When we posted our recent blog on The Millennials, we extolled the economic vigour and importance of the digital natives – that cohort of the population which has not really known an economic life without the internet, and who have a growing assumption that their lives will continue to become more connected and more cashless.

But it would be a mistake to think that the baby boomers are immune to the appeal of “frictionless commerce”. Once you’ve made an Uber booking and experienced the convenience of knowing who your driver is, how far away he is, and not having to fish into your pocket for your wallet at the end of the ride, you won’t readily give it up, and increasing numbers of over 50s are using apps and smartphone-based payment platforms to locate and make discretionary purchases such as dining and drinking.  For many businesses, the “Grey Army” the baby boomers, have become is an important economic force.

A Growing Army

The first thing to understand about the Grey Army is the extent to which it is growing. In November 2015 there were 6.4 million Australians over the age of 55. Our ageing population is living longer, and is therefore growing and remaining economically active for longer.

Not All Baby Boomers Are Equal

The next important feature of this cohort is that it is quite markedly stratified. The term baby boomer refers to anyone born in the twenty years following WW2.

This means that as well as older members for whom technology may be alien, it also includes a large stratum whose working life saw the introduction of computers, the internet and the mobile phone –arguably the greatest scale of change of any group alive.

Having seen so much technology come and go, Boomers may lack the social motivation which drives the millennials to pursue “anything that’s hot”, but they aren’t scared of technology, and when they use it, it’s usually with the intention of getting a certain outcome – they “mean business”. Marketing to this group by appealing to a sense of urgency is likely to fail, and they may be actively resistant to “sizzle” marketing. On the other hand they respond extremely positively to straightforward, outcome-oriented messages, and to reputational marketing.

Boomers Sometimes Need a Little Help

While the Grey Army may be comfortable using online services, they tend to struggle with keeping track of loyalty programs. Marketers should be using messaging at the point of sale to remind them to use their rewards. The integrated POS systems in use today provide quick and simple ways of doing this.

Online Buying Habits

While the younger baby boomers are likely to be comfortable using mobile devices to look for products, services and entertainment, they tend to use them as an analogue of their computer, to browse and research, and to be less likely to use apps. Their uptake of apps is likely to increase the more they hear “happy customer” stories from their peers. Making sure that baby boomers who do find their way to you through an app have a rewarding experience is vital to growing the uptake of apps in general.

Social Distinctions

Baby boomer Australians are not as comfortable with Social Media as their millennial compatriots, and they probably never will be. But in increasing numbers they are participating in Facebook. In 2014 they were, percentage-wise, the fastest-growing cohort of FB users. Teenagers, by contrast, were abandoning FB in favour of microblogging platforms like Snapchat and Tumblr. Indeed, the fact that FB has lost much of its “cool” may add to its appeal to the Grey Army, perhaps not least because they are less likely to run into their kids!

Unlike younger users, baby boomers are likely to use FB less for trivial social engagement, and more for the practical outcomes it can deliver – common interest groups organising their activities, groups travelling together keeping in touch with each other and with home, and, of course, organising their leisure activities, including dining and night life. So the Grey Army’s participation in Social media is not only growing, but is punching above its weight in the market relevance stakes.

Gender Distinctions

The men of the Grey Army are still more prolific users of smartphones to transact online commerce. Boomer women prefer tablets, but they are the fastest-growing cohort of Facebook and Pinterest users.

Capturing the data

Your Point of Sale becomes an important tool in capturing data for this cohort and ensuring they are handled correctly.  Prompts such as are you a loyalty member, have you swiped your card today gives ‘the grey army’ gentle reminders of how to earn points.  In addition using buying behaviours analysis from your POS gives greater insight into how their dollars are spent.   So why not check out the percentage of this cohort that are buying say red wine and run a special promotion catering to their favourite tipple.  Simple engagement will ensure one they get that special recognition and two they remember you.

Your POS is the headquarters of your promotional campaign. If you’d like a Health Check to make sure you POS is up to the challenge, give your Vectron representative a call today.