Why Marketers Should Pay Attention to Boomers

By John Licardi  | 

The world is always getting younger. And as advertising, work, and media have all become more focused on digital over the last two decades, we’re seeing brands increasingly targeting Gen Z and even younger generations. Marketing to these audiences is common practice — with the right messaging at the right time, businesses can build lifelong relationships with customers. The pandemic, however, has brought to light many reasons why marketers would do well to keep the Baby Boomer generation top of mind.

According to a new eMarketer report, “Better Be Nice to the Boomers,” this subset of the population, now ages 56-74, entered the coronavirus pandemic in better financial shape than younger groups and have been hit less hard than other Americans. One-third of millennials and Gen Zers have felt an “extreme” or “negative impact” on their financial security. Meanwhile, only 16% of boomers say the same. No demographic group will leave 2020 entirely unscathed, but right now Boomers have wealth, their shopping habits are flexible and they’re willing to spend. Marketers, take note.

The decision of most states to shut down their economies in order to curb the devastating effects of the coronavirus led to record-breaking job loss. A large portion of Boomers, however, are already retired and not at the mercy of an unsteady job market. Others are considering early retirement. It’s predicted that a total of 4 million will have leave the workforce in the next three months. That number includes empty nesters with smaller households, where a large percentage of homeownership and personal wealth is concentrated. Boomers are far above the US average in owning homes, and nearly 75% of those between 55 and 59 own their homes. 56.8% of household wealth is held by boomers, and those further into their careers command higher salaries than their Gen X, Millennial, and Gen Z counterparts. During the pandemic, over half of Gen Xers and Millennials have had to discuss alternative payment options with creditors, compared to just 36% of Boomers. The large majority of the nationwide financial impact is being felt by the younger generations, but Boomers have money and are willing to explore new ways of spending it.

Boomers’ habits are flexible — and changing because of Covid-19 — but they’re still likely to resist superfluous marketing and products. 88% of Gen Zers and 94% of Millennials have smartphones, and while the number for Boomers is climbing, it’s still just 68%. Social networks have limited appeal to this generation. They are increasingly using apps for communication and messaging (to connect to children and grandchildren), healthy living, and shopping, but if an app isn’t useful, Boomers will avoid it, says eMarketer. The pandemic has also prompted this generation to increase their online buying, and while many say they are looking forward to returning primarily to physical stores, much of the convenience and innovation of ecommerce is likely to stick.

Nearly half of boomers have increased their online spending this year, and 30% have tried or considered buying groceries online. 62% of boomers will be digital buyers this year. During the pandemic, one in five have shopped online for the first time at a well-known brand or superstore, compared to the 8% that intended to increase their online shopping before Covid-19. Everyone is shopping online, but only boomers are widely planning to not curb their spending this fall and winter.

So what do Boomers want? Many want stores to reopen, but are also cautious and careful when shopping inside. Almost all want a return to “normal,” though some are taking early retirement. The generation most ignored by conventional marketing is now a demo ripe for marketers because, overall, 2020 has impacted them the least.

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