Reaching older consumers – where to start?

The guest blog is contributed by Mona Shekarriz, Research Associate with Age UK’s Engage Business Network. Mona is working on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership between Brunel University and Age UK to conduct market segmentation and to examine consumer behaviour in later life.

It is often the case that businesses either neglect providing products and services to older age groups or at best think that they have them in their customer base but do not consider the importance of understanding their needs.

There are also companies that properly understand the older groups of people, but in general businesses overlook the great potentials that lie in correctly addressing the needs and wishes of this age group. Ideally, there should be solutions which help companies to be inclusive in their design and delivery so that people won’t get excluded because of age or lifestyle. But to get there we first need to start understanding the real needs and expectations of older consumers. This is where most businesses fail because they see them as one big group of people who are over a certain age.

This is certainly wrong for every age group and especially for older people as they develop more individuality as years go by. Professional and social preferences, life changing events such as health changes or loss of a partner, role changes such as becoming retired or becoming a grandparent are some examples of why people develop more individuality as they grow older. In other words, years gives them more time to develop more differences. So there is a high level of granularity within the older age groups.

Tools such as market segmentation have long been used to capture such granularity. It’s a tool which takes us from an absolute lack of knowledge of a certain groups of people to having inclusive and customised design and delivery for everyone. Segmentations aim to find groups of people who are very similar within each group but are considerably different from another group. However, among businesses segmentations have been quite infamous for not providing practical information on how to address the identified groups of customers correctly. This shortfall is mainly due to lack of strategic focus in design and interpretation of survey questions and also vague portrayal of the identified segment.

Finding the perfect mix of design methods and marketing strategies which address different groups of older people appropriately is possible through a carefully designed and translated market segmentation. This is one of the research streams we follow in Engage Business Network.

Read more about our work on consumer issues

Find out more about the Engage Business Network

2 responses to “Reaching older consumers – where to start?

  1. Elizabeth Owen

    I think computers are great levelers, Old or young, the first time you sit in front of your computer you are all learning something completely new.
    There are plenty of places that provide computers and teaching for all, you just have to get out there and have a go. I know of two men well in their nineties, one has learnt to play chess , and play on the net, the other gentleman is looking up his ancestors and hopes to write a book. But I realize that even while I am typing this I am preaching to the converted, so how do we get to the people who have not had a go……
    It is you, the sons, and grandsons, that must take up the challenge, only you can make sure your grand-ma and grand-dad ‘have a go’. so get started now. Elizabeth

  2. The failure of businesses to identify and fulfill the needs of older (how much older are we talking? 50/60/70/80/90? is in part due to the fact that few companies are willing to give employment to “older” people who are capable of carrying out the necessary research and implementation.
    I for one don’t want somebody without my experience of life writing the questions for a survey, for example. Ask rubbish, rubbish in, rubbish out.

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