Digital Marketing and the Greatest Generation

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

seniors-technologyThere is no such thing as a magic bullet in communications, as in a form of media that reaches every audience and affects them in the same way. Because of that, it’s important for marketers to research their target demographics to ensure that they’re using the most appropriate tactics. For marketers trying to reach seniors, this can be particularly challenging because older generations don’t use technology the way that Baby Boomers and the generations that followed do. But that doesn’t mean that there’s no place for digital marketing in an integrated marketing campaign targeting seniors. This post will review some of the latest research involving senior citizens use of technology hardware, their use of the internet, and social media.

A recent study from Pew Research Center showed that seniors are using more computers and mobile devices and increasing their access to the internet. For example, as of 2013, 77 percent of seniors have a cell phone, which represents a 10 percent increase from the previous year. And according to the same study, 18 percent of seniors have a tablet and 27 percent had a tablet, an ereader, or both. This doesn’t mean that every elderly person is walking around with tablets like people in Dallas, but the time for thinking of senior citizens as unconnected to the internet and technology has passed. Pew reported that as of 2013, only 41 percent of seniors do not use the internet at all and only 23 percent don’t use cell phones.

Email marketers should be happy to note that even if they don’t go online regularly, 91 percent of seniors have an email address. The growing popularity of smartphones, even among seniors, means that people who don’t go online regularly are still able to receive and read email marketing messages. For retailers, this makes email marketing a good way to reach senior citizens with coupons and specials for a business to drive sales.

An interesting thing about senior citizens online is that the more affluent the person, the more likely they are to be a senior who uses the internet and computers. In other words, the seniors most likely to be online are most likely to be the ones marketers want to reach. According to the Pew Research study, “among seniors with an annual household income of $75,000 or more, 90% go online and 82% have broadband at home”.

There’s a misconception among the public and some marketers that older Americans don’t do a lot of shopping online. Many people assume that seniors are too intimidated by online payment system or lack the wherewithal to navigate ecommerce websites. The data however points to a group that is becoming more adept with online buying. According to one report, 59 percent of seniors have bought an item online in the past three months.

Though senior citizens as group are underrepresented in the population of online users, older Americans who do get online like to do some of the same things that younger people do. According to a 2012 report for Forrester, 49 percent of online seniors in the U.S. have social media accounts. This means that marketers can use social networks with targeted advertising tools to ensure their message reaches an older demographic.

A part of this shift relates to the aging population gaining new members who are techno-savvy. A person who turned 65 in 2014 was 35 when the first Macintosh was released. As more people enter the group with computer skills, the more other seniors will learn the way that internet technology can help them communicate with family, buy things they need at lower prices, and stay up-to-date with news and events.

This paradigm shift offers huge opportunities for business owners who learn how to market their services to this growing class of internet users. As seniors learn to get information from websites and mobile devices, they are looking for brands and services they can trust. If a business owner can position their brand as a source of trusted information, they can gain loyal customers who will spread news about their brand to their friends and associates.


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