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How Each Age Group Responds to Digital Marketing

8 mins read

In the past couple decades, major shifts in technology have changed how consumers and brands do business. Unsurprisingly, these changes have impacted different age groups in different ways.

Younger folks are using technology differently from (and more often than) older generations. That’s what happens when one person is raised with a cell phone in hand and the other is introduced to dial-up internet in their 50s.

But what does this mean for you, my fellow marketers?

It means you need to look long and hard at who you’re targeting before creating your marketing strategy, especially when digital media is involved. All brands should have serious discussions about the age groups they are looking to attract and discuss how each group’s relationship with technology and stage in life might influence how and why they buy. In this article, we’ve pulled together key data on how each age group uses technology, consumes media, and spends their money.

Is separating my advertising campaigns by age group a good idea?

It is a good idea to consider the age group of your target audience when putting together any advertising campaign, but a word to the wise: don’t get too caught up in marketing to any single characteristic of your target audience. If you market only to someone’s age, you could end up with something weird like this:

Please, don’t do this. I beg you.

Before we dig into some of the trends advertisers are seeing in different age groups, I want to dispel some common myths about targeting by age group.

1) Not all Millennials (or Baby Boomers, or Gen-Xers) buy the same way.

Look, the demographic groups we’re discussing in this article are massive. Most of the “generations” we commonly refer to have a 10-20 year span, so they’re going to be a diverse bunch. Here’s a breakdown for you:

Keep the vastness of these groups in mind when choosing who to target, and try to find another factor (like interests or household income) to consider along with age.

2) Technology is not only a young person’s game.

According to recent statistics, people in the 55+ age group are flocking to Facebook. Not only that, but four in ten seniors now own smartphones. Obviously, if your adolescence involves instant messaging and mobile phones (like Generation Z) you’ll probably use the devices differently than your grandparents. Still, thinking that digital advertising will only reach those born after 1990 is a big mistake.

Got it? Great! Then let’s start breaking down these generations to help inform your marketing strategy.

Note: Unless otherwise stated, all stats below were sourced from Pew Research, US Labour Board, US Census, Investopedia, Nielsen and Sprout Social.

Age Group #1: The Seniors (65+)

Demographic group: Early stage baby boomers (65-73 years old) and remaining silent generation members (73+ years old)

Median Income (US): $893/week

Other assets/financials:

  • Majority are homeowners.
  • Many are on a “fixed income” based on their pension/retirement savings.

Digital technology usage:

  • 85% have a cell phone; 46% have a smartphone
  • 67% have internet at home (84% for those 65-69, number reduces for older seniors)
  • 62% use Facebook and 20% use LinkedIn
  • Very few (less than 10%) use other popular social networks (Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat)

Tips for advertising to buyers who are 65+:

  • Research shows that this age group is more loyal to brands than their younger counterparts. If you are an older, trusted brand, leverage that reputation. If you are new, consider aligning yourself with someone they trust to get their attention (such as sponsoring their favourite baseball team or partnering with a long-time retailer).
  • Focus your media buys on radio, Yellow Pages (if applicable to your business), newspapers, direct mail and television.
  • 62% of seniors are on Facebook, but many companies do not target them because they wrongly assume none are online. That means more clicks at lower rates for you! While a huge digital strategy isn’t necessary, a simple and engaging Facebook ad that aligns with your radio/TV/newspaper spots may have a meaningful impact on seniors who are online. Remember to make your website and landing pages accessible!

 

Age Group #2: The Boomers (50-64 years old)

Demographic group: Mid to late-stage baby boomers (born between 1952 and 1964) and early Generation X (born between 1965 and 1968)

Median income: $979/week

Other financial information:

  • Majority are homeowners.
  • Average savings are between $117,000 and $172,000.

Digital technology usage:

  • 94% have a cell phone; 46% have a smartphone
  • 87% use the internet
  • 72% use Facebook, 24% use LinkedIn, 28% use Pinterest, and 21% use Twitter

Tips for advertising to buyers who are 50-64:

 

Age Group #3: The Growers (30-49 years old)

Demographic group: Mid-to-late Generation X and early Millennials.

Median income: $971/week

Other financial information:

  • Prime spending period. This group is called “Growers” because they are doing a lot of building and upgrading – buying property, starting families, getting a nicer vehicle, and settling into a career.
  • As they are further from retirement, 30-somethings tend to save less of their income than older adults despite making comparable amounts.
  • Average savings for this age group are between $45,000 and $63,000.

Digital technology usage:

  • 98% have a cell phone; 89% have a smartphone
  • 97% use the internet
  • 84% use Facebook, 34% use Pinterest, 33% use Instagram, 33% use LinkedIn, and 23% use Twitter
  • Only 13% of them use Auto-Delete Apps like SnapChat

Tips for advertising to buyers who are 30-49:

  • Time to get mobile! These buyers are making some BIG buying decisions from their smartphones, so make sure your Facebook ads lead to a mobile-friendly landing page.
  • Almost all “Growers” use the internet to research purchases and connect with brands. Go all in for digital content if this is your target demographic. Social media ads, retargeting, paid search, a great website…it’s all increasingly necessary, especially as more Millennials join this age group.

 

Age Group #4: The Young Adults (18-29 years old)

Demographic group: Mid to late Millennials and Generation Z.

Median income: $729/week

Other financial information:

  • Tend to have more debt (typically student debt) and fewer assets than previous generations did at their age.
  • Most enter the housing market later, particularly in expensive urban areas.
  • The median savings for late twenty-somethings is about $16,000, but those in their early to mid 20s likely have less (if anything) saved.

Digital technology usage:

  • 100% have a cell phone; 94% have a smartphone
  • 98% use the internet
  • 88% use Facebook, 59% use Instagram, 34% use LinkedIn, and 36% use Twitter
  • Young adults, along with those younger than them, are the only age group with sizeable use of Messaging apps like Whatsapp (42%) and Auto-Delete apps like SnapChat (56%)

Tips for advertising to buyers who are 18-29:

  • Stay current! What worked for 20-year-olds ten years ago may not work anymore. Keep an eye on what’s happening, and always continue to experiment with your marketing strategy.
  • People in this age group are the most likely to seek customer support on social media – that includes posting publicly they love what you’re doing, as well as posting when they have a problem. Make sure you double down on your digital customer service so any online inquiries, compliments, or issues get a response ASAP.
  • 95% of Millennials expect a brand to have a Facebook presence and many want to be able to build a relationship with brands they love through social media channels. Keep social media on your front burner if this is your target audience.

Why Understanding Age Groups Matters in Advertising

One of the main jobs of advertisers is to measure trends. It makes sense – if you’re going to sell something you should know what your customer wants to buy and how they want to buy it.

A person’s stage in life, their financial situation, their relationship with technology and the time period in which they grew up can all influence how they shop. Studying demographic trends and taking advantage of targeting technologies can help present your brand in the right way to the right people. For that reason, understanding age groups is essential for building a smart ad campaign.

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