Dispelling the myths surrounding the over-50s market

There are many stereotypical views of the older market; from assuming their zealous brand loyalty and overt distrust of technology, to the idea that the entire Baby Boomer population has health problems or mobility issues.

In the digital world, many brands perceive the older population as lacking the skills or inclination to use technology, let alone become active participants. However, once complicated and expensive, technology is now simple to use and very affordable, highlighting the need for brands to have a clear understanding of how their content is being consumed across multiple devices. 

Myth: Over-50s are tech-shy

In an area you might presume was resolutely skewed towards the youth market, older customers are actually out in force.  The latest ONS study shows that recent internet use in the 65-74 age group increased from 52% in 2011 to 80% in 2018. The older generation is actively engaging on social media, searching, and converting on tablets and smartphones, and investing in wearable tech.

On average, 48% of over 50s are active on social media, and 51% of adults aged between 55 to 64 regularly use social media. Wearable technology in healthcare gives the older population health autonomy and a renewed independence. We are living longer and ageing better, and wearable tech can track chronic conditions and prevent falls in the home. 86% of over-55s spend regularly online and 36% do the majority of their shopping online. 1 in 3 tablet owners in the UK are Silver Surfers and tablet sales amongst those over 55 have increased 700% in the past 6 years.

 Myth: Over-50s hold on to their cash

Over the last decade, consumer spending amongst over-50s grew on average 4.4% a year – faster than any other demographic.

It’s clear to us that this diverse, experienced and sophisticated group are affluent and that the growth potential for brands is enormous.  After all, they hold over three-quarters of the nation’s financial wealth. However, as millennials are earning proportionately less than Boomers were at that age, they also outspend millennials at a rate of 2:1. The image of a penny-pinching older market is an outdated one.

Myth: Over-50s only take cruise holidays

The attitude towards cruising is changing, with the BBC reporting that the average age of cruise passengers overall has fallen to its lowest in 20 years. Cruise companies have taken great steps towards achieving this goal by increasing the range of destinations, kitting out their ships with the latest technology, and offering shorter itineraries for busy younger travellers.

Over-65s are now more likely to take foreign holidays than any other age group. Many social and economic factors have come together to facilitate this trend.  There’s been significant growth in the number of adventure travel tour operators, such as Wild Frontiers, who recently took a 74-year-old to the base camp of K2 in Pakistan. There’s also been an increase in the availability of affordable domestic flights and, at last, the stigma attached to travelling alone no longer exists.  So people feel more liberated and confident to go it alone.  Hence, travel companies are now building catered products to not only accommodate but celebrate the solo traveller.

Myth: Traditional advertising works best on Over-50s

Despite figures showing that many over-50s feel misrepresented in marketing, it’s no secret that they continue to be engaged with and influenced by many types of ad formats. Interestingly, it’s been revealed that Baby Boomers are more likely to watch YouTube ads on their smartphones than any other generation.

Brand awareness is also highly important within the grey market, but brand loyalty isn’t something that companies should take for granted, as studies have shown that most over- 50s agree that it pays to ‘shop around’ rather than remain faithful.  They have the time (and patience) to research offers, product brochures and service guarantees – from travel to food, retail to healthcare, finance to cars.  Brands must capitalise on this insatiable appetite for information whilst remembering that this is an audience that wants benefits over features, information over entertainment.

Myth: Over-50s are one audience segment

Finally, ‘older people’ are not an audience demographic. In the same way that the age range of millennials can span 15 years, the ‘over-50s’ market can span 30+ years. With people in the UK now expected to live well into their 80s, lumping together all adults over the age of 50 simply leads to a large portion feeling at best misrepresented, at worst ignored. By categorising groups using strict demographic labels, brands are missing out on a whole host of opportunities.  A past study by Age UK found that 67% of older adults believed that advertising portrayed them negatively, with 75% not relating to advertising at all.