The Betamax Generation Have Gone Digital and Here’s How to Design for Them

by Sarah Cullen , Adforum

Imagine an implacably vexed grannie. She’s squints over her bifocals at a mobile phone and then hands it to her grandson in desperation and disgust.

That’s a common stereotype in our youth-obsessed marketing world. And it doesn’t exist anymore.

People over the age of 50 are embracing digital—in fact, 84% of people over the age of 65 would miss the Internet if it was not part of their daily life. Older people are shopping (77%), socializing (58 minutes daily), gaming (7.4 hours weekly) banking (80%) and living online.

They’re relatively wealthy, too. How wealthy? In the UK, over-50’s have 80% of the wealth. They purchase 65% of new cars, 68% of cosmetics, and 70% of luxury travel. They also drive 40% of Internet traffic, and are projected to drive 50% of the growth in consumer industries over the next 15 years. Yes, 50%.

So over-50’s are the most valuable segment in the history of marketing—and yet, they’re the most ignored. Only 10% of marketing budgets are directed to them. Yes, 10%.

They deserve closer attention.

To that end, we surveyed 500 over-50s and interviewed an additional 20 of them. Our hope was to get a clearer picture of what they want from digital, and what they don’t want. Here’s some of what we found:

Be an Authority, and Build Trust

Over-50’s differ from their younger counterparts in a number of ways, but none so much as their perception of authority. Younger internet users go online because they feel like they’re missing something when offline. “Boomers” on the other hand, care less about missing out (21% less, to be exact). Instead, they want substance. Older users engage with brands who can provide authoritative information on products and industries—someone who can answer questions.

Make it Safe

Older users also crave security. Among the people we surveyed, we found a direct correlation between perceived security and rates of adoption. Or as one person put it: “Guarantee my security, and if you can’t, no business.”

Go Big on Mobile

Squashing your desktop site into a tiny device is not going to cut it. Mobile is wonderfully convenient, but the small screen is not a plus for older users. “I embrace some [mobile experiences], but due to a small screen size on my phone, I usually prefer to use my laptop.” Whatever you design for mobile had better be simple and clear.

Don’t Bombard Them

Relevant content will bring increased engagement. Likewise, don’t spam your over-55 customer, who would quickly tell you, “don’t flood my box with unrelated emails,” if given the chance. Older folks have seen every form of junk mail in history. Be the hero that ends it once and for all.

Be Human

Don’t just throw information at your over-55 customer—especially on digital. Guide them. Help them get to the answer they need. And if there’s a problem, talk to them. Exactly half of them prefer call centers, and roughly a quarter will settle for chat.

Above all, Be Simple

There’s nothing we can say that this man hasn’t said: “If it’s not simple or easy to use then I’ll piss off. I have little patience.” Bravo, sir.

Article by Alistair Millen, Strategy Director & Shey Colbey, Director of User Experience at Critical Mass 

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