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Boomers are Not a Generation New to Technology

Senior working on digital tablet

by Jim Gilmartin

Boomers adopt tablets, wearable devices and other technologies just as energetically as younger users, according to participants at last year’s Booming Tech forum, which focused on the use of technology in that generation.

Boomers “are not a generation new to technology,” said Joseph Coughlin, director of the AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This notion that older adults don’t love technology — that’s not on older adults, that’s bad technology”

And Boomers movement into digital life continues to deepen, according to data from the Pew Research Center. Boomers ages 51 to 69 have relatively substantial technology assets, and also has a positive view toward the benefits of online platforms. This indicates huge potential to gain new customers in this space.

Plus, this demographic, which makes up the majority of the U.S. adult population, can afford to spend money on tablets, cars with onboard computers and wearable devices.

The key is for technology companies to take the time to understand the physical changes of Boomers, as well as the changing manifestation of human values and motivators that we experience growing older.

As we age, we encounter physical changes that affect the quality of our lives. We can’t see or hear as well without assistance, and we lose some of our taste, smell and touch sensitivity. Companies developing products like smartphones, tablets, computers and other technological products would be well-served to consider these changes in the design of their products. When selling products to these groups, warranties, guarantees and “try it” programs are effective in convincing them to take a chance on new or unfamiliar technology.

Also, the psychology of marketing and sales to Boomers has to connect with their life-stage values, and the tech company’s value proposition has to align with what the consumer wants and needs. Does the product help them connect with family, grandchildren or friends? Does it provide more control in their life?

Does the product provide them desired experiences? Opportunity also lies in creating advertising that takes the high road and compliments rather than criticizes target-market values. Messages should elevate rather than denunciate.

Boomers are more experiential in their approach to new products, offering demonstrations and trials could be successful in testing new technology, but that could be an expensive strategy. Companies typically do this at the product-development stage, not in the sales channel.

Technology companies can help turn prospects into customers by creating experiences. Creating promotions, events and shopping environments designed to engage customers in a personal and profound way. Experiences create memories that are rich with sensations and personal engagement. Boomers are experience seekers.

And tech companies can get consumers’ attention by giving back to their communities. Most companies are not philanthropic. They exist to make a profit. However, the opportunity is always available for tech companies to embrace and support a worthwhile nonprofit cause and then enlist customers and stakeholders to participate in promotions that integrate advertising, sales promotion and public relations.

Technology companies would be best served to try to make their products solution-oriented. Boomers, especially older Boomers, don’t always use technology for the same reasons and in the same ways as younger customers. Technology must have a purpose that serves a need in their life. It is not only for recreation or to replace another form of communication — for example: texting versus phoning.

Many technology companies continue to be myopic when approaching Boomers. Products and services should address consumers’ needs. Too many marketing communications are focused on features (all about them) instead of the problem they are solving (all about the customer).

Focusing on bells and whistles doesn’t address Baby Boomers’ need to understand how the technology will provide them more control of their lives and make their lives simpler or better. Telling a compelling consumer story, and how product in use solves a problem and using cohort recommendations are all better approaches to winning over the Boomers.

View this article on MediaPost.

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