Business can click with silver surfers
Figures on wealth, ownership and consumerism for the over 50s suggest that getting these folks online should be a commercial imperative, writes JOHN HOLDENIT IS ESTIMATED that approximately 70 per cent of Europe’s wealth is in the hands of the over 50s. In the last 20 years, consumption within that age bracket has risen three times as fast as the rest of the population. By the same token, the latest research carried out in Ireland showed that only 25 percent of over 50s in Ireland have IT skills.
Yet there is no massive push on the part of advertisers and marketers to get older people online. Surely with the massive growth of online advertising and by extension online shopping, one would assume more of that “old money” would be aimed at?
The last in-depth research conducted in 2008 – commissioned by the Work Research Centre and Age Action Ireland – indicated that 25 per cent of people over 50 are online but only 35 per cent of them were engaged in functional usage. In other words, they had internet access in their houses but they weren’t getting a whole lot of benefit from it.
“This study is old so we’re also trying to stimulate better more up to date research in the area,” says Sinead Gibney, head of social action at Google Ireland and co-architect of Google’s Age Engage programme, which aims to build scalable and sustainable models for IT skills in older people.
Perception of older people within society as a whole is the first problem in tapping into this market. “It is presumed everybody in society is now online,” says Eamon Timmins of Age Action Ireland.
“This is not the case. Many older people are yet to overcome the psychological barrier of starting to learn how to use a computer and yet it is this community which could benefit most from being online.”
Fifty-plus is a pretty wide age group to be working from and there are misconceptions on the flipside too. “The available research starts at age 50, which obviously is an incredibly diverse group in society,” says Gibney. “Many 50-plus people are considered to be dependent. But the figures say otherwise. Only five per cent of people in Ireland over 50 are in residential care.”
Whether older people are online or not, they are very often ignored by marketers who continue to reinforce stereotypes of young, hip people using their products or services.
“There is an interesting anomaly in the motor marketing industry,” says Gibney. “The vast majority of small cars are bought by older people. Yet have you ever seen an older person in a small car ad ?”