When we think about digitally engaged consumers, our minds typically go to one place: younger generations. What’s easy to forget is that the baby boomer generation kicked off many of the technological innovations we take for granted today; Amazon and Netflix, for instance, were both launched by baby boomers.
My company, Alliance Data, conducted a survey of 2,515 U.S. adults in 2018 and found that there’s a sizable boomer audience — about 20% — that is very comfortable interacting digitally. I find that this “digital boomer” population is often overlooked by marketers, but it represents a unique opportunity for brands to engage and drive sales in the digital space. And with baby boomers as a whole representing more than a third of overall consumer spending in 2017, brands have a lot to gain by understanding and reaching this important boomer subgroup.
Who are these digital boomers? They’re a subset of baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) who use mobile apps, text messages, social media or online display ads to keep up with their favorite brands. Spanning all income levels and evenly split between male and female, digital boomers dispel the myth that all online consumers are young, and they have a few important characteristics that differentiate them from the rest of their generation.
If brands can understand these characteristics and segment their communications accordingly, they have the opportunity to win with this often untapped group of consumers — and deliver the relevant personalization they’re looking for. Here are several key strategies to consider:
Prioritize Multichannel Consistency And Quality
Boomers overall keep pace with the average consumer in terms of online shopping. According to credit card transaction data from Visa, among cardholders ages 60-69, 40% of spending is on “card not present” transactions — that’s only slightly lower than the overall figure for all consumers (40.3%). However, our research found that 45% of digital boomers report shopping their favorite brand online multiple times per month, compared to 24% of boomers overall. Furthermore, we found that 68% of digital boomers use three or more channels to connect with brands, while only 30% of total boomers report the same.
With digital boomers engaging across more channels, brands need to resolve inconsistencies and close the gaps between online and offline offerings and experiences. For example, if your brand is known for providing high-touch service, digital boomers will expect that white glove experience both online and off. This could include things like recognizing a repeat customer, offering personalized recommendations, elevating the service around an online purchase/in-store pickup moment, and making customer service easy to locate and engage.
Choose Innovations With Clear Benefits
Another characteristic of these digitally savvy boomers? They aren’t afraid to experiment, which means they may be more likely to embrace a brand’s new technology, like an app, mobile payments or an online purchase/in-store pickup feature. We found that 75% of digital boomers have tried a brand’s technology offering, compared to 61% of total boomers.
This means brands testing new technology offerings shouldn’t just look to younger consumers for feedback. Ensure your brand is getting responses and usage data from older consumers as well. The key for brands looking to connect with boomers is to ensure that technology is solving a real consumer problem. While they are willing to experiment, boomers overall are least likely to try new technology just because of a cool factor, so communicate the clear benefits.
Personalize And Engage
The differences between digital boomers and other boomers go beyond just their comfort interacting digitally. These shoppers are actually connecting with brands more deeply overall.
Our research found that digital boomers are 29% more likely to say they love their favorite retailer compared to all boomers. They are also twice as likely to shop a brand that offers a personalized experience, and 34% are more likely to choose a brand that offers a fun, enjoyable experience — making it clear that the little things go a long way with this group.
Personalization is popular with consumers overall, yet research shows that less than a quarter of consumers feel the offers they receive from brands are highly personalized for them. Adding a customer’s first name in a subject line no longer cuts it. Many consumers expect brands to strategically use their data to provide promotions that are relevant to them in the moment. By tapping into the preferences of this digital subgeneration, brands can build deeper, more relevant connections with them — and ultimately, drive more sales.
These unique characteristics of digital boomers reinforce the importance of segmentation within brands’ marketing and communications, even within the boomer generation. By segmenting your audience deeper, you can offer personalization that genuinely delivers more relevant, timely information, in the way they prefer to receive it.