These days hardly a week goes by without a story in the press about the over 50s. They are increasingly upbeat – just look at Mick Jagger still rocking at 66, Helen Mirren looking fabulous at 63 and the growing numbers of people over pension age choosing to continue working.
For the first the UK has reached a tipping point, with more people aged over 60 than under 16.
Not surprisingly this seismic change in demographics is at the top of the Government’s agenda and is driving thinking in many areas of policy.
Managing an ageing population requires a major shift in strategy as well as spending, with fewer young people to generate the wealth to keep us all in the manner to which we’re now accustomed.
In our experience most retailers and product suppliers haven’t quite grasped what’s happening, or indeed thought seriously about how this will affect their business in the long term.
So the first thing to get your head around is what the change in UK demographics, and an ageing population, means for your business, and whether you’re going to embrace or ignore it.
For those who see it as an opportunity its then time to examine your communication and distribution strategy.
A major study that we at Years Ahead, the UK’s first positive ageing consultancy, have recently conducted reveals that almost two out of three people over the age of 40 want to live independently as they get older.
People are desperate to avoid moving in with family members and only one in five would choose assisted living or residential care as an option.
The research questioned over a 1000 people who experienced difficulties with aspects of daily living, whether it was simple tasks like preparing food or getting up and ready for the day, right the way through to pursuing their leisure time activities such as Gardening and DIY.
For decades a specialist independent living product market has been quietly growing, concentrating on older people with specific difficulties or needs, but the Government is now working on moving this market into the mainstream high street, similar to the de-regulation of opticians’ services in the 1980s.
But why is this probably the greatest opportunity that retailers, brand owners and product suppliers have had for decades?
Well the recipe goes a little like this……………..
Take the 20 million consumers aged 50 plus who are unaware that life could be easier with the right product solutions.
Then take the fact that 95% of people who actually went for a product solution said their purchase had really helped them make life easier (almost unheard of in other consumer satisfaction research).
Add to the recipe the statistic that 85% felt that their purchase was good value for money and money was not considered a major barrier and now you’ve got all the evidence you need to start putting this topic on your organisation’s agenda and to think how you’ll tackle this issue.
So why aren’t businesses wising up to this?
Product development has been woefully slow, particularly in terms of design and appeal. Marketing to this group of consumers simply isn’t sexy or appealing. Maybe it’s because our marketing and design functions are populated by twenty or thirty-somethings for whom the needs of older consumers don’t even make it on to the radar?
Some businesses, like B&Q and Argos, have already recognised the opportunities in this area and have started to make some inroads. But for other retailers and product suppliers, the time has come to think about whether you’re meeting all your potential customers’ needs.
Building awareness is best done by talking to older consumers using a language that they connect with. This is not about reinforcing the negatives of getting older.
It’s about communicating the normality of the situation, a sense that the changes people experience are a natural part of the ageing process and that considering ways of making life easier is worth thinking about.
The right choice of media, to reach this audience, may not be through the usual channels. It’s surprising how choice is informed from the web, direct shopping, and seeking advice (whether through professional recommendation or friends/family), seeing others out and about with similar products all play an important role.
Are you clear how you can influence people’s thinking?
Years Ahead was formed in 2007 and gives advice, training and consultancy to retailers, product suppliers and other organisations.
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