Today’s tech-savvy generation of older adults requires new services, tools, and communication styles. For organizations in the senior market, understanding the relationships seniors have to technology, their usage patterns and their challenges, will be essential for a successful marketing strategy in 2017.
Baby boomers are hitting retirement with vitality and vigor that’s redefining how senior communities are designed and healthcare is administered. Technology adoption is just one way that baby boomers differ from their parents’ generation, but it’s a big one.
Tech-Savvy Seniors Embrace the Internet
2012 marked the point when over half of adults 65 and older were using the internet. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, that percentage had reached 59% by 2014. (In 2008, it was as low as 35%.) It’s no doubt even higher today.
These numbers drop off dramatically when you make the leap from the baby boomers to their parents. Only 47% of seniors aged 75-79 are internet users, and just 37% of seniors over 80 years old go online.
Not only are older adults going online, but just like the rest of us, once they adopt the internet, it becomes an important part of daily life. Of seniors who use the internet, 71% say they log on every day or almost every day and another 11% say they go online three to five times per week.
Implications of Senior Technology Trends for Marketers
So what does this mean for senior service providers? It means that technology adoption is a distinguishing characteristic of your target demographic. To be successful, you will need buyer persona research to understand how this demographic uses technology and tailor your marketing, services, and communications accordingly.
With an increasingly tech-savvy demographic, marketers can no longer rely solely on traditional media such as print and direct mail to sell to seniors. An integrated marketing strategy will be the key to success moving forward. Some seniors may still prefer to receive information through traditional means, but many are now beginning their buyer’s journey with online research.
A whopping 79% of senior internet users agreed that, “People without internet are at a real disadvantage because of all the information they might be missing” and 94% agreed that “The internet makes it much easier to find information today than in the past.” If your business doesn’t have a substantial online presence, 2017 is the year to change that.
Your older adult demographic—and their adult children—will look to your website first to find important information about your company and your services that may be crucial to their purchasing decisions.
Accommodating for the Senior Market
That said, the senior market does still differ from the general adult population in ways that require special accommodations. Their demographic-specific challenges and internet usage patterns will impact how you should shape your online presence and digital marketing initiatives.
Here are three considerations to keep top of mind when you’re developing a digital marketing strategy for an older adult audience.
1. Physical limitations.
Many seniors experience physical conditions that impact their ability to use the internet. This goes for both technology adopters and non-adopters. A sizable 23% of seniors report having a “physical or health condition that makes reading difficult or challenging” and 29% report having a “disability, handicap, or chronic disease that prevents them from fully participating in common daily activities.”
Seniors who fall into either of these categories are significantly less likely to become regular internet users. Even among those who do adopt technology, physical conditions often limit an older adult’s ability to navigate and comprehend certain web pages.
To be sensitive to physical limitations, companies must make accessibility a priority when designing content for a senior audience. Accessibility is the practice of eliminating design and functionality barriers that impair a user’s ability to interact with your website. Empower users with visual, hearing, cognitive, or motor limitations by implementing the essential elements of accessible web design whenever you develop new digital assets.
2. Online Behavior Patterns
The online platforms you invest in should always be supported by your buyer persona research. A senior demographic is no different in that respect. Investigate your audience’s online behavior patterns to determine where your efforts will be most effective.
For example, while social media is significantly less popular among seniors than the general adult population, 46% of older adults do use at least one social networking platform. However, of that 46%, only 6% are on Twitter. It’s also interesting to note that senior women have more readily embraced social media than men. 52% of female internet users over 65 are on social media, while just 39% of men have a presence.
Which device is being used to access content has significant implications for user experience (UX) design, functionality, and form. Among the general population, mobile and smartphone usage is near ubiquitous, making responsive design a necessity. Older adults have unsurprisingly been slower to adopt mobile devices.
While 77% of seniors are now cell phone owners, only 18% report using a smartphone. Older adults have also been slow to embrace tablets and e-readers, with just 27% owning either one or the other. Knowing that the vast majority of your audience will be accessing your website via laptop or desktop will influence your web design and content creation.
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