Doesn’t it make sense to market to the people who can best afford your products? Meet “the mature shoppers.”
All business owners should know that people over 55 are the fastest-growing market segment. And they are a formidable force. By 2020, the number of those 50 and older will grow by 74 percent, while those under 50 will only increase by 1 percent, according to the Center for Mature Consumer Studies.
They own 77 percent of the financial assets, purchase 43 percent of domestic cars, and make up 80 percent of the luxury travel business.
These consumers shop and they have money. But what you may not be aware of is how unhappy they are with their treatment by many businesses.
A well-known 60-something Denver lawyer, who only shops in a computer store when he has to, often takes his 23-year-old son with him. Otherwise, he says, nobody will wait on him. “Maybe that is because I don’t look young enough to know anything about computers. I have actually had to go grab someone and drag him over to the computer I am looking at,” he says.
A woman in her 60s, who takes her 90-year-old mother shopping, said, “I have watched my mother be totally ignored in restaurants as well as clothing stores. Once in a Chico’s, in Florida, she had to ask for help a few times, even though there was no one else in the store.”
Another woman, who is 75 and extremely hard of hearing, left a King Soopers supermarket in tears because the clerk was yelling at her.
One senior had a fantastic experience at an Apple store. The young sales associate took plenty of time and didn’t use trendy technical words. He made a sale and a friend that day. However, an 82-year-old acquaintance of the senior, a recently retired online university professor, says she seems to be invisible at that store. Yet she owns four computers and could become a great customer.
Shelly Brown-Smith, 55, manager of a small Bryn Walker (upscale fashion) store, had a clear perspective about selling to older people.
“All my sales staff is older,” she says. “They have all been selling for 30 years or more. I think to relate to your customer, you have to be like your customer.”
The following are some tips for tapping into this valuable market:
- Treat older people the way you would want to be treated. You’ll be part of that market before you know it.
- Do more listening than talking. Notice them, ask how you can help, and listen. Don’t call them honey or dear, don’t condescend, don’t correct them (they are probably right).
- Hire older workers. They can relate.
Pay attention to what kind of customers walk in your door. If you’re seeing more older people and if they walk out empty-handed, it’s time to revisit your customer service. It would also be beneficial to do some quick on-the-spot surveys asking these customers to help you make your store more user-friendly.