Baby boomers’ digital behaviors and what they mean for brands

Older smartphone owners use their devices to access the Web.

Posted on Apr 30, 2015 by YuMe

While millennials are often regarded as the generation leading tech trends, baby boomers have become major players in device adoption. Consumers between the ages 50 and 70 have significant buying power, and brands have a better chance of tapping into it if they can provide engaging digital and mobile advertising on the devices and platforms boomers use most.

Many baby boomers are avid tech users.Many baby boomers are avid tech users.

Baby boomers' mobile use in numbers
According to comScore's "U.S. Digital Future in Focus 2015," more than three-quarters of all consumers who access the Web do so on desktop computers and mobile devices. The research provider noted that a significantly greater portion of people will  rely solely on their mobile gadgets to get online this year compared to 2014. Consumers over 55 in particular are the fastest-growing segment of mobile users.

A separate report from the Pew Research Center found that among smartphone owners 50 and older, 80 percent use their devices to access the Web and 87 percent do so to access email. While these are among the most popular smartphone activities for this demographic, a significant portion of boomers – 3 in 10 – use their smartphones to watch video.

Companies meeting digital boomers' needs
As the boomer generation relies more heavily on more screens, brands must adapt their messaging to ensure they're effectively reaching this highly valuable audience.

Nielsen recently released research on what consumers' expectations from certain brands are as they get older. As people age, many are becoming more reliant on e-commerce for retail purchases. For example, more than one-third of respondents to Nielsen's "Global Aging Report" stated they order groceries online, and 54 percent said they'd try it. The company explained people's openness to conducting traditionally brick-and-mortar shopping online is largely being driven by tech-savvy boomers. As such, companies need to adapt and give consumers the digital solutions they want.

The effect on advertising
As businesses are transforming their offerings to meet the mobile needs of their target audiences, they can't neglect the need to adjust their advertising as well.

As stated above, baby boomers have incredible buying power: Citing the Department of Labor, U.S. News & World Report explained Americans 50 and older control 77 percent of the country's total net worth and have roughly $46 trillion of wealth. Brands that can best reach boomers with effective advertising can tap into this profitable market.

So, what does effective advertising for this generation entail? For one, it requires strong mobile advertising strategies. With more boomers using their smartphones as their primary devices for accessing the Internet, mobile ads are a surefire way to get their attention.

In addition, much like other demographics, older consumers use their smartphones while in front of other screens like their tablets and televisions. So, while mobile is key, a mobile-only strategy won't get a brand very far. Effective multi-channel advertising ensures brands share the same message – but not the same ad – across every channel their target consumer comes into contact with. As video in particular takes off among aging consumers, company need to ensure their online video advertising efforts are reaching their target boomer audiences.