Attention marketers: If you think 50-plus consumers are customers for life, think again.
The numbers paint a startling picture. Hundreds of CPG brands have lost 20% or more of their Boomer business, according to recent data from GfK MRI, and are now waking up to the fact that they need to reconnect with this enormous market segment.
Consumers over 50 control 51% of all consumer spending—and 70% of our country's wealth. Marketers can make a huge impact on their bottom lines simply by re-engaging just a fraction of this demo.
How Did We Get Here?
One of the big differences between today's 50-plus consumers and previous generations is that Boomers are willing to try new brands throughout their lives. This decline in brand loyalty is due to a variety of factors, including:
1. Traditional categories are being disrupted. Consumers over 50 can remember not too long ago when there was only one way to purchase a product or service. Today consumers don't need to hail a cab because they can Uber or Lyft a ride on-demand. Airbnb expands the number and types of housing options for travelers. Choices are endless. In the food category alone, 21,435 new products were introduced in the U.S. in 2016, up from 17,143 in 2015, according to Mintel.
2. Technology is reinventing shopping. Retail used to be the place where brands appealed to consumers through fancy displays and packaging. Thanks to online brands such as Amazon, Zappos and eBay, for example, a drive to the store is unnecessary in many cases. Plus, recent news from Amazon demonstrates how the retail category will continue to evolve. Now that it owns Whole Foods, expect Amazon to reinvent supermarket shopping with features such as cashier-free checkouts. Other tech innovations are also making visits to brick-and-mortar stores less of a necessity. A Gap app, for instance, lets consumers try on clothes at home. Olay's Skin Advisor online tool uses AI to provide a personalized skin-care routine, saving a trip to the cosmetic counter.
3. There are more opportunities to influence the market by sharing opinions on brands. With nearly 31% of Millennials living at home, 50-plus consumers' lives intersect more than ever with their children's and grandchildren's, which exposes all generations to new products and brands. In addition, many Boomers are offering shopping opinions on social media. While people share their positive experiences, not surprisingly they are more inclined to post about a brand when they've had a negative experience. United Airlines and Pepsi found this out earlier this year when both became the subject of scorn in social media.
Reclaiming Boomer Loyalty
Simply put, brand loyalty isn't what it used to be. But the good news is that marketers can win Boomers back.
- First, create a sustained marketing effort that is relevant across the life stages of consumers 50 and older. Consider the Boomer mindset. Boomers are known as the Sandwich Generation because they often support both adult children and aging parents. They are working longer because of financial obligations, as well as for added income, autonomy and fulfillment.
In other words, Boomers are active and have huge responsibilities. Make sure you create informed marketing that speaks to their values, priorities, needs and interests.
- Second, create cross-platform marketing campaigns that go deep within each medium to develop the frequency necessary to have an impact. Boomers are digitally savvy. Smartphone penetration in this group is now 73%, and most Boomers are on social media. Utilize these platforms to reach and develop relationships that influence.
- Finally, use relevant, positive language and back up your message with action. Take a cue from
Allure magazine and AARP, which recently phased out the term "anti-aging" because they recognize that aging isn't a negative experience. Additionally, offer shoppers rewards for loyalty, provide top-notch customer service or give back in some way.
Brand loyalty as we have known it is dead. In their zeal to chase the Millennial market, advertisers have overlooked the fact that the over-50 market isn't content to stay with brands for the long haul—unless those brands are willing to continue communicating with them and addressing their specific needs. Now is the time to work on this relationship before it's too late.