What every brand needs to know about customers over 50

“They’re the richest generations, financially, you’ll ever see.”

The wealth of potential lying dormant in customers over the age of 50 is often ignored by brands who develop strategies and campaigns that talk directly to Millennials and expect the Over 50s to just listen in the background.

Brands that do address the needs of the Over 50s are reaping the rewards. At the recent Unlocking the Over 50s Spend Conference, forward-thinking brands, alongside Quadrangle, shared their thoughts on how to do better.

Over 50s is a demographic not a segment

Brands who see past the age and realise there are myriad ways to segment, are making strong market gains. The Over 65s comprise a significant part of Visit Scotland’s tourist income and customer insight has revealed a varied range of interests. Chris Greenwood, Visit Scotland’s Senior Tourism Insight Manager, says the brand’s segmentation reflects this. By categorising according to whether they are considering Scotland because they are foodies, culturalists, interested in adventure and activity, or just passionate about Scotland, the brand has a truer read on how to match customer expectations. Subsequent campaigns have cut across age and tap into the trend for experiential travel instead.

Over 50s do their research

Broadly speaking, Over 50s often know what they want and will research a product heavily before buying. Brands can use this to their advantage. Karen Cullen, Head of  Marketing at Yardley London says that 27% of customer money comes from women over 50, which the brand sees as a benefit and has invested in meeting their needs. This core customer is very interested in the provenance of ingredients and in verifying product claims before purchases. ‘Getting products in front of them is important,’ says Cullen who runs sampling campaigns. While campaigns such as these may have a higher cost to serve than for other demographics, age-specific investment pays dividends.

Don’t underestimate their digital prowess

‘Digital is key for this demographic,’ says Cullen, ‘Many Over 50s will start their search online.’ Yardley London finds that a tessellated approach works best with features in print providing a solid entrance point that leads to online retargeting with Facebook ads. A higher than average conversion rate, at 10%, shows this to be effective for them.

It’s borne out in other sectors too. Chris Chapman, Senior Marketing Manager for Customer Strategy and Insight at Screwfix says, ‘Older generations love digital if it’s for a reason. If it appeals to their rational side and means something gets done quicker or more easily than before, then you can sign them up.’

Screwfix has honed its Click and Collect service to appeal to Over 50s, who make up 70% of their customer base. This has had a positive knock-on effect on their NPS and Net Easy Score. ‘Older generations often perceive convenience to be better than previously thanks to techniques like next day delivery,’ says Chapman.

Findings from Quadrangle’s Post-Digital Customers Report indicates that this digital savvy older audience extends to all other sectors. Among Baby Boomers (55-74), 45% promise repeat returns to a brand’s app or mobile site if it’s easy and engaging to use. Furthermore, a noteworthy 80% of customers aged 55 and over (comprising Baby Boomers and those over 75) state they’d be more likely to use brands that use technology to create better products and services.

Use authentic representation

Over 50s are sick of being patronised. Sector-specific marketing featuring a grey-haired army of caricatures, head to toe in unbranded beige, grinning a dentured smile bears no resemblance to the nuanced and diverse sector it proports to represent. Elsewhere, in mainstream marketing, the Over 50s have often been edited out altogether. Helen Bass, Diageo’s Disrupt Innovation Director for Europe and Africa says, ‘Progressive gender portrayal that is inclusive of diversity is at the heart of being authentic.’ She advises spending time with the group. ‘Immerse your brand and don’t just look at the data.’ Alison Camps, Quadrangle’s Deputy Chairman and Partner agrees. ‘Customer closeness workshops, ethnographic studies and meet the problem exercises will all facilitate understanding and illuminate how people experience the world,’ she says.

Personalisation is paramount

Quadrangle’s Post-digital Customers Report found that nearly 7 in 10 customers over 55 expect a highly personalised service. Personalisation for customers over 55 isn’t about getting an email with their name dropped into the custom field: it’s about receiving the human contact and attention to detail that they became accustomed to earlier in their lives.

Screwfix puts mining customer data at the heart of its strategy. It uses 30 measurement points including basket analysis to establish trends on which products go together and hone subsequent offers.

There’s a warning here though. The Post-digital Customers Report found that the two older segments are much more intolerant of unsolicited marketing communication (particularly texts and emails). Just over half will delete emails from brands without opening them. Tailoring offers to the needs of the demographic is essential and to do this you need to know your older customers inside out and understand them as people.