I read a great article 3-4 years ago, telling of important “accidental” lessons learned by Toyota related to the intended client of the Scion XB, vs. who was actually buying the product. Having been the architect/designer at the time for a Scion Showroom conversion within an existing Toyota building that didn’t have a space for the new Scion vehicles yet, we created a hip and “techie” interior showroom space, with tons of large wall graphics showing snowboarders flying
through the air and taking on some “epic pow-pow” (light powdery snow, for you non-skiers and snowboarders). The lesson Toyota learned only after going to market with their snazzy box-style vehicle, was that it wasn’t the twenty-something tattooed and pierced young adults that were buying their vehicle for mounting their snowboards to. Rather, it was the “mature market” that was most interested in the new design, for its better seat height positioning for ease of raising and lowering themselves in and out of the vehicle!
Research of the demographic that we are quickly recognizing will represent the largest age group increase category in the next 2-3 decades (55+ years old), shows that in comparison to younger people, people in the mature market have the following important characteristics; they save and invest more, spend more on luxury products and services, prefer “one-stop” shopping, are very convenience-oriented, patronize reputable/traditional outlets, seek personal attention and special services (such as valet parking and gift wrapping), choose products based on quality and brand name, and are less price conscious and deal prone.
The typical 4 Ps of marketing for the mature market apply just as much as they do to any other demographic market target group, and they are:
Positioning involves the creation of an image in the minds of consumers for a product or service. It refers to what consumers think about your product or facility’s characteristics or offerings relative to other similar offerings. Subsets of this category include: Convenience, Functionality, Quality, Dependability, Personalized service, and Product development. This last one, product development, is the one I’d like to focus on for today as it relates to “Aging-In-Place” modifications for the home. In developing new products or modifying existing products to better serve the mature market, companies have learned that they should not develop products or attributes of interest exclusively to the older person. Rather, an increasing number of providers develop offerings that have “universal appeal”, hence the term in my industry “universal design”. This means products and attributes can satisfy the needs of both younger and older consumers, but are most beneficial to the older person, such as developing easy-to-use operable parts to items in the home. If done right, these products “disappear” in the sense that they are not specifically noticed as “elder-friendly”, but that they simply WORK better for everyone.
We have learned much over the past few decades in regard to what types of messages appeal to the mature market we are trying to serve. We must be careful in how we present and promote our new “mature market” products, to be sure we aren’t presenting those products and services in a way that imply by buying it they would admit to their “old-age” status, nor that using the product would remind them of their old age. No one wants to feel like they are being catered to in a way that expresses a message making the consumer feel like they have “special needs” of any sort. It is human nature and psychologically obvious that at any age, we don’t want to be a burden to anyone or need extra / special attention. Our products and promotions of such shouldn’t send that message either.
The older consumer market is very diverse and prefers the variety of distribution methods as much as the general population (with exemption of the Internet, although the older market is the fastest growing age segment of Internet users). Marketers should emphasize company reputation, adopt policies that reduce risk (such as free pick-up services for merchandise returns), and offer a variety of payment options.
When developing distribution avenues, one should consider using services that show they care about convenience for their clients, such as valet parking, gift-wrapping, and package carry-out (if applicable to the product/service). Consider innovative ways of using coupons, and offer programs that reward long-term patrons, since older consumers are very poised to be long term and loyal customers.
Pricing decisions should also take into account the needs and preferences of older consumers. Generally, older consumers are not very price sensitive and less likely to sacrifice quality for lower prices, but lower prices could entice them when no significant differences in product quality or service are perceived. Use premium pricing for drastically different products, as older consumers would gladly pay a higher price for products suitable to their specific needs. Consider product and service offerings “a` la carte.” Although older consumers are willing to pay higher prices for certain products, they are not willing to pay for product benefits and services they do not use or need. They are less likely to pay for “bundles” of benefits, when many of the benefits do not interest them. Marketers should make those “extra” options available for an additional cost rather than marketing all of them as a “package” of offerings. Finally, and probably most importantly, do not over-emphasize senior discounts. Do not ask people to engage in activities that remind them of their old age, label them as “old” or contribute to the definition of one’s self as an old person, because reality is that nobody wants to be old, be told they are old, or feel anything that resembles old.
The changing demographics and the aging of the population are affecting the age composition of all of our consumer markets. The upside is that this also creates opportunities (and challenges) for organizations serving consumer markets. So recognize your client, respect them and their position in life, and don’t ignore this age group or their buying power in the remainder of your professional products and services career.
Cheers, and to your success!