The Baby Boomer Market for Your Online Business - dummies

By Shannon Belew, Joel Elad

The aging baby boomer market has both pros and cons for online businesses targeting this niche market. When baby boomers hit the big Five-Oh, they became part of another interesting demographic — the over-50 market, with projections putting that total market size (not only baby boomers) at nearly 97 million in the United States.

Today, most baby boomers are in their 60s (and beyond) and have been making news for their impact on the American workforce. Estimates show baby boomers are retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day, leaving large gaps in the workforce, and especially depleting the more experienced senior management roles.

On one hand, the boomer group has earned a reputation for spending billions of dollars — online and off. However, some analysts wonder if members of this aging population, now headed into their Social Security–funded years, will still help fuel the economy with their buying habits or start to become a financial burden.

So far, research indicates that the boomers’ spending will remain strong. Not only does this generation control nearly three-fourths of all U.S. disposable income, but also its members are set to inherit $15 trillion in the next two decades, according to Nielsen. That is a lot of money sifting through the wallets of baby boomers!

Before targeting the over-60 customer base, you need to know some things about this group. Most importantly, you should monitor the changes in this group’s traits and buying behaviors as the boomer population shifts and adjusts with time. For now, consider boomers to be lucrative customers, and take a look at these common traits. They are

  • Open minded: Research indicates that boomers are willing to try new products, regardless of who makes them. Like everyone else, they have their favorites, but these consumers aren’t bound by brand alone. This flexibility means that you have room to introduce alternative products or services to boomers, and they’re likely to receive the message.
  • Value conscious: Everyone likes getting a good deal, especially consumers over the age of 50. Research shows that although this group is willing to spend money, boomers want to know that they’re receiving a value in return. That value can range from a quality product for the price to a fantastic experience that makes the money worth spending. Again, consider that the tendency toward shopping for a value may only increase as this market segment reaches retirement age or if general economic conditions change for the worse.
  • Influenced by peers: Friends tend to have lots of opinions about their buying experiences, and boomers seem particularly interested in hearing from their comrades. And those opinions frequently influence the boomers’ final buying decisions.
  • Self-confident: Friends and family aren’t the only ones with valuable opinions. People over 60 trust themselves, too. A person’s experience with a product or service greatly affects future purchasing decisions. That’s not to say that you can’t make an honest mistake and be forgiven. But this group thinks carefully before spending more money at your site if you’ve already let boomers down.
  • Research advocates: Before buying, this market wants the scoop on products. And boomers are willing to invest whatever time necessary for a prepurchase investigation.
  • Willing to spend: Baby boomers have plenty of disposable income, and they have a propensity to spend it.