COMPANIES wanting to achieve long term business success must make their entire consumer experience “age-friendly” – a finding from our recent survey of 50+ Singaporeans. A brand’s “age-friendliness” is critical in determining purchase decisions and choices for six out of 10 consumers.
We believe “age-friendly” should be a new mantra for business. The explosive growth of the 50+ population across Asia Pacific means it is already a large, affluent market that no company can afford to ignore. Understanding their changing needs and offering an age-friendly customer experience will be critical to retain their existing customers’ loyalty and attract the business of others.
A recent global report from the Economist Intelligence Unit revealed that out of their survey of 583 senior executives, about three-quarters of companies believe that there is a difference in the needs of older customers and that 71% of the companies see this as an opportunity.
JP Morgan’s Ageing Population Index which tracks a selection of stocks with exposure to this group of consumers, found that stocks of companies most likely to benefit from the ageing population included clothing, hotels, cruise lines (tourism) besides the usual suspects like health and wellness and pharmaceutical businesses. In fact this index has outperformed the S&P500 Index in six of the past eight years!
New wine, old bottles
Companies cannot expect to be successful with the older demographic group without changing their processes and offerings. The first step is a review of the customer journey to assess its “age-friendliness” at all of the touch-points; from the website to the retail environment, from product design to sales support.
Toward this end, Silver has created SilverAudit, a rigorous, web-based process that tracks and measures “age-friendliness” of a company on a 1 to 5 rating scale of about 150 customer touch-points against 27 universal effects of ageing. This covers the sensory, physical and cognitive aspects of physiological ageing. The tool assesses not just a company’s products or service offerings, but the entire journey that the customer encounters: online communications, phone or sales support, store design and product literature.
The process was co-developed by leading authority and author of the top reference work 50+ Marketing, Dick Stroud of Britain.
Silver has found that those who are “age-friendly” tend to fare better not only in direct sales but also in their share value creation as they are able to reap the benefits of a larger pool of customer segments. No business category is immune to this.
Hot and hip Apple Inc is most age-friendly: SilverAudit
Apart from the library of paid studies conducted so far, we have independently conducted SilverAudit on several top brands around the world including Apple, American Express and Burger King. What we found is that Apple Inc, a company that seemingly appears to market to a young and trendy cohort, is in fact one of the most age-friendly brands. From their simple and clear online presence and intuitive products to their phone sales support, Apple scored 4.4 out of a possible 5. Just a few tweaks to their retail environment (seating and staff age) and their instructional information and they could achieve a perfect score.
The audit of Apple was conducted both at the Singapore and London outlets. Research from the United States indicates that between 25 and 44% of Apple’s customers are aged 55+ and their recent meteoric sales and share price appear to reflect the benefits of their inclusive marketing savvy.
Seeing how older people are more sensitive to nutrition due to their greater difficulty in controlling weight as a result of slowing metabolic rate, Silver also assessed two Burger King outlets: one in Britain and another in Singapore as another example. Their Singapore outlet scored a 3.2 out of 5 while the British outlet scored a 2.6, due to a lack of nutrition information of their products in Singapore and the difficulty in reading their information in Britain. On the retail facilities, both countries scored low due to the music being too loud and the toilet facilities being either too far away or the flooring leading to them being slippery – key issues to consider for the older market.
Looking at Singapore brands and businesses, Silver conducted an audit on the Singapore Tourism Board’s “Your Singapore” portal and it achieved a low score of only 1.5 in age-friendliness, largely due to a cluttered design, distracting animation and over-information which can confuse an older audience who may not be as tech-savvy as the Gen Y and Z. This site is a vital link for STB’s promotional activities to attract and inform visitors. Representing more than 25% of all tourist arrivals, older consumers are a key target of the leisure travel industry, thus it is imperative that the website is as age-friendly as possible. Yet My Singapore.com is confusing and overall navigation is difficult. There’s just too much going on.
Why an audit of age-friendliness is critical
Most 50+ consumers don’t want to admit to getting old yet physiological ageing is relentless and universal; usually beginning in our mid 40s with weakening eyesight. In our commercial world that has been optimised for younger people, simple things can often create barriers that will turn away older customers. By measuring the entire customer journey this way, barriers can be identified and removed, making the experience inclusive.
Kim Walker, the founder and CEO of Silver Group Asia, is a leading proponent of the concept of age-friendliness related to the physiology of ageing. He is the author of Marketing to the Ageing Consumer. This article originally appeared in http://silvergroup.asia and has been reproduced here with permission from Silver Group Asia.