What Do 80+ Consumers Want?

Discussion
Oct 03, 2011
Tom Ryan

A new survey by A.T. Kearney identified a number of different ways consumers’ needs intensify or shift after the age of 80. For example, the over-80s are much more loyal to established brands, and less willing to spend money on products that offer healthy benefits or are considered "green." After the age of 80, respondents were also markedly more eager to have age-specific products and shopping environments tailored for them.

"It is almost as if 80 is the new point of self-definition for becoming old," said Martin Walker, senior director of A.T. Kearney’s Global Business Policy Council, in a statement. "If so, this represents a noticeable change from the traditional concept that old age begins at retirement."

The findings were part of a comprehensive study exploring aging consumers based on interviews with 3,000 people over the age of 60 in 23 countries. Like other research, the study noted how factors such as lower birth rates, improving health, greater wealth accumulated by Baby Boomers and elders working later in life will lead to those over 60 becoming proportionately bigger spenders than historically. But the survey also gave a glimpse into how purchasing patterns change as people age.

Among the findings:

  • Fifty-two percent in the 60-70 group, 58 percent in the 70-80 group and 66 percent aged over 80 say they cannot read labels properly, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses.
  • Sixty-three percent of those under 70 — and 75 percent over 70 — say they would like to be able to sit down in stores.
  • Two-thirds of those aged 70 to 80 say they shop twice a week or more.
  • The older they are, the more respondents preferred smaller stores and shopping closer to home. They were also more likely to walk to the shops rather than drive or be driven.
  • Mature consumers spend proportionally less of their income on clothing and transportation than people under age 60, and more on food, beverages and non-prescription health products. They buy fewer items but tend to spend more per item.
  • Mature customers seek quality products, are loyal to brands and are not particularly price sensitive — even if their incomes are below average levels. Those trends were even more pronounced with aging.
  • Many respondents in the study expressed a negative view of advertising, finding it too loud, and too focused on young people and rock music.
  • Most commented on the inability to navigate large stores, with too many hard-to-reach products on shelves that are either too low or too high.

The study concluded by emphasizing that within 25 years, individuals older than 85 will represent more than eight percent of the population in Japan and between three and five percent of people in Europe and the U.S.

"Adapting to the radically different requirements of mature consumers can have extensive consequences for retailers and manufacturers," the authors wrote in the study. "As this customer group grows and gains even more purchasing power, smart companies will adjust their strategies accordingly to gain a competitive advantage."

Discussion Questions: Do you feel the “self-definition for becoming old” is now starting at the age of 80? What changes will be required by retailers to address issues faced by noticeably elderly consumers?

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13 Comments on "What Do 80+ Consumers Want?"


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Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

No — the definition of old is 50, when AARP starts sending you all kinds of membership material 🙂

Retailers are already adapting to noticeably elderly consumers. Ask Al McClain, who lives in an “elderly” town in Florida. More chairs in places, larger signs in Publix, more motorized carts, more door-to-car services at a lot of stores. All say pay attention to your customer base.

Anne Howe
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Assisted shopping for the plus 80 crowd would, in my opinion, be the most significant service a retailer could offer. It’s silly to think a retailer or manufacturer can effectively change shelf set and/or packaging to accommodate seniors, even though key products could certainly improve.

There is nothing like the feeling of comfort my 82 year old father has when he actually has a daughter in the store with him. The magnifying glass can stay in his pocket and the trip takes thirty minutes instead of sixty. It’s an almost enjoyable shopping experience, except for the “no place to sit and rest” dilemma. That, too, could be easily solved.

Imagine the loyalty that could be built amongst the seniors who sit and rest in the pharmacy area at CVS if they could get a small cup of coffee and someone to help them shop for 20 minutes.

Ian Percy
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

We all know that Bismark set the retirement age at 65 back in 1875 when life expectancy was about 46. Of course we wouldn’t want to ever rethink that would we? I’m not even sure there is a “self-definition” for becoming old, it’s what our society (those who are young) says it is. At 80 it’s quite reasonable to assume you have a good 20 years to go. Heck I’m talking with people about starting an entrepreneurship school for those over 65. I’ve learned that while people’s dreams and ideas may become dusty and put in the back closet…they’re still there. Some of our “seniors” have ideas that are worth a fortune.

As far as packaging and reading labels goes we need to stop using twenty-somethings as designers who think 6 point fonts in grey on a grey background looks cool.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
9 years 7 months ago

A few factors are increasing the numerical value of old age. Lifespan is increasing and retirement age is being pushed to the limit. People in their 60s and 70s are still extremely active in this era. Lifestyle and activity/mobility products are key in marketing to this group. It’s sad to say but there are 2 groups as well within this age group. Those lucky enough to retire and enjoy life and those that have to work to maintain a living standard. Either way, both groups need health, wellness and mobility products to keep going.

Verlin Youd
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

The self-definition of “old” is changing and rising rapidly, not surprisingly with the largest population ever reaching retirement in the developed economies. This large population not only thinks they are “younger” and “more mobile,” but also in many ways they are, due to advances in medicine and technology.

It is interesting, as with most mega-trends, that this has been anticipated for more than 25 years and yet little has been done to drive innovation required to address this large and fast-growing market. I believe that some retail leaders of the future will innovate around addressing this market, driving success by addressing the needs of older consumers who despite recent economic challenges will still have significant disposable income.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
9 years 7 months ago

While true that I moved to Florida just after age 50, Palm Beach Gardens is not quite an “elderly” town, and has a nice demographic mix. I think what the 50 and over crowd likes about this part of South Florida is:
1. The more relaxed lifestyle (compared to the NYC area)
2. The lack of winter
3. Better customer service, at most businesses.

Having parents in their late 80s and having become well acquainted with a number of folks of that generation, I think the #1 thing that the elderly want (besides price/value) is service tailored to their needs. With the features of new cars, appliances, and all sorts of high-tech gadgets being hard for the elderly to understand, businesses who want their business can get it by being willing to spend extra time with them to explain how things work.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

I have to agree with Ian. The realization people are getting older than previously imagined is a disconnect in packaging, even to those of us in middle age. Pet peeve? Hotel shampoo/conditioner/moisturizer bottles in shades of beige with small beige type — not what you need at 6am — that is if you’re a certain age….

Cathy Hotka
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Like Al, my parents are in their late 80s. They value three things:
* A short walk from the car to the store. Malls are overwhelming and both avoid them at all costs.
* Big type. It’s amazing how many menu boards in restaurants have little type that the average post-50 consumer just can’t read.
* Quick transactions. They don’t want to stand in a long line. Retailers, you know who you are.

Come to think of it, we 50-somethings probably want the same thing….

Gene Detroyer
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

I am a senior. I purchase less than I ever have. I am no longer accumulating. I have gotten rid of all the waste that I accumulated over the last too many years. Even my food needs are less than they were before. And, unfortunately, I am going to die and purchase nothing.

So now hear this, retailers. If you want to move your business forward, forget about us and focus on the next generations. Otherwise, as we die , so will you.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Excellent comment, Al. I live a little further south from you in the Tamarac area. Most of the “elderly 80s crowd” are looking for service tailored to suit their needs. It isn’t that difficult or expensive a task, either.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

Consumers in this generation are more informed, have generally more disposable income and have more choice and control of their shopping experience than any previous generation in history. 80 is the new “60.” My mother-in-law is 79 and walks/jogs 8-10 miles each day. She is leading the way of the more health-conscious generation that isn’t ready to “retire” to the couch without a fight. Retailers must realize that there is a huge population that is growing of these elderly consumers whom still want innovative products and services to match their lifestyles.

Dave Wendland
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

This is an interesting study and it offers terrific insights. And, several of the other panelists have already stolen a bit of my thunder. Here are three quick thoughts.

First, “becoming old” has never been as in vogue as it is today. We’re all aging … but we’re not doing it like our grandparents did.

Second, few — if any — retailers have created a shopping environment that caters to this emerging group of shoppers that are not interested in acting their age.

And, third, I believe there are four factors that must be addressed at retail: 1) customer service; 2) shopper convenience; 3) lifestyle products ; and 4) in-stock condition.

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
9 years 7 months ago
Kudos to Kearney for placing silver shoppers front and center. Having studied the aging consumer and shopper for several years, I’m not surprised by Kearney’s findings. Still, these results are likely to be new news for many brands that have previously overlooked the fastest-growing segment of the population. Given both the current and expected size of the senior demo, every retailer and product manufacturer should examine this study and then continue to work to gain a better understanding of the lifestyles, needs and behaviors of this consumer — and what it all means for their brands. Waiting until tomorrow to find out how competitors will address the aging demo is too late to get a firm grip on nuances like: Aging consumers want brands to recognize that they’re older, but they don’t want to be referred to as “old” or treated like they’re old. Essentially, seniors want brands to be both age aware and age neutral. Aging will always have a large physical and cognitive component. But for many of today’s consumers, aging is increasingly… Read more »
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