Can "Silver" Industries Corner Tech-Savvy Baby Boomers?

By Furlong, Mary | Aging Today, September/October 2011 | Go to article overview

Can "Silver" Industries Corner Tech-Savvy Baby Boomers?


Furlong, Mary, Aging Today


Since 1986 when I launched my company, SeniorNet, I have been an evangelist for elders to learn how to use computers- to remain connected, informed and entertained. Through three decades the story has been the same: Older adults are enthusiastic users of technology in order to remain productive and connected to families, friends and colleagues.

But another truth remains. The gap between what the aging services industry believes elders want when it comes to technology and what they actually want is still large. As businesses increasingly see the shift in baby boomers' and elders' overall technology use, they are adjusting their marketing budgets accordingly and looking for opportunities to generate consumer interest in products or services through the Internet. Corporations are moving 25% of their marketing budget into online and mobile marketing to baby boomers and elders.

Baby Boomers Are Tech Savvy

For the past eight years, my current company, Mary Furlong & Associates, has produced a conference called What's Next to profile the latest trend data in the use of integrated media, marketing and mobile and consumer engagement. There were some baby boomer tech use statistics revealed at April's What's Next conference.

According to Fernando Hernandez, Microsoft supplier diversity director, the baby boomer market at 80 million (25% of the U.S. population) is an emerging market akin to Brazil, Russia, India and China. Seventy-three percent of this highly educated 50-to-64-year-old market is online, and these baby boomers are engaged, health conscious, connected with family and friends and go online for travel and entertainment. They are interested in content sites such as WebMD (with more than 120 million members), social media sites like Facebook (where people of ages 55 and older is the fastest growing segment) and mobile smart phone use. They use Skype to connect with children and grandchildren, love e-commerce, and a high percentage of their online purchases are valued at more than $250. This group buys a lot of luxury items, including hardware and software valued at more than $500.

According to the 2011 Pew Internet Project, computer use among Americans ages 65 and older has doubled in the past 10 years. Senior online engagement also has doubled, and, once up and running on the Internet, elders are more engaged than younger adults. The number of people who access the Web from their smart phones was higher than those who access it from their home computer.

Jeff Hasen, chief marketing officer of Hipcricket, and one of the top five digital marketers, says that baby boomers will be accessing social networks on mobile devices, sharing content via social channels and connecting mobile sites and applications with social networks. …

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