Top 3 Myths About Marketing To Boomers Online

by Sathishkumar on May 11, 2011

I’ll be honest. When I used to think about targeting baby boomers online, my gut reaction was, “Why? When my parents even try to do something incredibly easy on the computer, I always end up doing it for them. Otherwise I’ll be forced to bare a cacophony of horrible typing and expletives I didn’t even know existed for the next several hours…if not days.” But, as it turns out, this was a perfect example of letting a personally based, preconceived notion about a demographic effect a self-proclaimed marketer’s outlook. (You know? The thing that marketers are never…ever…ever…supposed do?)

Marketing To Boomers Online

Recently I got into a heated discussion with some folks about targeting boomers online. Shortly after, I decided I was going to prove my instincts were right with some “old fashioned” research. So I went straight to Emarketer and pounded each key with a stroke confidence. After finding exactly what I was looking for, I arrogantly smiled and thought, “They can’t argue with this”. And then, I began reading.

With each word, I could feel myself physically sinking in my chair…what I once considered my personal throne had now become an old and tattered L-A-Z-Y-Boy. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My assumptions could not have been more incorrect.

So, to prevent anyone else from this miserable experience, I thought I would  share what I learned to be my three biggest misconceptions about marketing to boomer’s online.

1.  Boomers Aren’t Tech Savvy and Rarely Use the Internet

When I think of baby boomers, the phrase “tech savvy” doesn’t exactly come to mind. (I mean…didn’t…come to mind.) I think of my parents (or my friends’ parents) of which less than 1% know how to use the home row keys, much less be capable of sniffing out the best deals for their newest (although likely short lived) interest in bird house building kits.

There’s no doubt that baby boomers are huge audience that deserve respect from the marketing community, but I was astonished to find out just how many boomers led active lives on the internet. In fact,  over 78% of baby boomers consistently participate in online activity. (Which, by the way, is roughly 60 million people!)

I know what you’re thinking…Boomers may get online to check their email one a month…so what?

average time online

According to a comScore report, baby boomers don’t just spend sporadically check their email. Boomers spend more time online than any other demographic. So much for the idea that Baby Boomer’s aren’t worth segmenting and targeting with specific online content, strategies, landing pages, etc.

2. Boomer’s Are Extremely Brand Loyal

Again, my perception was based on my parents…well, in this case my dad…who at this point might as well be Fred Flintstone. My dad won’t buy shoes anywhere but Benny’s Shoes in Atlanta. Even if he was on a trip in New York, he’d get his shoes overnighted from good ole’ Benny. But, while this type of brand loyalty may be true for offline purchases, the boomer generation is actually surfing the internet, looking for better products or deals. (After I thought about it, this kind of made sense considering boomer’s propensity to whimsically change from one passion to another.)

One of the reasons boomers tend to abandon brands online is that they are often living on or nearing their retirement. For someone who has been brining in checks every 14 days for the past 40 years, this reality can hit quite hard. As a result, boomers are often less brand loyal and more budget conscious. And as you already know, the internet fosters capitalism to the nth degree, resulting in bargains galore. Boomer’s are equally, if not more, aware of this and view the internet as the best way to find the lowest prices and widest selection of goods.

It’s also important to keep in mind that a lot of boomers aren’t simply making purchases for themselves. They have grandchildren, great grandchildren, third nephews thrice removed, and so on. Forget Christmas! Shopping for that many birthdays alone has to be overwhelming. And the Internet provides boomers with the perfect solution; a quick and easy way to find and purchase all these gifts, without even having to leave the house.

When someone makes a lot of purchases for other people, there’s very little reason to become loyal to any particular brand. In most cases, boomers are just going online to purchase whatever Little Susan’s mom told them she’d like. They don’t ever see, touch, or experience the brand or its products. There’s no reason whatsoever for them to have any feelings towards the brand at all. If you take this and combine it with the endless number of online shopping aggregators (Amazon comes to mind), most boomers probably couldn’t even tell you the last five brands they purchased online.

3. Boomers Don’t Feel Safe Spending Money Online

Boomers are by far the most sensitive demographic to online privacy and identity theft. That being said, it would make sense that boomers would generally be reluctant to make online purchases, right? Wrong!

Not only do boomers spend more time online than any other demographic, they also spend more money. According to a Forrester Research report, Boomers outspend other demographics by considerable amounts.

An equally surprising statistic comes from an Experian Simmons study published in February which found that 49% of boomers thought making online purchases was safe, compared to 47% of total internet users.  In other words, Boomers actions don’t necessarily seem to be in unison with their criticisms considering Boomers find shopping online more safe than the average internet user.

The bottom line? No matter how many times your grandmother warns you about identity theft via the internet, boomers are more interested in the savings and convenience of shopping online than they are about online privacy concerns.

One More Interesting Statistic

When I was doing this research, I cam across a really interesting graph displaying the preferred methods of communication by age group.

age as it relates to communication

What I find most interesting is how amazingly well age correlates to preferred style of communication. In almost each case, the data provides an almost perfect slope. This especially true (and surprising) when it comes to email. So, the next time one of you parents nags you about calling your grandparents (hopefully they don’t have to do that!), then you can just show them this and tell them you think they’d prefer an email. That’s much easier, right?

Author Bio: Spencer Belkofer is and student and professional in the digital marketing field. He is also the owner of Lumin, an Alabama Internet marketing firm. Lumin’s latest infographic design provides an unbiased perspective on the issue of indoor cannabis growth as it relates to energy consumption.

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Article by Sathishkumar Varatharajan

Sathishkumar is an Online Marketer and a full-time Blogger.

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  • Usman@FirstHosting

    Well, I guess every market have some presence online , smaller or bigger but it do’ve, where as its good oppurtunity if you are first one to take a start on it.

  • Tho Huynh

    Hi Spencer,
    You have put lots of thoughts and efforts to this post, especially investigating these researchs. I am absolutely agreed with no3. My parents don’t believe in the trust of internet paying systems. They think of these systems as a type of fraud. And they don’t spend even a single dime on the internet.

    • Gourav Jain

      Well, our parents have seen lots of things and a lot of the world. They are still back with the traditional things. So its really difficult for them to quickly adapt to the modern technologies, especially internet based.

      But things change. My parents also didn’t believe in Internet Paying Systems, but as time has passed, they are also updated and now they are believing in these systems.

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