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Marketing to seniors on the web

When combing my hair this morning, I noticed the steady advance of grey and thinning. "Hmm, won't be long and I'll be a part of the grey power brigade", I thought.

But what is actually "old" these days? One thing's for certain, the term "senior citizen" no longer means infirm. In my own family, my Dad was fitter at 60 than he was in his thirties. My partner's parents bought an SUV and then started trekking around the countryside; enjoying the fruits of their many years of labor. Retirement from work definitely does not equate to retirement from life!

"Senior" does not necessarily mean retirement from work either. I  know of many people in their late 60's who are still working; either through choice or necessity. Improved health allows them to continue to be very active in the workforce. In my early 20's, I worked in a labor-intensive field and the owner of business who worked as hard as anyone he employed was 74 years old!

Gone also are the days when the web was a place strictly for the young. Seniors have now embraced the Internet and many are comfortable with online shopping.

Senior shoppers, a rapidly growing market

We often mention other countries as "undeveloped markets"; but there's one right under our noses - seniors; and it's a market that shouldn't be underestimated.

According to the US Census Bureau, between 2005 (the time when I originally published this article) and 2030, the senior market will have grown to over 95 million people - that's over 4 times the growth of the 18-59 age group for the same period. 

Added to that, seniors control over 70% of all disposable income and even back in 2005, were spending $7 billion online each year. 

Taking into account future general growth rates in terms of population age groups, accompanied by an ever increasing uptake of the web by this demographic slice, this will indeed be a lucrative market. It's just really kicking into gear now. The Pew Internet & American Life Project stated in a report that by April 2012, over half of U.S. adults aged 65 and over were now online.

What do seniors buy on the web?

Sure, seniors do buy all the products that we'd associate with "old age" - pills and potions and other health related products; but many of the seniors of today and into the future will view themselves as being young. 

In a nutshell, seniors want the same sorts services and products that everyone else does.  Everything from mp3 players, to ringtones, to RVs, to toys for the grandkids, to expensive holidays. Senior dating services are also becoming a massive growth industry.

Of course, there are some items that you probably won't have so much success with - such as the latest hip and trendy youth oriented fashions, or some of that new fangled music :). 

What is the difference in marketing to seniors?

Age, generally speaking, makes you wise. Seniors also tend to have more available time to make purchase decisions. They are life savvy and for the most part, research well. They will ask questions before making a purchase - sometimes many, many, many questions :). 

Press release tips

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Provide a "seniors" section with discounts

As with marketing to any particular portion of the population, it's important that your pages reflect the tone. If you cover multiple age demographics, it can help to have a landing page dedicated to promoting your goods and services to seniors. Make the link to this section prominent throughout your site, but don't use patronizing text. Something as simple as "Special offers for seniors" or "seniors discount" should be sufficient as seniors do watch for this kind of wordiing.

In years gone by, maturity and old age was respected, even revered. That has unfortunately changed in recent times, but the concept is still expected by our senior citizens. 

You may already have general discounts advertised -  but the goal is to make this slice of the market feel that you have singled them out for special treatment.

Establish your credibility

This is important for general online success, but particularly so if you want to capture business from senior citizens. Ensure that your privacy policy is clear, that terms and conditions are in plain English, that your site is secure - and promote these aspects. Display your guarantees, industry affiliations and security seals prominently through your marketing copy.

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Images on your pages

Seniors may not want to see 20-something models in your marketing materials, but it doesn't mean you need to go for images of people in wheelchairs either. Aim for the middle of the road - if you're going to use images of humans in your promotional copy; go for the mid-30 to 40-something type images as this relays maturity, without suggesting infirmity. It's been well documented that most seniors see themselves as being 15 -20 years younger than their biological age.

If you're looking for relevant images that won't cost you an arm and a leg, check out my article on web site imagery and stock photography for some great resources.

Using hype in marketing copy

Be very careful with this - remember that age brings wisdom and too much hype in marketing copy can be a red flag to a more discerning buyer. 

Be enthusiastic about your products, but focus on providing clear and complete information; quantify your claims - pose questions, give answers. For example:

"Are you tired of being packed in with screaming teenagers on your package tours?

At X Travel, we match the company you wish to keep on your tour with your requirements!" 

Search engines and seniors

If you are going to have a special seniors section, ensure that the terms "senior" and "seniors" along with keywords relating to your product are sprinkled throughout. This age group most definitely searches  using "senior" as part of the criteria when looking for a good deal.

Using offline media to bring seniors online

It's important to note that seniors are still very much comfortable with offline print; so be sure to have your web address clearly visible on anything you print or in any offline promotions you undertake.

The benefits of catering to seniors

While seniors may not have the "scan, click and buy" mentality of younger people, once you have gained their trust, they can be very loyal clients. So while you may need to invest more time initially in converting, this can definitely pay off in the long run.

Related learning resources

Creating effective landing pages

Writing effective marketing copy

Gain credibility with your web site visitors

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
http://www.tamingthebeast.net 
Tutorials, web content, tools and software.
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