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Boomer consumers are roaring into their 60’s, defying the stereotypes of aging and providing a demographic goldmine for marketers. But how long can it last?
A new study of 1,100 Boomers gives marketers a first glimpse of the Boomer consumer at age 70. The research was released at the What’s Next Boomer Summit, and will also be presented at the annual gatherings of the nation's two largest professional associations in aging—the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and the American Society on Aging (ASA).
In brief, today’s Boomers predict that when they turn 70:
* 74% still won’t be describing themselves as old
* 86% will be more practical and pragmatic in their purchases, and much less concerned about trendiness and indulgences
* 76% will be using technology to stay connected with family and friends
* 93% will have more time to do things like travel, dine out and pursue hobbies
* 63% will be making some kind of move, but only 9% of Boomers now in their 50’s or older imagine themselves at 70 still in search of “the dream home”
“While Boomers will still be accountable for more than $2 trillion of consumer purchasing power, it appears there will be a fundamental shift in their buying patterns,” says Steve French, managing partner of Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), a leading market research and strategic consulting firm specializing in healthy aging, wellness and sustainability. Global public relations agency Fleishman-Hillard’s marketing-to-Boomer initiative, FH Boom, collaborated on the study in conjunction with NMI’s proprietary Healthy Aging/Boomer (HAB) research project of 3,193 Americans, now in its fourth year.
Primary beneficiaries of the fundamental shift
“Primary beneficiaries will be responsive companies that can deliver Boomers pragmatic value and style, such as restaurants offering smaller-portion Boomer specials centering on healthy, organic food and automobile companies that pack their economy cars with ergonomic features while also taking advantage of the robust market for used luxury vehicles that will be developing. This evolving market, in essence, will be rooted in sensible luxury,” says French.
The study also reveals that the Boomer generation, which has a reputation for acting from dissatisfaction with the status quo, now perceives itself as being on track to unprecedented levels of satisfaction, happiness and thankfulness. A full 75% of Boomers anticipate that “their best years are ahead of them."
Revolutionaries vs. retrolutionaries
“This generation is a moving target, continuing its lifelong tradition of shaping industries and challenging the status quo,” says Dr. Carol Orsborn, co-chair of FH Boom. “However, now the key is to think of Boomers at 70 not so much as revolutionaries, but as ‘retrolutionaries’. By this definition, retrolutionaries are the vast majority of Boomer-aged consumers who are aiming to get their monetary expenditures in better alignment with values formed at earlier stages in their lives. Think the 2016 version of Birkenstocks and VW in the 60’s and 70’s: living affordably, but with style.”
Not all of the generation’s return to its consumer roots will be driven by a philosophical shift in ideology, however. The study also shows that the turn to the pragmatic is highly correlated to the fact that only 41% of Boomers state they have a secure, financially sound plan for retirement. Even so, Boomers anticipate that after paying their basic living expenses, they will have on average, 22% of their income left to spend on discretionary purchases.
“When the first Boomers turn 70, there are still 18 years of the generation to follow, the vast majority of whom are wide open to new products and experiences in virtually every category—as long as marketers stay on top of the generations’ rapidly changing ethos,” the researchers conclude.