How Retailers Can Reconnect With Boomer Consumers
About 10,000 people in the United States will turn 65-years-old today. And tomorrow. And the day after. In fact, every day for the next 19 years there will be 10,000 more Americans reaching retirement age. The numbers are staggering and a major reason why retailers need to start taking notice.
Still the largest demographic with the most monetary spend, boomer consumers are too often being missed. Former "Today" show host Jane Pauley made a great point recently when she said that marketers were always taught to market to people 18-45 because that's where the boomers were. Well, here's some breaking news: they're not there anymore. Boomers are now in their 50s and 60s, getting ready for retirement and looking forward to just enjoying life.
Boomers control nearly $3 trillion of the disposable income in the U.S. and are spending $7 billion a year online. Despite determining nearly half of the nation's consumption spending, boomers are typically left out of the mix as only 10 percent of marketing is directed at them.
If retailers want to reach this demographic again, they need to start understanding what motivates boomers. It begins with the following:
- Imagery: Baby boomers need to be portrayed as active. The imagery needs to be consistent with how boomers view themselves, not how marketers look at 50- and 60-year-olds of previous generations. Healthy, active lifestyles should be shown, as boomers are far more fit and have more life left in them than they're treated.
- Value proposition: Understand that even if boomers are well off, they become more value conscious and less concerned with prestige as they get older. Headlines have to tie back to the value boomers will receive in the offering.
- Being real: This doesn't mean grey hair, just more real people in advertising. Use a real soccer mom — or grandmother — in ads. Use a real couple who travel the way real couples travel, not uberluxury travelers toasting with champagne.
Boomers want to enjoy life experiences as they retire, and often they're fully funded by the time they approach retirement. Marketers need to move away from the sex appeal end of the spectrum and change the headlines to make it centered around the value, especially the experience.
Lincoln Motor Company does this incredibly well. A luxury, high-end brand, it's positioned itself not as a fuddy-duddy, staid limousine but as a performance car. The Lincoln MKS is for people who want luxury but love the "vroom." That wasn't the case 20 years ago. It was always luxury, luxury, luxury and comfort, comfort, comfort. Lincoln conscientiously made the decision to stay connected and has molded its pursuit in accordance to how boomers see themselves.
Staying in touch with boomers’ needs means talking directly to them. In a survey we conducted last year, baby boomers say they value free shipping above any other type of offer. It was chosen four to one against the next closest offer, such as a 20 percent discount. Free shipping was four times more valued, making it almost a barrier to entry if a product didn't have it.
Another thing we found is that boomers still have a desire for catalog shopping, but how they use catalogs has changed dramatically. Sending boomers a catalog inspires them to go into the store. They want to use it in a radius around the store, making it less important as a distance shopping vehicle but more valuable as a driver of brick-and-mortar traffic.
And another crucial thing to remember: Trust is as important to boomers as anything. While Generation Y is more interested in peer opinions, boomers want the good and bad from as many sources as possible before making a purchase decision. Retailers need to be willing to put up honest product reviews to get more sell through with boomers.
Whether online or for a brick-and-mortar store, retailers should throw out all the standard rules and continually refine their approach to acquiring boomers. Increase the font size on tags for items in-store. Create more contrast on a website for those whose eyes may be weaker. Make headlines more legible and declutter landing pages to gain greater conversion rates with boomers.
Boomers are raising the bar; now it's up to retail marketers to start reconnecting. The boomer population is rapidly growing. Providing boomers the opportunity to shop the way they want and reaching them in a way they feel comfortable is within your reach. So start doing what you were taught and target boomers again.
Ken Robbins is the founder and president of Response Mine Interactive, a direct response marketing agency.