The Case for Marketing to Seniors Online

Seniors have long been considered a waste of time for online marketers. The misconception is that they are strictly using the internet to email their grandkids and they are not net savvy enough to make a full forced leap into the online world with all of the researching, socializing and online purchasing activity included in the online culture. Getting past this falsehood may be the only thing keeping you from your online marketing success.

Seniors ages 65+ are one of the fastest growing online sectors and they represent a huge opportunity for several products and services. According to a 2006 Pew Internet & American Life Project survey, 34% of Americans age 65 and older go online. Another report, conducted by Harris Interactive in May 2006 found that of the 172 million Americans online, 14 million of those are the 65+ crowd. This number doesn't even take into account the baby boomer generation who is set to start hitting retirement age by 2008.

What are they doing online other than emailing? A recent Focalyst Online Activity Report states that seniors go online to make travel arrangements, check the news, find health information, bank, and shop. There is a prevailing assumption that older people are just using computers for email and exchanging photos, but that is simply not true, says David van Nostrand, Focalysts chief research officer.

While the current senior online population is not a huge percentage of the total online US population, let's take a look at the kind of buying power they have, which is where a niche travel marketer can truly benefit.

Seniors are the most affluent age group that exists. They own 70% of all money market accounts and certificates of deposit. Their per capita income is 28% higher than any other group and they own over 62% of all large Wall Street accounts.

While this sector is a huge opportunity, there is also the issue of trust. Seniors are pickier than their younger counterparts about where their investment money goes and who they spend it with.

While one would not immediately think about the toy industry, let's not forget doting grandparents, since seniors are responsible for purchasing 25% of all toys. They spend over a whopping $29 billion annually on grandchildren's gifts.

Seniors account for 60% of all healthcare spending and they spend quite a bit of online time researching health-related content and products.

How will you capture this rapidly emerging market? Senior shopping and surfing habits are not the same as the 18 to 35 crowd where the click and buy happens more instantly. Instead, they will be more patient about their research and spend more time looking into a product before purchasing it.

Pairing a direct mail campaign with your online efforts can make a big difference in this market, since seniors are more likely to open and read all direct mail pieces. Establishing trust is the key, which means the initial investment of time will be longer than a kid's site, a moms site or many other types of popular niche sites. However, the rewards you may reap in the end are limitless with the kind of buying power you are targeting.