Seniors to the fore

Norman Kurtis. Vice Dean, Behaviour and Human development. IE University

15 June 2016

Los consumidores senior representarán casi el 50% de la población en 2050 y las marcas lo saben, por eso, se dirigen a ellos con productos, servicios y campañas específicas.

Men and women aged between 50 and 75 already make up 39% of Europe’s population - a figure set to increase to 46% by 2050. This group is made up of two generations: the baby boomers, aged between 50 and 68, and the so-called silent generation, aged 68 and over. Given their growing presence, the fact that they tend to have few dependents or debts, as well as their spending power, they are an attractive target for many major brands.

Senior consumers generally look for quality and personalized attention when choosing brands, products or services, with price less of a factor. They tend to be loyal to brands and are not usually swayed by offers or fashions, meaning that the return for brands able to attract these consumers is a positive one. It is also worth remembering that in many cases, this segment also makes purchases for their children and grandchildren. 

Take the food sector, where seniors show clear differentials: they look for products that are healthful, they choose stores close to where they live, they visit shops more often because they buy in small quantities, and they prefer smaller, lighter and simpler packaging. The popularity of products such as milk with soya, calcium and vitamins or drinkable yoghurts to help reduce cholesterol or boost the immune system is in large part due to seniors’ interest in health foods. 

This sector also includes products that compete with pharmaceuticals but that do not require a doctor’s prescription. One example is Souvenaid, by Spanish company Nutricia, which is marketed as helping to create synapses and to reduce the impact of the early stages of Alzheimer. 

The tourism and leisure industries also target the senior market, with hotels, cruises, etc attracted by its spending power and free time. For seniors, trust is the key factor when making a purchase of this kind. For example, in the luxury segment, more than 80% of spending in the United States comes from people aged 50 and over. 

But for companies targeting the senior segment, it’s not enough just to adapt products and services to their needs. It is also essential to reach them through the correct communication channels. Seniors like to see themselves as experienced and knowledgeable when it comes to making a purchase. The approaches that have been best shown to work involve real life situations, humor, and arguments based on health and traditional values. The best communication channels are word of mouth, followed by traditional media such as television, radio, and newspapers and magazines. It is important to remember that this generation is not averse to social networks, and baby boomers in particular tend to be present on Facebook and LinkedIn, for example. 

There are any number of European and US brands targeting the senior market, and increasingly this is happening via the internet. In Spain alone we have the Joyners digital platform for retired people with limited income offering the possibility of pooling resources and sharing an apartment, rather than going into a retirement home. The platform offers professional assistance into old age. Other platforms include Yeyehelp, aimed at connecting young people with their elders, who in return for payment will provide services such as shopping or accompanying them while recovering from an operation. 

In short, the over-50s will make up half of the population by 2050, and the major brands know this, which is why they are dedicating more and more resources and effort to reach them through products, services and marketing campaigns. 

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