Sunday, May 19, 2013

Are Organisations Looking After Elderly Consumers?

Back in 1984, Charles Schewe mentioned in an  article that “the usefulness of ‘minorities’ as a means of segmenting markets has been a fertile area for market researchers for many years, but that they have largely neglected the elderly, those consumers over the age of 65. Marketers have failed to fully explore or understand the dimensions, character, and potential of this market. Furthermore, marketing activities directed specifically at this ‘older’ market seem to be a missed opportunity of sizeable importance. From a sales and profit potential, the elderly market is well worth the research effort necessary to secure accurate information about how to satisfy them. The elderly constitute a significant and growing market, where women outnumber men 3 to 2 and only 5 per cent of these seniors live inside institutions. Only 10 per cent of them live with children. Household size logically is reduced as is full-time employment. While health is generally poorer, only about 15 per cent require special health or social services. The elderly are not poor. Per capita income in households headed by 65+ persons is but 7 per cent lower than the general population average; and it has been estimated that the elderly need only about 60 to 80 per cent of former income to maintain their standard of living, and are given to ‘dis-save’ rather than to hold on to their assets.”
Nearly twenty years later in 2003 research by Yany Gregoire highlights that little has been done to address the ‘elderly consumer’ both from a strategic, service and product focused perspective. In fact if you read academic articles on this subject most still site references going back to the 80’ and early 90’s because so little seems to have been done since then.
Part of the problem is that you have to be ‘elderly’ to understand this segments needs and concerns; and if not elderly you have to have been performing the role of a carer to even start to understand all the dynamics that are going on. The problem is that you have young minds trying to imagine their older counterpart and in my experience, as a carer, missing their needs, expectations and hence the opportunities by a mile.
It’s worth remembering that the over 65 age group is a significant market size now, and is just going to grow in size in the future becoming a ‘powerful’ market force to those that can learn to understand their needs and communicate with them effectively. The steps behind the theory are no different to any other target-market segment, you must understand their expectations and create the products and/or services meet them.
Another part of the problem I’ve noticed is that many ‘front-office’ staff simply don’t have the patience to deal with this ‘target-market’ – so as they show their frustration, their customer either walks away or hangs-up the phone and the potential sale is lost. Worse still this customer segment will not forget and will not engage with that firm again – contrary to what many seem to think, this age group are very ruthless when they receive poor service (whether real or perceived) and yet can be extremely loyal to the company or individual that gives them the service they need.
Two key facts are that, firstly this is already a huge lucrative market segment that is only going to get bigger – so it’s worth making some effort to listen to their needs and attract their custom; and the second fact is that, if you’re lucky, you’ll be that age one-day so treating people like you’d like to be treated is an old axiom worth remembering.
Organisations are missing out on real opportunities within this ever growing target-market and hence are leaving the door open for sme’s and entrepreneurs with the right vision and patience, to carve out a nice little niche for themselves – which if developed correctly will give them a loyal and growing customer base, and a sustainable business going forward.  
Charles D. Schewe. (1984). Buying and Consuming Behavior of the Elderly. Findings From Behavioral Research. Advances in Consumer Research. Vol. 11, p.558-562.
Yany Gregoire (2003). The Impact of Aging on Consumer Responses: What Do We Know? Advances in Consumer Research. Vol. 30, p.19-26.

No comments:

Post a Comment