SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- Anyone who thinks grandma and grandpa are out of the loop when it comes to consumer electronics is in for a surprise.
Fifty-, 60- and 70-somethings use many technologies at rates comparable to those among younger consumers, according to a study by the Consumer Electronics Association and TNS Compete of 3,135 adults in November 2008.
For example, people in their 50s were as likely to own or plan to buy a high-definition TV as those younger than 50. Eighty percent of 60-somethings had used a cellphone in the past week, nearly equal the usage rate among 18- to 34-year-olds. Seventy-one percent of 60-somethings and 52% of 70-somethings had used a search engine in the past week, compared with 77% of 18- to 34-year-olds. (Of course, since the survey was conducted online, the respondents were likely to be fairly tech-savvy.)
Consumers over 50 number about 100 million, among them the cherished baby boomers once lusted after by advertisers. The demographic has billions in disposable income.
Trick is personal attention
The trick to reaching this group is to give them some personal attention. While they use technology, aging consumers remain old-school in some respects. The majority of older Americans are comfortable researching and purchasing electronics products, and the internet is a widely tapped research tool. But many also lean heavily on in-person information sources. Sixty-three percent spoke with a sales associate in person when researching their consumer-electronics purchases, compared with 47% of those 18 to 49.
Older consumers also reported a higher level of frustration with the complexity of technology. Sixty percent of consumers 50 or older identified feature-laden products as a main source of frustration with technology, compared with 39% of consumers 18 to 49.