OK BOOMER – The Potential of Gray Tech

Most of the topics we’ve covered this semester seem to be related to cutting-edge technologies and the concepts behind them. For any of these digital tools to truly change the way the world works, the majority of consumers need to buy in and I think oftentimes it’s easy to forget about the baby boomer generation. I don’t think this has to do with the characteristics of the boomer generation specifically but rather the attitude of anyone in their late 50’s to mid-’70s. The older people get, the less willing they are to try new things, to push the envelope, to experiment, and be vulnerable. Usually, this is because they feel as though their life experiences have helped them refine what works best for them and there’s no reason to risk disappointment. In terms of the older generations in our society baby boomers are actually a much more appealing market for digital transformation efforts than the silent generation, which I hadn’t read much about before this semester. As soon-to-be MBA’s, I think it’s critical we understand this generation, what their concerns are and how we can facilitate mutually beneficial digital transformation which will help accelerate our rate of evolution as a whole.

So who are baby boomers other than people around our parent’s age?

  • They were born between 1946 and 1964, which means they’re between 57 and 75 years old.
  • They spend more money shopping online than any other generation.
    • Consumers older than 50 account for more than half of US spending. 
  • 39% of baby boomers consider themselves to be early adopters of new technology.
  • They spend an average of 27 hours a week online.
  • By the year 2030, 20% of the US population will be 65 or older.

Source: statista.com

So they have money and show a willingness to expand digitally, why the need for the increased focus?

  • Only an estimated 5 to 10% of marketing budgets are devoted to winning them over.
  • Only 5% of advertising images of people over 50 show them using technology.
    • Even then it’s oftentimes a younger person teaching an older person how to use a device.
  • 46% of the U.S. adult population is age 50-plus but only 15% of online images containing adults include people in this age range. 
  • Portrayals of those over 50 are negative 28% of the time – compared to only 4% of the time for younger people.
  • 70% of the time, people in this demographic are shown in isolated situations – often seated, alone, with a partner, or with a medical professional where they were the recipients of care.

Any digital technology will struggle to gain widespread popularity with the dismal focus on this generation that is detailed above. But the answer to getting baby boomers to buy in isn’t simply an advertising and marketing problem, as the drivers of digital transformation it’s important we understand their concerns and what they’re looking for. By doing this, products and services can align themselves accordingly when coming to market. 

So what are baby boomers concerned with?

  • A 2020 survey found that 78% of respondents expressed concerns relating to finance and retirement.
    • 77% conveyed concern about managing health and fitness.
  • The rank of baby boomer concerns (highest to lowest):
    • Accessing medical information 
    • Buying medicine and prescriptions 
    • Monitoring their health
    • Accessing their healthcare from a doctor, nurse, or hospital 
    • Retirement savings

This list of concerns is what has me convinced that there needs to be a more specific focus on this generation in particular. These concerns are topics that will impact each and every one of us throughout our lives. There’s nothing mentioned about entertainment or a desire for hot new investment – this generation is focused on using digital technologies to improve our collective quality of life and we should be taking advantage of that. Expressing concern directly shows the generational level of demand and this learning period is too valuable for us to take our time with. To get nice and selfish – I hope we can leverage this generation’s health-related concerns to reinvent the way aging has been administered by the society we live in…that way all the kinks will be worked out when we’re in need of a more efficient, digitally focused health system. The demand is certainly there are you can see below.

Other than the technologies and platforms themselves, the real key to getting the baby boomer generation to commit to change is trust. Especially in the two topics they are interested in the most –  healthcare and money management – boomers need to be able to trust that the alternatives being offered will add value to their lives and will not harm them. This is much different than concerns of younger generations as it relates to digital transformation. From my perspective, although trust is big, it seems to be more about added value via an experience than a process improvement for millennials.

I’ve spent this semester researching how the healthcare industry is undergoing a digital transformation – specifically, what the best approach would be to convince baby boomers to give a new digital healthcare platform a chance. I’m curious what each of you would do to convince boomers to trust and depend on your newly created platform, in any industry of choice. Which tech companies do you think do a good job adding value to this generation?

Sources:

9 comments

  1. This is a fascinating topic, and I can certainly agree that the Baby Boomers generation is being ignored on social media, ads, etc. Given that by 2030, 20% of the US population will be 65 or older, I think it is essential to include them and create platforms that can help them manage the things most important to them: health and money. An App that I found is tailored towards this generation is Mint. Mint lets you monitor your spending as this is a personal finance app where you can sync your bank accounts on one page and check each expenditure. You can also control your spending habits by designating a limit, and it organizes your spending into charts and categorizes it into groceries, gas, food, entertainment, etc. It is also a platform to pay your rent and other bills, so you do not have to go elsewhere. This app is straightforward to use and specifically tailored towards the Baby Boomers generation.

  2. Great questions! I think the last two years have seen the adoption of digital efficiencies at a rate faster than we’ve seen before. Ironically enough, and perhaps my example is an outlier, but those close to me are not on the train to digitize the financial sector. My parents both still write checks, balance the checkbook, and mail the payment to the stores. However, I have seen them adopt digital entertainment quite quickly. I just wrote a blog on the DoD’s ability to digitally transform, and the parity between the ages of decision-makers and the subject of your blog is spot on. While I think we have been seeing a significant change in the DoD space, our country needs to boost efforts to transform quicker, but with security at the forefront of that transformation, something that the boomer generation has done pretty well over the years. Great post!

  3. Amazing topic, I knew that we had sort of been neglecting this population with tech and marketing, but this fact blew me away: They spend more money shopping online than any other generation. For that reason, you’re right, there’s a massive market opportunity. I did some digging and it seems like boomers do much better with being able to talk to their technology than fumble through app screens, so i wonder what our guest speaker from a few weeks ago would have to say about Alexa usage. I do remember him saying you could call 911 from it, which would be good if a boomer falls and cannot reach a phone. Another article talks about empathy being key, so strong AI functions to mimic that, or impeccable customer service could help with adoption too. https://www.vox.com/the-goods/22689802/elder-friendly-technology-grandpad-jitterbug-old-people-tablets

  4. I think Boomers would love to have an app that manages their medical records, appointments, lets them monitor symptoms and jot down notes for their next doctors appointment. I don’t think I’ve come across a mainstream app that manages this. But when I think about how many different appointments they have to keep track of and not having a single place where they can store their records can certainly be an hassle. Great Post!

    1. Very interesting topic! I have spent time thinking about why such an app doesn’t exist. I think a real challenge is the number of people that would have to have access to the app in order for it to reach it’s full potential. For example, an elderly person may have a number of doctors, then a pharmacist to fill prescriptions, perhaps they receive services through home health aid and then they have their grown children who are concerned about their health and safety. As you can see there is a team of people creating, distributing and needing access to this information. I am certainly no expert here but I also wonder if HIPAA is an additional road block to making this a reality.

  5. Very interesting topic! A few of the statistics really surprised me including the amount of US spending online by boomers and their interest in tracking their health. And you are completely right; I rarely see fitness tracking devices like FitBit marketing towards an older generation. I wonder if health technology understands their market, but chooses to advertise to a younger generation because they want to convince boomers that it’s the “latest tech?” Just a thought…maybe they have no idea and should hire Boston College grads to analyze data haha!

  6. I think it’s really interesting to map concepts of this course across generational blocks. And I think you’re asking some really relevant questions about marketing to this demographic. One thing I will note is that there is a huge range of potential life concerns in this particular age range, perhaps more so than any other? Or maybe each of these generations gets more fragmented as that group gets older?

    The interests and needs of someone in their late fifties could be radically different than someone in their seventies. For marketing purposes maybe it’s more fruitful to break out this group into two subsets? (roughly the 1950’s boomers & the 1960s boomers)

  7. You make an excellent point in that this generation has been largely ignored in digital advertising. Other than your typical companies (AARP for example), tech companies are not targeting this audience. I believe this is because companies have convinced themselves they need to market to Gen Z and get the younger audience addicted to their products. I think companies like Meta would benefit greatly by targeting baby boomers as the highest percentage of users of Facebook are older individuals.

    Overall, this is a demographic that is entering or is near retirement and has money to spend (if they saved for retirement). Given this situation and more free time, companies could benefit greatly by marketing towards baby boomers to get a major piece of the market.

  8. I think you’re spot on when you say that “Other than the technologies and platforms themselves, the real key to getting the baby boomer generation to commit to change is trust.” I mentioned back in one of my first posts that I was helping digitally transform my legal team. One way we did this was by using Teams to have live documents. While I do think Teams would be better off fixing this feature, my bosses were in a panic: “Are you sure, Lexie, that I can just press ‘close’ and it’ll save my work? I’m going to do it. You’re sure?”

    Grey tech is important, but not for the faint of heart. I think it’s encouraging, though, to see how well-adapted my bosses are and even my grandma – all of whom use iPhones and iPads! As long as tech creators keep it simple [, stupid!], then there’s much traction to be gained in this less popular sector.

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