Here’s the synopsis of a radio interview I gave to Singapore’s 938LIVE on Thursday, 26th February.
938LIVE: What piqued your interest in the 50+ market segment so much so that you even set up a strategic business and marketing consultancy last year, dedicated to researching consumer motivation and behaviour of this group?
K. Walker: A United Nations World Population Report in 2007 declared, “Population ageing is unprecedented, without parallel in the history of humanity.” World leaders and Singapore leaders are interested and concerned. C3A held a very successful “Retirement Asia Conference” and “50 Plus Fair” in January.
938LIVE: Why do you think marketers need to pay more attention to this group?
K. Walker: APAC 50+ spending power to hit US$2 trillion in 2015, 50+ is a silver lining for 2009. It affects almost every category. Toys (USA) = 30% sold to grandparents!
938LIVE: Just how quickly is the world’s population aging?
K. Walker: In the more developed regions, the number of people over 60 exceeded the number of children (under 15) in 1998. In Singapore = next 10 years, 50+ pop grow by 500,000 people = 37% of total population.
938LIVE: Are you saying the retailers ought to relook their services and re-examine their target audience as purchasing power shifts from younger to older persons?
K. Walker: All consumer marketers should review their strategies. Not only the ageing consumer by shrinkage among younger populations! (Teens in Japan will decline in numbers by -16% in the coming 10 years and in that same time, the under 50 population in China will shrink by 117 million!). Purchasing power has already shifted so the opportunity is now!
938LIVE: Some markets may deem this market a group of ‘oldies’; how accurate is this perception and what ought to change?
K. Walker: That’s part of the problem! Most marketers and agencies are staffed with young, 30-something executives. No ‘experience’ with age. They consider this market segment ‘un-cool’.
Research shows that we aspire to be younger: global average = 13 years younger. Asia 5 ~ 10. The younger a society, the older we feel e.g. India where most people feel “the same age or older” in stak contrast to attitudes in Australia and japan.
938LIVE: What are fundamental characteristics of members of the 50+ market?
K. Walker: Several stages of ageing spanning the 35 years from 50 to the average lifespan of 85 years.
Until we reach the ‘old-old’ stage, we are mostly in denial about age – certainly don’t want to be referred to as old
We have less of a need to impress others. We tend to be more philanthropic, spiritual and family focussed
938LIVE: What essentially are the motivations and drivers to spend?
K. Walker: Importantly, all senior consumers are not the same. It’s difficult and dangerous to generalize. Attitude/lifestyle segmentation should be applied as with any other consumer (age) group.
938LIVE: How much potential is there for the marketer to tap on this demographic group?
K. Walker: Based on MasterCard research, in Singapore 65+ were responsible for US$3.6 billion spending. By 2015 that would reach $10.8Bn.
938LIVE: I read that there is a difference in attitudes between the 50+ from the East and those from the West towards obligations to family and self. How different are these attitudes?
K. Walker: Driven by Confucian values (Japan, Korea, China, Singapore & HK). Filial piety (India) and age profile of the countries concerned. The more developed ageing societies see retirement as a time to reward oneself and a feeling that children need to manage their own lives beyond that point. Particualrly Australia and to a degree, Singapore. Asian retirees will still consume and spend but they will do so less ‘conspicuously’ so as to avoid peer and family scrutiny.
938LIVE: What would you recommend as being the winning formula or strategy to capturing the 50+ market?
K. Walker: Three keys:
1) Universal Design means that products and services are designed to accommodate the practical and emotional needs of young and old without an overt reference to either;
2) Ageless Marketing is about employing strategies such as retail placement and product labelling that make product
3) Inclusive Communications ensure that older consumers are not alienated by messages that are unnecessarily skewed younger or which simply don’t reach the 50+ audience through chosen media.
938LIVE: What are closing tips and advice for how businesses can stop and do an evaluation before repositioning themselves to meet this expanding 50+ market?
K. Walker: We run an audit across the ‘13 aspects of ageing’ to determine age-readiness of the businesses. We also conduct workshops to help businesses discover the Silver opportunities and make teams aware (and sensitive) to them.