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I was recently talking to my mum, when what I thought was a slip of the tongue made me think of the generational differences involved in trying to market our products and services.

 “When we used to watch the radio”, my mum started, before I tried to correct her – “don’t you mean listen to?”

“No”, she replied, “we didn’t have television, we did actually sit and stare at the radio whilst we listened to it!”

My parents are in their late 60’s, fast approaching 70. They are very generational in their buying habits and how they consume media – my dad walks to the paper shop every morning to buy his newspaper.

He has never missed a day to buy his newspaper -  and if he can’t get one he says he feels “out of sorts”.

The over 60’s are creatures of habit, and change is uncommon, with phrases like ‘make do and mend’ and “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” a constant part of their conversation.

This mindset can make them very loyal to a brand, but an also make them a tricky audience to try and convert to a new product or experience.

However, they are adaptable and a very large percentage are now online both to transact and to socially interact.

Working for a data-driven marketing agency with many clients who target the over 50’s, I often look to my older relatives to understand which channels work best and what incentives could get them to change their habits.

The most common and best performing remains direct mail with, over 18 million people aged over 65 in the UK currently with a large percentage living in their own home.

The majority are mortgage-free, with generous pensions giving them a large disposable income.

Radio also still works brilliantly, with many of the 62 million over 50’s spending long periods of time in the car or with the radio on in the home.

Although it may not be the first channel that springs to mind, email marketing can hit the spot with those many IAPS (Internet Age Pensioners) who are online and use social media to stay in touch with their family.

According to McCarthy and Stone, some 78% will bank online and 88% have researched deals online (with 81% having booked a holiday on the web, showing Ecommerce can work but not in isolation).

A balanced marketing mix is vital. Direct mail stays in their homes for the longest period and is re-read on average 4 times, but emails with clear offers will entice many to click through. 

This demographic are also most likely to use coupons and travel to a store to purchase, wanting to physically see the item at least once before ordering it. Loyalty is strong with the over 50’s including any form of savings club which can become part of their shopping routine.

Value exchange is a big factor in engaging an older audience.

This demographic are still very much paper-based and read everything including the T&Cs.  With some time to spare, content is a big pull, and the more targeted and helpful the content you provide, the more likely they are to give you their loyalty.  If your brand has offered advice or help, you’re more likely to be chosen over a competitor.

It’s true that many of this generation have deeply-formed habits, but they are open to change.

My parents have been on holiday to the same hotel in Cyprus every September for the last 10 years, however my dad for the first time this year he booked online (although he still printed everything out and popped into his local TUI branch to check it had all gone through)!

So there are multiple reasons to target the over 50’s – their loyalty, their financial freedom and the ability to change their consumption habits.

However, the first challenge is to stop lumping all the over 50’s into a single demographic. Although I’ve picked out broad trends, this demographic isn’t really a demographic at all – it’s a broad mix of many different mindsets, consumer habits, levels of affluence and lifestyles.

Therefore, to target these valuable customers you really need to understand what makes them tick, and to do this you need insight and analysis of your data. Getting the age right for your communication is key in this sector, as for too long the ‘Over 50’s was from 50 till end of life – too broad a sector to be targeted effectively.

We have developed segmentation for many clients who target people 50+, even helping one client develop a new product for an age group they hadn’t identified a market for.

If you want to learn more about how best to analyse your over 50 data to help you acquire and retain these valuable customers then get in touch with our Head of Analytics – sameer.rahman@responseone.co.uk and check out www.responseone.co.uk for our Amplifon case study where Sameer helped drive a 123% uplift in direct mail responses.