Baby Boomers Are Changing: Here’s How It Affects You

Baby Boomers Are Changing: Here’s How It Affects You

Wesley Mathew
31 July 2019
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Today’s marketing boardrooms and trendy co-working spaces are abuzz with talk about millennials and Generation Z. Who’s eating avo on toast? Who’s more focused on self-care? Who’s abandoning labels and who’s forfeiting drinking for an evening of gaming and tarot?

While many of us are still developing intricate knowledge of these segments and crafting campaigns, built to meet their needs, there’s a somewhat forgotten audience of over 77 million people, quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) going about their lives. In the United Kingdom alone, Baby Boomers comprise almost a sixth of the population – a significant portion by anyone’s standards. So, why aren’t we getting into spirited arguments about how to “engage” and “captivate” this audience, which has quite clearly defined needs and offers us a world of data to tuck into?

In the beginning, Baby Boomers weren’t living online…

It’s fair to say that Baby Boomers had some resistance to the internet initially, coming from a world of radio and television – born after the Second World War, it’s not surprising that some change management was necessary for greater adoption. This segment was notoriously tech resistant, corroborated by a study by the Pew Research Center. A key takeaway:  “77% of older Americans need someone to assist them in the process of learning new technologies”. And while this may be happening across the pond, it’s not a far cry from behaviour on our home turf.

Jona Jone summed it up conscisely: “Non-techie baby boomers still find it difficult to abandon the traditional methods that they have grown accustomed to”. While it’s somewhat convenient to focus our energy on fewer segments, it isn’t a smart approach. Some baby boomers are tech resistant and need help operating everything from a computer to a mobile phone or other smart devices, but are quickly becoming the minority in their segment.

The truth is Baby Boomers are changing and becoming increasingly active online and on social media in particular. Here’s a quick overview which gives us a better idea of exactly HOW online, this segment really is.

  • About 60% of baby boomers spend time reading blogs and online articles as a source of information and interest, and approximately 70% enjoy watching videos about products and services (Forbes, 2017)
  • Baby Boomers are 19% more likely to share content compared to any other generation (Digital Trends, 2016)
  • 96% of baby boomers use search engines, 95% use email, and 92% shop for products and services online rather than shopping in brick and mortar stores and shopping malls (Forbes, 2017)
  • More than half of boomers will visit a company website or continue the search on a search engine after seeing something on social media (DMN3, 2016)

But here’s the real kicker…

According to multiple sources, including the BBC, “BabyBoomers are the wealthiest generation in history – and will remain that way until roughly 2030”. The first part of this statement is unequivocally true and corroborated to death.

The second part refers to a great debate where some economists predict that millennials will inherit generational wealth and surpass their elders given the smaller millennial population inheriting. The jury isn’t out on this one, but for right now it’s safe to say that boomers are an intriguing market, brimming with the promise of opportunity for smart marketers.

What else do we know?

Boomers are slower to adopt mobile.

We know that Baby Boomers are “extremely online” but we also know that this segment is slow to adopt mobile web in comparison to millennials and Generation Z (although slightly more into the idea than their parents). Phones aren’t considered as a burning necessity if we are to go by the statistic that 55% of participants said so, in an article by WebProNews but we’re still seeing an increase, year on year. This means, you still need to cater for boomers on mobile, if they form part of your target audience.

They are working for longer.

Many Baby Boomers plan to work past 65 and some even well into their 80s. In the past, people didn’t have to work for as long but despite generational wealth, this group faces a number of challenges and have evolving desires that keep them in the workplace for as long as employers will allow it. Perhaps the most evident reason is because life expectancy is longer. As medicine and healthcare advances, so Boomers have longer retirement periods than they might have planned for.

Boomers are also getting educated at a higher rate. Whether it’s out of interest or necessity, access to education is keeping them in the workplace for longer. And, as part-time and remote working positions become more commonplace, on a global scale, it’s easier to access jobs past the age of traditional retirement.

Influence and influencers are still a factor.

The influencer economy is largely dominated by the youth with companies cashing in popular Instagram celebrities to help market their products and create brand associations. However, don’t discount this tactic for older market segments. Realistically boomers are on Facebook, so this is where your influence will count the most. We also know, that they’re likely to do a lot of research in order to decide whether or not they want to buy something so influencers for this group need to be sincere and offer product or services information, as opposed to overt enthusiasm.

Should this change the way we market to consumers?

In a nutshell, yes – assuming you aren’t already trying to intricately understand these users and they are relevant to your brand. In some cases, they might form a market you didn’t know the potential of. If that’s the case, it’s time to get savvy and start meeting these buyers where they are – online.

Focus on user experience. We’ve already discussed how some boomers are still resistant and need assistance using technological devices. In these instances, a clear and orientating user interface can help guide your boomer consumer to the desired end-goal.

Familiar iconography, clear navigation, tool-tips and clear call to action can make all the difference to someone interfacing with your brand online for the first time.  Of course, user experience is a topic within itself and more complex than a few recognisable pictures, breadcrumbs and progress bars to lead the way, but it should form part of the foundational thinking for touch-points that boomers will interact with.

Get to know your audience. It’s not enough to look at old psychographic and behavioural data about boomers because they are changing as their environments do. As an ever-evolving and complex market, it’s important to run focus groups, monitor behaviour online and review their buying habits and processes in order to cater to them, specifically.

As you continue to delve into this exciting, dynamic and generally wealthy local market, it will become clearer that there is a wealth of opportunity for those who are willing to put in the effort, collate the data and create inspiring, informational and sincere campaigns. Find out what Baby Boomers need and start speaking to them more online.