The UK population has been steadily getting older and this trend is projected to continue in the future. In 2016, there were 11.8 million people aged 65 years and over, representing 18% of the total population. By 2041 this age group is set to increase to 20.4 million and making up 26% of the total population, with the fastest increase seen in the 85 years and over age range.
Longevity has been cited as a key factor to this trend. People are living a more energetic and active lifestyle, which is helping them to stay healthier longer. However, for those with acute healthcare needs, this could be complex and may require specialist support and intervention.
Research has indicated that people over 65 years do not think they are adequately served by businesses, retailers and manufacturers. They expect organisations to have a sympathetic understanding of the realities of ageing, and to tailor products and services accordingly.
So with that thought in mind, here are a few tips when engaging the mature consumer.
Not a homogenous group
Older people are rich and poor, active and disabled. Some are keen to travel and to explore new possibilities; others will be ready to slow down and relax. Many will be living independently, or in retirement homes or some other form of supported housing.
Too often the mature market is seen as one homogenous group, yet the wishes of a 55 year old would be very different to those of an 85 year old. Traditionally marketers have used the age demographic to segment different markets in multiples of 10 years. Yet, the mature market is often referred to as over 50s or at best 65+.
There is a greater need for marketers and companies to introduce a broader demographic split that not only uses age, but other characteristics to better understand the drivers of consumer bahaviour and motivations. If using age to segment the market, then a much broader spectrum of age ranges should be used to denote the differences between age groups. For example, 50-59, 60-69, 70-79, 80-89, 90+. Businesses need to treat this group as heterogeneous and make sure they are targeting products and services appropriately.
Another important consideration is that whilst people’s needs may differ, people want to feel included and not be singled out. Inclusion therefore is an essential driver across the age segments.
Mature, old, elderly?
Using the right term to refer to the mature market can be tricky. Today’s ageing consumers are fitter, healthier, richer, and more active than those in previous generations. They want to play a full part in life. They take pride in their appearance and lifestyles. They want to look good and feel good, and they will choose services, products and environments that enhance their self-respect.
The mature market want respect and they want to feel that they are needed to play an important role in society, whether in their communities, in the workplace, or in their families. Loneliness can be feared as much as, if not more than, illness. Companies and society as a whole should respect this need and make sure that people feel treated as valuable members of society irrespective of their age.
Quality vs quantity
Research shows that mature consumers have a tendency to prefer quality products, are loyal to brands, and are not in the main price-sensitive—even if their incomes are below average levels. They may buy fewer items, but tend to spend more per item and value for money is an important consideration. Therefore businesses should focus on creating quality products, services and customer experiences as an essential part of their marketing strategy.
The use of technology is widespread and 80% of 65-74 year olds are active online either on a computer, tablet or a mobile phone. People want to be well-informed and will actively seek out information before committing to a decision and that carries true for the mature customer. This creates a great challenge and also an opportunity for businesses to make sure that a key component of their marketing and communication budget is dedicated to digital.
Literature and information
Dexterity of the hands and eyesight can be affected by ageing. It is important therefore that information provided in both print and online is accessible, using fonts that are easy to read, of the right size. That use of colour and graphics is sensitive within the overall creative design.
Concerns that have been cited from older consumers include not always being able to read labels properly, even when wearing glasses, or contact lenses, that product packaging is often difficult to open and labels, prices and directions can be hard to read.
Mobility can also be affected with ageing and this needs to be borne in mind when designing products and services for the mature customer. Organisations should make sure that consideration is given to access points in buildings and premises, and that physical environments provide sufficient space for people using walkers and mobility aids, where required.
In the main advertising continues to be seen as a young person’s game, despite the research that shows the wealth and spending power of the mature consumer. It is also disappointing that images portraying older people continue to be far from ideal, often focused on ‘an old wrinkly hand’ rather than the person. Such actions add to the negative portrayal and stereotype of older people. Companies need to do more to make sure that marketing campaigns appeals to mature consumers and positively represents them both visually and in the written form.
We are always excited to share our knowledge and experience with you. If you are marketing to the mature market and would like to talk about your challenges, give us a call on 020 3488 0318 for a no obligation discussion.
Edna Petzen is director and marketing consultant at Lynden Consulting, a specialist marketing and communications company to the adult social care sector. We work with private, public and not-for-profit operators of retirement communities, extra care housing, residential and nursing care, home care, day care and providers of specialist provision for adults and older people. Get in touch to find out how we can help.