Winning over the elderly in post-COVID times

This post is sponsored by Mintel.

Asia Pacific’s population is ageing at an extraordinary pace, with the number of older persons expected to more than double – from 535 million in 2015 to about 1.3 billion in 2050. It is estimated that one in four people in the region will be 60 years old or older, while the “oldest-old” (80 years or older) will constitute about one fifth of all older persons.

This demographic is, however, often overlooked and marginalised by brands; or generally described as a homogeneous group.

However, their consumption willingness and readiness to accept novel things are influenced not only by their age, financial background or long-established habits, but also by their children, communities and the rapid digitalisation of society. In particular, the outbreak of COVID-19 has pushed them to explore digital services and entertainment at home, and the usage of digital services has become a trendy lifestyle norm for them.

mintel dec 1

Once the worries over COVID-19 are relieved, Mintel expects their financial confidence and social needs to rebound. Some of the key trends Mintel has observed include the accelerated adoption of online shopping, the rise of digital services as a source of entertainment and a greater focus on personal health. By capitalising on the right channels, brands have the opportunity to win over the senior population.

Improving the stay-home experience

As identified by Mintel Trends Driver’s “experiences”, technology has made experiences available to the masses and can enrich their self-isolation period at home. Seniors are not an exception.

It’s a common misconception the elderly are bad with technology, but many are actually agile and their venture into the digital space has been exacerbated by the pandemic and supported by governments through initiatives such as Singapore’s Seniors Go Digital. Keeping up with digitalisation has become not only a survival skill, but also a trend. It can be expected that after the outbreak is contained, seniors will pursue a combination of digital services and offline activities to lead a full and content life.

For many seniors, their priority has also shifted to in-home spending. According to Mintel’s monthly tracker to understand the impact of COVID-19 in China, more than half of surveyed females in their 50s spent more on in-home foods than the previous month. This shows a growth opportunity to tap into home cooking occasions by offering more high-quality ingredients and creative recipes.

Appliances such as dishwashers, home-baking appliances, washlets and electric massagers can also demonstrate their value to elderly consumers, making staying at home easier and more enjoyable, as identified by Mintel Trends Driver’s “value” and “experiences”.

Focusing on seniors’ holistic wellbeing

The pandemic has undoubtedly forced seniors and non-seniors alike to start taking care of their physical health. Wearing masks and constant sanitising are already the norm and are likely to be maintained for a long time.

Looking beyond physical health, mental and emotional health has also been thrust into the spotlight. The Mintel Trends’ “social isolation” discusses how citizens in the senior cohort are traditionally most associated with loneliness. Support from a diverse set of programmes that seek to keep seniors active and looking forward to activities and hobbies can help prevent the onset of loneliness and mental depression.

According to Mintel Trends Driver’s “wellbeing”, consumers are driven to invest in products and services that help them to remain calm, and avoid stress, during an unstable period. This suggests business opportunities for digital exercising channels to launch courses targeting seniors, which can be designed to suit their body conditions.

Online entertainment can be innovative in content and formats to tap into the older demographic. As a group that is typically neglected, they are demanding products and services from brands and organisations to help them connect with their social surroundings. According to Mintel research, 50% of over-55s say that most of their leisure activities involve using digital technology. They may be slower in acquiring new skills than youngsters, but not necessarily less interested.

Community groups as an effective channel of communication

The impact of budget, a pillar of Mintel Trends Driver’s “value” significantly influences consumers’ purchase decisions, especially among seniors. Most seniors were brought up with a frugal lifestyle and are prudent when it comes to purchasing products and services. They are more likely to set up a budget and stick to it, therefore it is important to convince senior consumers the purchase is worthwhile.

In Singapore, there was an influx of group-buy WhatsApp groups that were neighbourhood-based. It functions as a useful channel where they can connect with others in the neighbourhood and purchase items that would normally be hard to get their hands on, at a cheaper price.

In the post-COVID era, seniors are likely to be more conservative on price, keener on quality and increasingly driven by value when making purchases. Community-based shopping groups can continue to influence senior consumers through word-of-mouth communication, increasing faith in product quality and showcasing value.

As we get used to our new normal, it is important to note the senior population is a demographic with a lot of potential. Their move towards digitalisation has given brands new opportunities to reach out to and connect with them.

In the midst of the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic, consumers, including those in their 50s, are positively seeking out products and services that help them de-stress. Products and services that improve their life quality at home will help brands to approach the more elderly.

In the longer term, provision of information, social interaction and entertainment are key needs that brands can consider targeting. Brands can approach more senior consumers by supporting their demand for new and once-in-a-lifetime experiences to make them feel updated and on-trend.