India’s ageing population, which was just 7.5 per cent (77 million) in 2001, has increased to 8.6 per cent (104 million) by 2011, according to an India Ageing Report 2017, by United Nations Population Fund. The report has predicted that the population of senior citizens in India could be around 12.5 per cent by 2026 and could account for 20 per cent (300 million) of the total population by 2050.
While this is a significant number, this segment is often ignored by marketers, who are fascinated with the millennials and the young working population. Even the market research industry per se, more-often-than-not considers respondents who are aged over 40 or 45 years to be not eligible for research.
A lot has been written about the problems of aging and the opportunities it presents for medical care and devices, old age homes, retirement and pension funds, but this only presents one part of the potential consumption story, and there is likely to be a significant opportunity across different product categories.
In the US, on an average, seniors are the most affluent demographic of American society, with seniors having five times the net worth of the average American. While this trend is not as prominent in India we do see an evidence of the same. According to ‘Changing Patterns of Income & Expenditure of Older People in India: An Assessment’, a national study by Agewell Foundation, the elderly is increasingly disposing of considerable purchasing power and using accumulated savings in old age.
Given the above, we feel that this cohort of Baby Boomers (55yrs+) presents an emerging opportunity for marketers. To gauge the potential, let us first understand this segment.
First, let’s look at the Boomers segment demographically; most people in this segment are likely to be still working, at least till they are 65 years, having a reasonably decent income and with older kids who are either staying with them or have flown the coop. With the strong savings mentality which most Indians have been brought up with, they are likely to have a significant nest saved up, to look after themselves in their old age. This suggests that this segment `has the money to spend’.
Second, India has always been a collective society; however, in the last few years we see the emergence of the `I’ within the collective. While this trend is most prominent amongst the millennials, we see shades of this even amongst the older population. We see a trend of ‘living for themselves’ emerging in this segment. With having selflessly strived for their families through the years, this is the time when they feel it is `alright’ to indulge themselves. Coupled with the fact that Seniors live a healthier, longer and more active lifestyle than before, this opens-up several opportunities for travel abroad, upgrading the durables and vehicles at home, investing in personal care products-all without feeling guilty. In fact, the travel industry has already seen the potential in this segment; introducing various customized senior citizen tours and even `luxury-tours’ for them.
This change is also getting reflected in how the media has projected the elderly in the past and today, there is a vast change from the dour faced, grim or `bechari’ grand-mom to the new age whisky gulping granny of Vicky Donor; the cool daadi of gaana.com and olx.com or the ever-youthful Rishi Kapoor of Kapoor and Sons. The older generation today wants to live life on their own terms and enjoy the golden period of their lives, when they can meet the unfulfilled aspirations of their youth.
Third, interestingly, the huge age and mindset difference between the two age groups – of Boomers and Millennials notwithstanding, there is a strong attachment and bonding between the two. The grand child is emerging as a source of information, education and hand holding for the older generation, making the transition to technology much easier. The youngsters at home (especially the grand kids) are very often the source of information, education and hand holding when it comes to tech products. The internet boom has impacted the older generation too. They have embraced Facebook and WhatsApp with a zeal; and both these platforms have become a way of staying relevant, updated and connected to the younger generation as well as a new source of information and ideas.
The above do suggest that this segment displays an open-ness to adopting new products and consuming more conspicuously, albeit with the right hand-holding and nudge, a point that marketers need to make note of.
Boomers and marketers – a disconnect?
This leads us to the question-- are marketers engaging with Baby Boomers and dovetailing strategies to woo this segment?
The stark reality is that most marketers are not catering to the Boomer segment, and often it is assumed that what would appeal to the `middle aged’ would also appeal to this segment. However, one needs to keep in mind that the needs of this TG could be different and will need customisation.
Some key insights that marketers can factor-in while engaging with Boomers.
• The Target group wants to be young and adopt the lifestyle of the young, but how many brands consciously create products for this TG? Boomers may want to wear trendy/ western clothes or use personal grooming products; but most brands do not cater to their aging bodies and needs.
• While they are open to adopting technology; many of the new-age features, may confound them. The needs of this segment are more around user friendliness, comfort and easy adaptability rather than the flash value of gadgets.
• Seniors tend to be brand loyal which is good news for marketers. They also have a strong affinity to the Indian brands like Patanjali and Tata. In fact, Patanjali’s success has been contributed to a big extent by the older segment. They also prefer the tried and tested brands with a heritage rather than adopting new brands. This again presents opportunity for several players, to ride on their legacy and heritage.
• Great service is extremely important for Silvers. The physical challenges they live with, as well as the need for a `hassle free experience’ means that they may actually be willing to pay a bit more for good service and better sales/ door-step support.
• Peer influence also has a big impact on this segment. We have often seen that given their safe mindset, knowing that someone in their own circle has bought a product, works wonders, compared to celebrity endorsement. Hence, it would be important to have `community’ based marketing and real-life ambassadors for them, who would also address all their questions and concerns.
In all the above, it is important to create positive experiences which cater to the key motivations of Boomers as a target group, rather than making them adhere to our perceptions and biases around what an `older person’ would want.
Hence, it is important to wake up to the opportunity which this segment provides us with and move beyond focusing narrowly only on the younger TG.
(Ashwini Sirsikar is the Country Service Line Leader, Ipsos UU, India)