Baby Boomers… Why Numbers, Markets Keep Growing

“You know, Norman, you really are the sweetest man in the world, but I’m the only one who knows it.” – Ethel – On Golden Pond (Universal Pictures, 1981)

The Internet celebrated its 40th anniversary in September. It wasn’t such a big deal for the first 10 years until the PC got some traction. Our son can’t imagine how people survived in the “Dark Ages” without email, texting, cell phones, social sites, MP3, Tweets. He also can’t believe that some of the rock stars of that era are still going strong. Last September,

  • Ringo Starr (The Beatles) was 69
  • Mick Jagger (Rolling Stones) was 68
  • Bruce (The Boss) Springsteen was 60

When he hears ages like that, Golden Pond’s Billy Ray and he agree…“Man, that’s really old.” Boy, that hurts!

Wait a minute!! As eMarketer reported recently, boomers may be aging, but they don’t expect to get old.

Add the Numbers

While marketing loves the idea that younger people are the industry’s bread and butter, they tend to forget that the majority of the financial resources are held by the Gen X, boomer and mature segments of the global population. Thirty percent of that market are in the “older” categories and have different wants, needs and goals when purchasing PC/CE/communications products and services. Source – U.S. Census Bureau

Big, Growing Market
In fact, the boomers and matures:

  • represent about 30 % of the global population (see Figure 2 above)
  • they make the money (where do you think the >19-year-olds get their cash?)
  • they provide the greatest potential for “upgrading” their connection tools – hardware, software, service (see Figure 3 below)

Staying Current Online

Early/late boomers and matures are either online or getting online in significant numbers. In addition, everyone is aging and industry analysts project these individuals will stay on line longer. Source — eMarketer

According to a recent JWT BOOM study, boomers plus:

  • account for 70 % of the net worth
  • their “category” will grow by 50 %, while the coveted Gen X,/Y populations will only grow 3 %
  • 82 % use desktop computers, 17 % laptops to connect
  • 73 % have broadband to the home
  • 82 % research online
  • they participate more in viral (word-of-mouth) marketing than the younger groups sharing with:
    • friends – 96%
    • children – 84%
    • spouses/partners – 83%
    • co-workers – 71%
    • parents – 60%

It is true that we use the Internet different than the kids. We’re more interested in:

  • email – 99%
  • Web browsing – 95%
  • general (product) research – 92%
  • reading online articles – 91%
  • staying in touch with friends/family – 90%
  • online shopping – 73%

Follow the Money

Today, most of the financial resources still are being controlled by boomers and matures who are also staying in the workplace longer. These segments buy for themselves and the Gen Yers. Source – Javelin Strategy & Research

If there are so many of them and they are expanding their use of connected technology, logic says that they also represent a growing opportunity for sales. Boomers are involved with their media (iNet, TV, radio) in roughly the same way.

Every Day

The involvement with entertainment, educational and business communications tools is consistent across all age segments. The chart shows the mean hours they spend on the various media. Source – Lumin Collaborative

In fact, a recent Nielsen report noted that the Gen Xers are increasing their TV viewing to that of the boomers. At the same time, boomers are ramping up their use of the Internet and smartphones…only in different ways.

Game On
According to one report, boomers are “adopting’ Gen Y habits of playing videogames.

DUH!

Come on folks, these people made gaming what it is! The Atari 2600, 7800, Lynx? These were the gaming platforms that boomers devoured for hours on end. Do you think that when they became “adults” they put away the toys of their youth? Those systems were good. But today’s systems and games are awesome!

Do you seriously believe that the games people are snapping up for their iPhones and smartphones just appeal to kids? It’s like Golden Pond’s Ethel said, “Don’t you think that everyone looks back on their childhood with a certain amount of bitterness and regret about something?” Sure…we would have liked to have been better on Gates of Zendacon, more proficient with Slime World, have more patience with Gauntlet.

There were tons of games we were so-so at but…that was then, This is now!

Do you believe that the Wii forced its way to the top because kids wanted to play golf, tennis, bowling and “mild” shoot-em-ups? Boomers may not sit in their den all night long pitting themselves in mortal combat with WOW (World of Warcraft), but we’re certain there are tens of thousands who do. Get ‘em off their behinds in front of their TV set with a paddle in hand and they’re ready to compete with the best of them. Or, during long, boring meetings; there’s nothing more satisfying than playing some mind escape games like Tetris, Bejeweled or even the resurgent Pac-Man on their smartphone.

Net Usage
And boomers are equally different on the iNet. They are more inclined to communicate and share information with people using email than by texting or IMing. Since we don’t “follow” anyone and aren’t really interested in anyone following us, we can’t really comment on Twittering.

However, when it comes to going to a site where we know we share things in common with people of similar interest or following a blog on something of current interest to us?

Text Me

Texting is the preferred method of communications with Gen Yers. They also prefer to be more involved in their social networking activities, which could become a problem as they get older. Boomers/matures use their systems and connectivity more on 1:1 communications and research/buying items. Source – PriceGrabber.com

We’re there!! That’s what keeps social sites thriving and of interest to more marketers…a very tightly profiled audience. Boomers are less “attached” to their mobile phone than Gen Yers. It’s the preferred CE device Gen Y (47 %), but only 21% for boomer plus folks. The boomers are much more likely to place a call than text message.

Call or Text

Age tells the difference. Boomers and matures prefer to use their mobile phone to call while Gen X and Gen Y individuals prefer texting. From experience the usage difference is consistent around the globe. Source – Nielsen Mobile

However, Accenture recently reported that boomers are quickly coming to rely on the features/capabilities of the mobile device:

  • watching video has risen from 12 % to 14 %
  • using the device to access the web rose from 8 % to 23 %
  • Web browsing is now one of their top three mobile apps
  • 40 % listen to music on the device
  • 50 % play videogames on the go

A number of industry analysts attribute the increased interest in these PC/CE devices to the economic downturn and many realizing that retirement may be something in the distant future.

Longer Work Cycle

The combination of the fiscal downturn and the desire of organizations to retain experienced employees longer has forced many to rethink their retirement. As a result, they are learning and using today’s technologies and industry experts feel they will remain online and active longer. Source – Coyne Partnership

Selfish Firms
But there is also a very real (and selfish) reason firms are becoming “demographically diverse.” They have come to realize that the marketplace is becoming more difficult, more complex and more attuned to rapid changes. Companies want to hang onto and leverage the experience and expertise these individuals possess and use it for as long as possible. At the same time, people in business/industry are finding that bottom line, the new tools, new capabilities that the new communications tools deliver make their work more challenging and more interesting.

Norman looked at us, and with his years of hard-earned experience said, “Very good. That was a good speech. Bottom line, huh? You’re a bottom line man? All right, here’s the bottom line… O-kay.”

The boomer crowd is a huge and growing segment of the online marketplace that has wants and needs different from the generations that grew up not knowing a world without the Internet. They are also at a personal “experience level” where they know what they want and aren’t afraid to express themselves with their spending and vocal power.

And to that, Maxine might have said, “Honey – I brought you into this world and I can take you out of this world!”

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