Marketing to the Ageing Consumer

There are more people of state pensionable age in the UK than there are children under the age of 16 – approximately 20% of the population. The combination of the falling birthrate, rising longevity and the post-war Baby Boom means the physical and online high street is going to look a lot older.

This is not a temporary change but a permanent shift in the age demographics that is echoed in the US, Europe and much of Asia Pacific.

Who is affected?

The market for products that are purchased and marketed to older people is not a new invention. The age-silo market includes the unexciting mix of products that older people are reluctantly forced to buy. Those types of products we would rather not consider – the stair lift, hearing aid, walking frame, retirement home etc.

The much larger group of products bought by older consumers are exactly the same as those purchased by their sons, daughters and grandchildren. The list of age-neutral products is endless and includes airline tickets, computers, fmcg products and cars, to name just a few. In many these product categories, older shoppers are the dominant customers. For instance, luxury cars, healthcare, financial services and holidays.

Even though companies would not categorise themselves as targeting older customers the reality is that the customer experience they provide must be suitable for this age group, especially since many of them are the most affluent consumers.

New way to view the customer journey

How do you ensure that your customer experience works with older customers? The concept is extremely simple. Instead of analysing the customer journey in the traditional way the components need to be evaluated through the prism of physiological ageing of the mind, senses and body.

What is physiological ageing?

Everybody is aware that as they age their body and mind changes – in most cases not for the better.
There are over 25 different types of ageing. A few of the most important types are illustrated in the diagram.

All of these ageing effects generate product opportunities in the age-silo category that has already been described. More importantly, many of them have a significant impact on the customer experience. In particular, the decline in customers’ eyesight, touch, hearing, muscle strength, dexterity and flexibility.

The devil is in the detail

This example illustrates how a simple concept becomes a complicated task when it is used to evaluate each of the customer touchpoints.

In this example the ‘product’ is divided into its five components. The product’s packaging can then be further defined into five touchpoints, each of which must be evaluated to ensure they are suitable for older customers.

It is clear from the endless complaints that older people have about product packaging that this is something that most companies fail to do.

To evaluate the complete customer journey involves studying each of the 200 touchpoints that are involved in the customer experience against up to 25 different effects of ageing.

The concept is simple the implementation can be complicated.

The solution

To ensure the customer experience is ‘age-friendly’ requires that each touchpoint is evaluated in a consistent way and that the results are processed to provide the marketing metrics to inform decision-making.

It is only possible to achieve this goal by using the power of the latest technology. The AF Audit Tool uses an iPad to guide the person evaluating the customer experience through a sequence of steps to consider each of the touchpoints. The iPad links to a web application using Cloud Technology that processes the results and creates the marketing metrics. This video explains how the AF Audit Tool works.

In an uncertain world there are a few things about which we can take for granted. Population ageing and the increasing importance of older customers are two such certainties.

Ensuring that a company’s customer experience is suitable for its older customers would seem to be basic business common sense and something all companies should be considering.


About the Author

Dick Stroud is the MD of 20plus30, a marketing consultancy that focuses on optimizing the effectiveness of customer touchpoints for older consumers.
He is the co-author of – Marketing to the Ageing Consumer – published on 27 November by Palgrave Macmillan. It is the first marketing book to explain how companies can adapt their customer experience to prosper from the physical ageing of consumers. Dick is also the author of two other marketing books, including bestselling The 50-Plus Market.
Before running his companies his career included working for IBM and PA Management Consultants.  Dick can be contacted at