Marketing to the Ageing Consumer
We have to thank the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) for discovering the “where do I begin paradox”. In its study, about the marketing implications of rising longevity it found that less than 13% of senior business executives believed they were highly effective in understanding the needs and marketing to older customers. Yet, 65% of them expected the proportion of revenue they derive from older customers to increase during the next five years.
A cursory study of the latest demographic, wealth and income data shows the increasing importance of the older shopper. Yet, faced with this evidence most marketers are still uncertain how to react and where to begin. As the recession creates financial hardship for younger consumers their mums, dads and grandparents have often fared much better.
The first thing that marketers find when they try and target older consumers is that they are very mixed bunch with a wide variation of wants, needs and behaviours. Like any age group an older consumer’s purchasing habits will be greatly influenced by their income, education, gender, sexuality and race.
Fortunately for marketing there is one factor that is common to all older consumers. Their ageing minds, bodies and senses are already creating a demand for a wide range of products. The food, pharmaceutical, medical equipment, optics, and cosmetics industries are already experiencing an increase in demand resulting from demographic change. The markets for the obvious effects of ageing are well established. For instance, the global market for ‘anti-ageing’ cosmetics products is expected to grow to $300 billion by 2015. However, the effects of physical ageing reach far beyond these industries and include fmcg, white goods, retail, finance and hospitality. In fact there are very few industries that are not affected by the physical changes taking place to older customers.
There are at least twenty effects of ageing that can degrade the customer experience. This long list includes failing eyesight, hearing, dexterity, muscle strength, flexibility, cognitive powers, taste etc.
Well over 80% of the customer touchpoints in the average customer journey is affected by this physical deterioration. For instance, the components of product packaging have at least five age related factors. The customer’s understanding the packaging’s graphics and text and their use of the opening and closing mechanism are all significantly affected by ageing.
The experience of shopping in a supermarket involves at least 40 touchpoints that are affected by age – lighting, flooring, shelf high, signage, labeling, ambient sound levels – the list goes on.
Digital channels are as equally affected. The design of websites, apps and mobile interfaces need to take account of failing eyesight, dexterity and cognitive powers.
Older people are significant, often the dominant purchasing group, of cars, holidays, healthcare and financial services. As parents and grandparents their purchasing is important in many of the product sectors normally associated with the young. For instance, buying confectionary and toys for the grandchildren.
Ask yourself the question: “What aspects of our marketing and product design takes account of the ageing affects of our older customers.” For most companies the answer would be ‘zilch’.
In the past, attempting to audit the entire customer journey for its resilience to the ageing of customers was an impossible task. Today we have the tools that provide these marketing metrics. All that is missing is the motivation of marketers to use them.
If you need any more reasons to take the subject of customer ageing seriously consider these three points:
1. There is unlikely to be any additional cost in making a customer touchpoints age-friendly.
2. In most cases, age-friendly touchpoints also improves the customer experience for all ages of customer.
3. Population ageing is relentless and universal. Sooner or later marketers will have to take it seriously. The sooner they do, the more competitive advantage they will achieve.
At this point there will still be readers thinking: “if I make adapt my marketing to be suitable for the old I am going to alienate my younger customers.”
We have conducted over 50 audits of customer journeys for companies working in the hospitality, finance, telecoms and electronics industries.
The company that has achieved the highest score is Apple. Its advertising, products, packaging, retail stores and post sale support all achieved high age-friendliness scores. Apple’s advertising is mainly product focused but when it uses people the result is inclusive and multi-generational. The company’s website is ultra-clean and free of distractions. The obsession with simplicity and design makes Apple’s products easier to use. The attitude and numbers of staff in the retail stores ensures a positive purchasing and support experience.
If the world’s second most valuable and theUK’s coolest brand can satisfy young and old alike there is not excuse why you cannot.
Dick Stroud is a leading age-marketer and the MD of consultancy 20plus30.
He is the co-author with Kim Walker of Marketing to the Ageing Consumer, out 27 November, Palgrave Macmillan.