Ignore them at your own peril. Americans ages 50 and over have significant buying power. They represent 29 percent of the population and control 50 percent of discretionary spending. They are also very savvy consumers. That makes understanding their needs and their view of the world essential when you market to your members in this unique group. Who Are They?


Defining the over-50 isn’t easy. They are very diverse in their opinions and lifestyles. However, they also share some universal viewpoints. For example, they prefer privacy and self-sufficiency. They desire independence, both physically and in their lifestyle. Many are still looking to grow and expand their horizons -- ready to try new things and explore what they missed earlier in their lives. At the same time, there is a segment of the group that have a need to feel connected and be part of a like-minded community. They also want and often demand respect. And, when it comes to purchases of any kind, they want value. They believe they worked hard for their money.


To better define this mature market you first need to segment them by age and then by their vision of life. Here’s a look at the three primary age segments and how many in the group see themselves.


Pre-Retirees (Ages 50 to 61): Mid-lifers or pre-retirees don’t see themselves as old. Most believe age is only a number. Although many are grandparents, they are not

seniors as they see it; seniors are their parents and grandparents. It is a big mistake to use the “senior discount” strategy when you target this segment. A “think young” strategy is the best approach. Most in this group are technologically savvy. Most can use a computer. They also still buy fun vehicles, purchase new homes and travel, and more are choosing a healthy lifestyle. However, there are less loyal. If you don’t provide what they need or the value they want, they will go elsewhere. They view financial services as a commodity. In addition, their nests are already empty or soon will be. They are looking to explore new things and are much younger in their thinking than many believe. It’s important that younger and less experienced credit union service and marketing staff understand that these members are not “old” and should not be treated as or marketed to as if they are.


Dynamic Retirees (Ages 62 to 75): This group is more active then ever before, doing things previous generations didn’t consider. Many use computers and are still working. They also travel and are looking to have fun. Many will also say that age is only a number. They are proud to be grandparents and will do just about anything for the kids. They are also more concerned about living healthy. Proud and sometimes demanding consumers, they do react positively to personalization. They feel their name is important. However, there are segments in this group that have health issues and are more conservative consumers. Some are what is referred to as net savers, members that are deposit-driven and use fewer services. Some are discount driven and are always looking to save money. They are more loyal except when it comes to money. To market to Dynamic Retirees, it is more efficient to further define and select the more active members in this group based on the financial products and services they use. Targeting members ages 62 to 65 is usually more effective.


Seasoned Seniors (Over 75): They are old, they know it, and most carry the label proudly. They have paid their dues more than once and are members of a very unique generation. They deserve and sometimes demand respect. They will use fewer services and expect that the services they do use have value. Some require more personal service than others. Most are discount driven and like money-saving offers. They are generally more loyal but will move deposit money elsewhere if the savings difference is significant.


It’s also important to note that older consumers are continuing to join the Internet community, especially members ages 55+. For example, consumers in the 55 to 64 age group has increased as a percent of the total Internet audience from 9.5 to 11.3 percent. The consumers ages 65 to 74 has increased from 4.6 to 5.4 percent. And consumers in the 75 plus group 12.1 to 15.9 percent.


Targeting Their Needs


For the best marketing results, target the three primary segments separately and when possible by specific life events. Consider they may still have children in college or children getting married; have travel, retirement and housing needs, or may soon need or are already caring for an elderly parent. Consider any event where you can offer a financial product or service solution.


Remember that older members and potential memebrs may be less loyal and they want to know what’s in it for them. Always promote the benefits more than the features of a product or service. If you don’t provide what they need, they will go elsewhere.


It’s also important to remember that women live longer and control the money or influence virtually every household purchase. Do not forget them. In fact, you can’t go wrong if you market to women rather than men. They are more influential in health, home and travel than at any time in our nation’s history.


And finally, although most companies feel, and it is a feeling, that targeting younger demographics is more important, that strategy is changing. Older consumers just have too much buying power to ignore.


Source: Center for Media Research, Medina Associates, Callahan & Associates.