Have we reached a new tipping point?

By Kathi Scharf

Last Monday my 65-year old mother called and calmly told me that she and my father were suing me for breaking up their marriage.

Dumbfounded, I cautiously asked “Why?”, at which point she told me that they had stayed up all night playing with the new iPads we had given them that weekend for their birthdays.

Laughing, she went on to share all the apps she’d installed, like CNN, QVC, Angry Birds, and four different poker apps, just to mention a few. This, from a woman who has a brand new laptop but still struggles to regularly find her Gmail account!

But as I’ve looked around since then, I’ve seen a definite trend in mature consumers’ use of the latest technology. On a recent visit to Barnes and Noble, I peeked in on a Nook training class and realized that 80% of the attendees where boomers and seniors. Then, as I walked past the Apple store, I of course noticed the large number of youngsters fiddling with the equipment, but it was the older adults who were standing in line at the register and at the Genius bar.

So, I did a little research…

In their latest study, Generations 2010, Pew Internet said:

  • The biggest new trend is that certain key Internet activities (including some of the most important ones from a marketing perspective) are becoming more uniformly popular across all age groups.
  • These activities include email, search engine use, seeking health information, getting news, buying products, making travel purchases, banking, and rating products and services.
  • Even in areas still dominated by Millennials, those age 18-33, older generations are making notable gains, including their participation in social networking sites such as Facebook, where the number of boomer users has increased by over 25% and where 14% of Internet users ages 74+ can now be found socializing.
  • Pew also found that watching video increased by 20% among older boomers, age 56-64, and increased by 15% among the Silent Generation (age 65-73).

Traditional wisdom has been that older consumer technology usage follows younger consumer trends, as shown in this graph from JWT Boom. Perhaps, however, we’ve reached a tipping point where mature consumers will lead the way in the adoption of newer technologies.

Obviously, their comfort level with the Internet is, in most areas, on par with younger generations. And as newer technologies appear, often at higher costs or as more of a luxury item, mature consumers may be better positioned and more motivated to purchase them. Despite the economy, mature consumers still have higher overall incomes than younger generations. And, as boomers begin to turn 65, they are determined to enter the winter of their lives as healthy and vibrant consumers who are in touch with their families, their communities, and their world.

Consider the impact and opportunity this tipping point offers us as Internet marketers focused on connecting with mature consumers. Regardless of whether you are using higher-end SmartPhones, iPads, or eReaders to connect with your consumer, the opportunities to leverage these newer technologies to build meaningful, engaging relationships between your brand and this consumer have just exponentially expanded beyond the home-based computer and beyond the limits of text messaging and SMS.

Imagine what we can share with this consumer.

Or as my mother said, “Do you have any idea how much fun this is?”

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One Response to Have we reached a new tipping point?

  1. […] companies. Also, mature markets generally adopt a bit more slowly than other groups (but once they begin to adopt, […]

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