Senior Moments: Marketing to Older Shoppers

Discussion
Apr 01, 2005
Al McClain

By Al McClain


The challenges and opportunities of the senior market are many. Virtually everyone knows that the senior market is growing, but how will future seniors – read Baby Boomers – behave?


In a presentation at the ACNielsen Consumer 360 Conference, ACNielsen Senior VP Todd Hale (and RetailWire BrainTrust panelist) said there are opportunities for retailers and suppliers to better market to an aging population and that they should do so with a well thought out plan, because seniors remember those who treat them well or poorly.


Some information is well known; some surprising:


  • In 1900, 13 percent of the population was over 50 — by 2020 that will be 35 percent.

  • Eighty percent of financial assets are owned by those 50+.

  • In ages 60-64, there are 89 men per 100 women — by age 80+ there are only 53 men per 100 women.

  • While many ailments are more common to seniors, some tend to go away as people age, such as headaches, depression, and allergies.

  • Grocery trips, even among seniors, are down as they take advantage of super center, clubs, and dollar stores.

  • Sunday is the most important shopping day of the week for the population as a whole — it is the least important for seniors, as they tend to stay away from the crowds on weekends and shop mid-week.

Senior attitudes are unsurprising in that they have more time to shop, care less about larger sizes and meal solutions, and aren’t in as big a hurry to get out of the store.


In the “surprising to me” category, seniors are less likely to budget because they have to and likely to shop large stores. In areas of opportunity, they are more likely to buy meat from a service counter, shop from a list and use ads for planning than the general population.


Mr. Hale argued that seniors in the future won’t behave like past seniors due to:


  • Advances in medical technology

  • Better education

  • Higher concern with health and wellness

  • Expanded shopping and buying choices

  • Internet acceptance

  • New product focus from manufacturers

Areas to think about include:


  • Seniors may be more accepting of large formats than previously thought

  • Personal interaction with staff is important, so that should be considered in hiring

  • May need to adjust store hours to accommodate seniors

  • Offer banded packs to provide value without having to buy club size

  • Think about doing senior-specific marketing and advertising

Moderator’s Comment: What opportunities exist to do more business with seniors?


The fact of the matter is the 50+ crowd has a ton of money, in aggregate. Getting them to part with it is another matter. As people accumulate wisdom with
regard to the value of things, it becomes more difficult to get them to make impulse purchases. By marketing to seniors (versus targeting them), treating them with courtesy and
respect, and offering them special opportunities, retailers and suppliers can improve their business with a consumer group that can spend a lot, if they are motivated to do so.


Al McClain – Moderator

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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8 Comments on "Senior Moments: Marketing to Older Shoppers"


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Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 11 months ago
The Food Co-op in Hanover, NH offers store tours with their in-house dietitian. All you have to do is call up. Quite some time ago, I went, notepad in hand. Got about a 40 minute tour, which was excellent. Some of the items I made note of were unique to the store. Although I loved the “tour-for-one,” I don’t see why this couldn’t be done on a scheduled basis for small groups. So many people are diabetic, or have food allergies, or high cholesterol, or buy for people with these problems. It made me a loyal shopper (okay, I visit Price Chopper, too, which is also terrific), and I perceive the store as a health advocate. Barring actual tours, what’s wrong with having more fliers available describing foods for diabetics, and which aisles they are displayed in? Health is an increasingly big issue, and we’re increasingly willing to part with perhaps substantial dollars to maintain it. How about cross-promotions with health clubs and gyms? None of this is rocket science, and it can build loyalty… Read more »
Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 11 months ago
The fact is that few, if any, retailers in the U.S. have done anything to attract this potentially lucrative customer. Increased customer service and interaction between older shoppers and your employees is a terrific idea. But if you think the current workforce is going to go out of its way to cater to older shoppers when they don’t pay attention to any others, you’re living in a dream world. Consider the following: – Larger signs with bold type that older shoppers can read more easily. – Lighting that will enable shoppers to read signage. – Placement of key items at eye level to avoid having them reach or bend down for items. – Smaller sizes that cater to a growing cadre of empty nesters and to older people who simply do not eat as much as they did when they were younger. – Lighter, more maneuverable shopping carts. – Bagging and carryout service for seniors. – Strategically placed benches in larger stores, giving older consumers a respite before finishing the shopping trip. It’s time to… Read more »
Rupa Ranganathan
Guest
Rupa Ranganathan
15 years 11 months ago
The resurgence of the Internet as a marketing channel clearly offers new vistas for tapping into the wallets and the mindshare of Senior Americans. According to a Pew Report, in September 2001, Wired Seniors were “Few and Far Between.” In February 2004, 22% of seniors 65 plus had access to the Internet, reflecting a 47% increase from 2000. 58% of the 50-64 age group are online, catching up slowly but surely with the younger groups. The women senior online segment has also grown to a near 50%. But if the “medium is the message” and the power of the Internet is to be fully leveraged, marketers should loosen up when it comes to talking to this group and try to develop seniors into active advocates for various types of campaigns. Consumer-driven health is a big opportunity area where seniors can spread the word online and offline. At a time when “Consumer Generated Media” is vital to brand-building, this group of new users of the Internet can become powerful allies of home shopping direct response brands… Read more »
Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 11 months ago

One item that may fit in the ‘surprising’ category is a strong percentage of use of self-checkout by seniors. Why? It’s thought that regular lanes move too quickly and that they like the speed of self-checkout as they like to watch prices. Also, those now coming of age are far less technology adverse and are ATM friendly, which makes for a nice offering and advantage for this market. Seniors also tend to have smaller orders, which also makes for a fit. Using the right system and complimenting it with bagging and carry out makes a nice offering.

Paul Vogelzang
Guest
Paul Vogelzang
15 years 11 months ago
The boomer/senior market represents a potential – mostly untapped – bonanza for retailers. Big? It’s going to be a whole gigantic niche. But for the most part, the products aren’t there. Gap gets it, with their 40+ female store idea. But other retail formats, such as consumer electronics marketers are way behind the curve, creating ever-more-complicated gizmos with buttons that seem to get smaller and more confusing with each new generation of product. Other than a few telephones with big buttons and alarm clocks with giant, easy-to-read numerals, there aren’t many gadgets designed for this lucrative demographic group. I believe they are missing a huge growth opportunity. Retail analysts say finding the right way to market to these seniors and boomers isn’t easy. The products can’t evoke the notion of lost youth. The secret will be marketing the gadgets that the middle-aged need “without making them look like they need them.” But we all want those gadgets that offer us ease of use, easier to read screens, personal digital assistants that aide, rather than confuse,… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 11 months ago
This is a tough one, not least because it is particularly annoying. The definition of seniors in today’s discussion is far too broad and general. 50+ is hardly senior; for that matter, neither is 60+. Lumping together all individuals from 50-150 is ridiculous. As for them having a ton of money, well, perhaps as you say, in aggregate. But there are lots now and will be lots more in the next decade or two who become seniors and do not have a ton of money at all. Pensions on both sides of the Atlantic will see to that. However, there are a few things which I believe people over 50 have in common and that could be addressed beyond the obvious health concerns. Most of us (and I admit I am in the younger range of the definition which is why I am perhaps overly sensitive about being cast in it at all) have most of the things we want or need. Which means that selling to us is going to be harder. We are… Read more »
Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 11 months ago

Those retailers who don’t research their shoppers or engage with them on a regular basis, are missing advantages to separate themselves from their competitors.

Yes, the elders and older baby boomers are prime targets.
But, you must know what they need, and what their lifestyle entails. As the Generation X looks to restaurants and carry-outs for their meals, this may be the seniors’ needs too.

Mary Moret
Guest
Mary Moret
15 years 11 months ago

My niche is the “Senior’s” grandchildren. I have a faithful following of the grandparents who we make a hero in their grandchildrens’ eyes, by guiding them to the fun, trendy gift items. But the challenge is how to market to this age group. I welcome any suggestions.

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