Don’t discount buying power of seniors

Don’t discount buying power of seniors

By underestimating the net worth and habits of older Americans, many companies are overlooking the best ways to reach senior consumers, says Ilana Polyak in the November 2000 issue of American Demographics.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 35 million Americans are aged 65 and older-a number that will increase to 50 million in 2010 and 70 million in 2030. The enormous size of this growing population is forcing businesses and their marketing teams to pay attention to the buying power of older citizens.

This population explosion is proof of a needed change in business tactics. According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging Related Services, between 1984 and 1999, the median net worth of households headed by adults aged 65 and older increased 69 percent, giving seniors control of $7 trillion-more than 70 percent of the country’s assets.

But what is the best way to reach and cultivate this demographic? By targeting them through multiple media channels and providing a variety of choices. Of note:

* Older adults watch more television and spend more time reading the newspaper than their younger counterparts.

* Seniors more often take the time to sort through and read the direct mail they receive.

* Of Americans older than 50 years who use the Internet, 92 percent shop online and 78 percent make purchases.

The tactic of using all forms of media to reach older adults has worked for some well-known companies. The discount brokerage Charles Schwab, for example, has reaped great success in the older American market from being accessible through the Internet, telephone, and in-person branch offices. In addition, pharmaceutical companies and leisure travel organizations have also realized the potential and have successfully targeted older Americans.

George Moschis, director of the Center for Mature Consumer Studies at Georgia State, notes that these companies have realized the best success by never mentioning age in their marketing. Their ad campaigns and materials instead focus on the positive attributes of the activity or product and do not merely feature older people in their ads.

Copyright Catholic Health Association of the United States Mar/Apr 2001

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