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Over 50s: what do they mean to your business?

Older customers: what do they mean to your business?Did you know that around a third of the UK’s population is now aged 50 and over? And, according to the Office of National Statistics, this proportion is set to grow to more than half by 2020.

This group has a huge amount of buying power – research from High50 found that people over 50 control 89% of all disposable wealth in the UK. So it’s worth thinking about what you can do to address the specific needs and concerns of this group as well as younger customers.

A few years ago, marketing expert Seth Godin published a blog post that suggested that over 50s are just as open to new experiences and products as 18-34 year olds. They are also active online as well as offline – it is, after all, people like Tim Berners-Lee, Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs who created much of the technology we use today.

So what does this mean for your business?

1. Firstly, over 50s are active online
As with all target markets, you need to reach your customers wherever they are. While you might assume that this age group is primarily offline,  more and more of them are online, and so you need to make sure you’re visible. Research shows that people aged 50-59 years actually love their smartphones and favour ‘reverse-showrooming’ – researching online and buying in-store.

What you should do
Don’t just fall into the trap of thinking older customers don’t use technology at all or only surf the web on desktop and laptop computers. It’s important to make sure your website is adapted for all the devices that these customers use, including smartphones and tablets.  For more information on designing an effective website for mobile, read this article.

As this group regularly use smartphones for researching online, before purchasing in-store, it’s important that you regularly update product and service information to accurately reflect stock levels and features. Customers won’t be impressed if they travel to your store to find a product they saw online is no longer in stock.


2. Over 50s do more research before buying
Over 50s generally take more time to research and plan how they spend their money and what they spend it on. According to Business Insider, most people use more than 11 different sources for research and information to make their buying decisions.

They’re also active on social media too. According to a Global WebIndex survey:

  • 70% of online over 50s have a Facebook account
  • 39% have a Google+ account
  • 34% have a YouTube account
  • 31% have a Twitter profile

In contrast, Instagram notches up a measly 7% among this age group.

What you should do
Firstly it’s about making sure you’re visible across multiple online platforms and websites, so whether that’s social media, search engines such as Google, business directories and more, potential customers are able to find you. For more help on getting your business noticed online, download our step-by-step guide.

Also think about the particular channels this group will be visiting the most. The research above shows that social media is not just for younger people, but to be used effectively to reach the over 50s, you need to make sure you’re focusing your energy on the right networks. While an Instagram account might work well with younger customers, it will largely go wasted on those aged over 50. Instead, you’re probably going to have the greatest success in reaching this age group through Facebook.


3. Over 50s are loyal customers
Although the over 50s do more research before buying, once they’ve found your business and chosen to use you, they do tend to then be more loyal. This is great for a small business like yours as it means you’ll be able to gain repeat business and custom from the same person time after time.

What you should do
Once a customer has found your business it’s down to you to earn their trust and loyalty. And one of the best tools in your marketing to achieve this is to perfect your customer service. Satisfaction comes first, but loyalty is earned and in the long term counts for much more. Loyalty is generated by a good, continuous relationship and experiences with a business, and can be achieved through activities such as regular communication, loyalty programmes, and special offers for your returning customers. You can read more about managing loyalty here.


4. Over 50s are only as old as they feel
While small businesses need to target their products and services to customers of all ages, older in years does not mean “old” in outlook. A recent study by Research Now asked a group of over-50s about their age and found that 59% feel younger than they are, and 36% feel 10 or more years younger.

What you should do
Age is just a state of mind, and it’s important to bear this in mind in your marketing communications. It’s  important to think about the tone of your website and messaging – even if you are selling to an older age group, your style and tone should speak to people with a vibrant lifestyle, who feel in their prime.


So there you have it. It’s all about inclusivity – and not stereotyping your customers. Treat your customers of all ages with respect and demonstrate that you understand their needs and concerns, and you have the secret to success.


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