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Adults 50-plus Now Dominate All Consumer Spending

What Marketers Need to Know About Reaching Them This Holiday Season

Shelagh Daly Miller
Shelagh Daly Miller

The holiday season is once again upon us, and this year marketers have an unprecedented opportunity to blow their sales out of the water. For the first time in history, consumers over 50 make up the majority—51%—of all consumer spending, according to just-released data from the U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey.

While marketers are preoccupied with millennials—who became the biggest adult age demo this year—consumers over 50 control 70% of our country's wealth, making them a significantly greater holiday sales opportunity than their kids.

One might expect that 50-plus would account for the majority of health (63%) and insurance (68%) expenditures. However, when it comes to buying for everyone on their holiday lists, consider that people 50 and older are now responsible for 51% of all entertainment spending as well as 57% of big ticket items such as new cars and trucks.

What are the best ways to connect with adults 50-plus? Here are five tips that will work especially well this holiday season—and beyond.

1. Reach 50-plus adults everywhere: Wondering where to reach the 50-plus demo with your holiday marketing messages? The answer is everywhere. The 50-plus demographic is embracing mobile, and they are still avid print readers, movie-goers and TV viewers. They are also online and leaders in social sharing. In fact, consumers over 50 love Facebook, with research showing that 15.5% of them spend 11 or more hours on Facebook every week. This week, AARP Media Sales launched a weeklong takeover advertising campaign to raise awareness of the dominance of the 50-plus consumer and to bring to life the concept that "50-plus consumers are everywhere," which is why you will see our campaign across all traditional, new and emerging platforms.

2. Go mobile: Here's a surprising statistic: Forty percent of AARP's site traffic is now coming through mobile. Plus, consumers over age 55 are the fastest-growing segment on mobile. What does this mean for your marketing efforts this holiday season? Think videos and compelling content. Research shows that 50% of Boomers view and share videos online, making engaging videos an especially effective way to reach the 50-plus audience on mobile this holiday season. Compelling blog posts written in an editorial style are also an excellent way to share your brand's seasonal message.

3. Speak their language: While we specialize in the 50-plus audience, with our new takeover advertising campaign, we knew we had to create a message especially for millennials as they are the dominant demo of the media buying community. We used slang terms such as "DUH," "OBVI" and "OMG" to grab their attention. Likewise, to reach the 50-plus demo, marketers must speak their language and be sure their thinking is not stuck in Christmases past! The 50-plus consumer is active, engaged and feel good about aging. Your advertising—especially the language—must reflect this mindset.

4. Offer irresistible deals: At AARP, we know from experience that our members love the benefits of our discounts. They often initially join the organization for our well-known deals before staying for the content we offer as well. It's clear the 50-plus consumer is value-oriented, and marketers can win their attention—and their business—by offering enticing holiday discounts. Try adding some content to the mix and you're sure to build on your success.

5. Remember brick-and-mortar: With offline stores still accounting for more than 90% of U.S. commerce, brisk brick-and-mortar business remains a major force for a successful holiday season. Even Amazon, whose brand identity is synonymous with online shopping, is opening a brick-and-mortar bookstore. Marketers take note: The demographic that will be responsible for most of the foot traffic this season will be the 50-plus age group. In fact, over the past three years, 50-plus consumers have been recognized for the growth of a wide range of brick-and-mortar retailers. Walmart, for instance, gained 5.7 million new customers age 50 and older—eight times the growth of their younger customer base.

Now is the Time to Bet on the 50-plus Consumer

Marketers love youth, but there's something the modern marketer likes even more: sales. Clearly, 50-plus consumers have the potential to boost ROI. If you're not sold, try a little experiment this holiday season: Augment your buy with more outreach aimed at this powerful demo. It might just turn your fourth quarter into something to celebrate.

About the Author

Shelagh Daly Miller, VP-group publisher for AARP Media Sales, has defied publishing industry trends as well as Madison Avenue's infamous focus on youth, achieving new levels of success across all platforms. Since joining AARP Media Sales in 2001, Shelagh has consistently driven sales growth. During the last five years under her leadership, revenue in AARP Media Properties, including AARP The Magazine, AARP Bulletin and AARP's digital proprieties, has increased by 50%. Her success is all the more remarkable considering the overall state of the publishing industry.

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AARP Media has insightful knowledge of 50-plus consumers. With unparalleled access through multiple media channels, AARP Media Sales connects marketers to the ever-growing and influential 50-plus population. Reach this audience through AARP's trusted media properties, including AARP's digital assets, anchored by AARP.org; AARP The Magazine, AARP's lifestyle publication; and AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for Americans 50-plus. To learn more or reach a rep, visit advertise.aarp.org.
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