We are all aware of the impact of an ageing population on society. There is a story about it every day in the media, either about poor care, the cost of care, technical advances, or assistive technology. However, we hear very little about the enormous opportunities for businesses to develop products and services for the older population, who provide 40% of all consumer demand’ in the UK and spend over £200 billion annually. Globally, the number of those aged 65 and over is growing at around twice the rate of the overall population. In the UK, most personal wealth is held by the over-55’s, holding 60% of the UK’s savings .
We need to be thinking about not only the current ageing generation, but the ones coming up behind them. Most babies born in 2000 or later might live to over 100.
Part of the reason for this lack of targeting of older people is companies’ unwillingness to commit product and service development and marketing spend on older age groups and also because they worry about getting the communication to older people right. Despite the fact the over 50’s hold 80% of the UK’s wealth and are responsible for 260 billion of total UK annual consumer spending, they currently receive only 10% of marketing focus.
So there is clearly a significant opportunity for companies willing to address the needs of older people, both by developing products and services for older consumers and by capitalising on the knowledge and skills of an older workforce. According The Economist Intelligence Unit, ‘Executives overwhelmingly view increased longevity as an opportunity, rather than a risk: 71% see it as an opportunity, compared with 43% who consider it a risk’. The report also highlighted several companies investing in R&D in the ageing market group, such as Intel, General Electric, Danone and Philips. Smaller businesses can be more responsive, as it is easier for them to make changes in strategy and to implement them more quickly.
Germaine Greer commented that, “just because I am over 60, nobody wants to sell to me”. Most marketing campaigns are put together by younger people who do not necessarily understand the older consumer and who do not have the confidence to know if their approach is the right one. They find it difficult to empathise with the older audience or think about what might appeal to them. Understanding the best media to use to target older people is problem. It sometimes needs to be different to that used to target younger people. Older people engage with the Internet and social media less of the time and in different ways. Consider the example of Marks and Spencer. In 2006, they began to feature Twiggy and Dove has been featuring older women with more representative body shapes. Both moves have proved successful.
Companies should also consider developing marketing based on lifestyle preferences, rather than age. Be brave, be savvy and really try to understand your older consumer. You will reap the benefits.
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