need to be wary of making too many generalisations, and that’s doubly true when it comes to baby boomers. With nearly 20 years separating the oldest and youngest members, it’s best to think of this generation as comprised of many segments with only a few defining characteristics that truly apply to the entire group.
The first thing you need to do before trying to appeal to baby boomers is to recognise the diversity of this market. One of the key factors is that many boomers are in a period of transition, whether it’s going from a full house to an empty nest, entering retirement, or experiencing health changes. Some are still raising children, some are caring for their parents, and some have become grandparents.
While all of these lifestyle changes manifest in different ways, they can all be used to understand the consumer habits of this generation. Marketers should profile their customer base to identify which market segments within this group are part of their audience. By isolating relevant behaviour and lifestyle characteristics, businesses can tailor their marketing and product selection according to specific data variables such as disposable income, education level, household composition, and known leisure activities.
In addition, at a time when marketers are rushing to jump on the mobile bandwagon, it’s worth noting that, despite being increasingly tech-savvy, boomers in general have not embraced mobile commerce, preferring to access the internet via computers, especially when it comes to making a purchase.
Tips for Appealing to Baby Boomers
Don’t call them old
Make no mistake, just because boomers are getting older doesn’t mean they’re becoming their parents – they’re just becoming older baby boomers. This is a group that grew up in the age of consumerism and helped define branding and marketing as we know it. And they don’t see themselves as old – many consumers in their 50s are involved in activities typically marketed to much younger age groups, such as sport and fitness.
Baby boomers have been called the “me” generation, and that’s certainly not going to change now that they have both the money and the leisure time to freely pursue their interests and hobbies. They know they are likely to live longer than their parents and expect to live the good life. Now in their 50s, 60s and 70s, boomers are committed to rebelling against ageism stereotypes. 60 is the new 40, and that’s how you should market it.
Give them a variety of choices
Unlike their parents, who were thrifty and practical, boomers grew up in the age of individualism, when the concept of “the customer is always right” ruled the day. Boomers are accustomed to having all the power when shopping and will not make purchase decisions lightly. They research thoroughly before choosing what to buy (and who to buy it from) and want to feel like they made the choice on their own.
If you want to appeal to boomers, provide them with a variety of choices in every area, from the products you offer to the payment methods you accept. Skip the hard sell – boomers don’t want to feel like they’re being “sold to”. Make sure to provide as much information as possible about the product and its benefits, then allow your customer to make the sale without any pressure.
Build trust and loyalty every step of the way
Trust and loyalty are important no matter who your target audience is, but even more so to boomers, who are accustomed to face-to-face commerce and who expect the same from online businesses.
Building trust requires action at every step of the customer’s experience. Firstly, be open, honest and relevant in all of your marketing materials and your product descriptions. Then make sure if they communicate with you easily if they have any questions or concerns via social media, email and phone – an option that’s especially popular among this group.
Once they’ve decided to make the purchase, be sensitive about collecting data from them. Boomers are more concerned with their online privacy than younger generations, so don’t ask for more information than you need and be honest about how you will be using that information.
And finally, you’ll never build trust and loyalty if you don’t keep your promises. Because this generation tends to expect more from merchants (both online and offline), they can be very unforgiving if you make a single misstep, whether it’s poor customer service, late delivery or inaccurate product descriptions.
Embrace “old” marketing tactics
Though they are tech-savvy and regularly go online to research products before making a purchase, for most boomers direct mail is still a common first step on their path to purchase. Print brochures and mailed flyers are still an effective marketing strategy for this generation, and can be a good way to expose your brand to a new older audience not as prone to browsing online for new brands.
Don’t believe the stereotypes. Boomers are going to continue to become more tech-savvy and more of them will embrace e-commerce. With this generation controlling 70% of all disposable income and approaching (or having already reached) retirement, they stand as the single most valuable generation to marketers. By appealing to baby boomers, you’ll be tapping into the greatest reserve of wealth around.
You can also view this article in PowerPoint format on our SlideShare page: http://www.slideshare.net/DalPay/ecommerce-tips-for-appealing-to-baby-boomers