Baby Boomers (technically, those whose age was 40-58 in 2004) make up, at almost 80 million, the largest generational demographic today. And, among Boomers, women not only outnumber men but also influence as much as 80% of household purchase decisions, from food and finance to travel and technology.
In other words, Baby Boomer women are the greatest market opportunity today. Investing in better understanding these women will undoubtedly provide companies with greater advantage in the marketplace of the future.
Many marketers have yet to grasp that the younger consumer markets (Gen X and Y) spend less than their parents and grandparents. The advertising industry has been slow to update stereotypes of aging and women.
In reality, Baby Boomer women are a savvy, complex group of consumers, leading multifaceted lives and looking for answers as they experience multiple life stage transitions. And they don't think of themselves as "older," but as young-at-heart (with a few wrinkles).
The following insights and recommendations shed light on how to better connect with her reality and harness the purchasing power of this influential segment.
50 is the new 30
Marketing to the "aging" Boomer woman is tricky, because she cringes at being viewed as "mature" or "senior." She's not going to relate to the waif Vogue model, but she also doesn't connect with the stereotypical cardigan-wearing grandma, either.
Focus your brand messaging on youthful attitudes, embracing your age, wisdom from experience, emotional relevance, vitality and inner beauty. One company taking on reinventing aging and image issues is Dove, with its Campaign for Real Beauty (campaignforrealbeauty.com).
Boomer women want it all The apparel industry recognizes that while many Boomer women are trading down and simplifying their lives, they still want to look and feel their best—and that means looking stylish and youthful.
A Boomer woman's apparel says a lot about her attitude as she ages more gracefully than any previous generation. She is demanding style without sacrificing comfort and fit.
Leading the way are powerhouse brands Target and Gap. With new lines and brand extensions geared toward women over 35, they are attempting to win back these women previously abandoned for the teen market.
Women are the primary purchasers of consumer electronics
The stereotype of the single 30-year old male consumer-electronics nerd is no longer viable. Women play an increasing role in consumer-electronic purchases.
In the United States, they spend more than $55 billion on consumer electronics annually, out of a $96 billion total.(1) Yet, Boomer women feel largely ignored when it comes to product design, advertising messages and sales help in understanding products and services.
Make it clear and easy for the Boomer woman to understand how your products help her or her family members manage their multitasking lives and connect with others. Keep it simple; make buttons and labels intuitive, easy to use and readable.
Boomer travelers search for enrichment and rejuvenation
Travel is not just about sitting on a beautiful beach; it serves as much more for the Boomer woman. Travel is her way of reconnecting with herself, her loved ones and the world at large, which explains why Baby Boomer women spend more per trip on travel than any other age group.
For this woman, travel is about adventure, learning and rejuvenation. It's time away from the everyday routine, and it's a chance to check inward and take stock of her life.
How can you capture this world traveler? You may want to rethink those images of a barely clad couple lolling in the surf. The Boomer woman is often more likely to travel solo, or with her girlfriends, than with a spouse.
Market to her key concerns and understand the amenities she is looking for in a trip. Her needs will differ, depending on whose suitcase she is helping to pack.
Boomer woman entrepreneurs reinvent careers
Many women in their 40s are reaching the peak of their careers and earning potential. And "retiring" older boomers often don't stop working; they might instead be finally starting that consultancy they've always wanted to start.
The number of woman-owned businesses is growing at twice the rate of all US firms. When asked about their motivation in starting their own businesses, 45% of woman business owners indicate the desire for independence as the primary motivator.(2)
Understand the major differences between women and men in entrepreneurial roles, and you can reach your share of this lucrative market.
For example, women are more likely than men to rely on the Internet for its ability to open up new business opportunities and to enhance time flexibility. Not only that, but 86% of women entrepreneurs say they use the same products and services at home as they do in their business.(3)
Boomer women are smart Web surfers
Not only is the discretionary income of Baby Boomer woman greater than ever before, they also make up the most consumer-educated group surfing the Internet. In 2004, women aged 35-54 represented the highest proportion of Web surfers, compared with male boomers and all other demographics.(4)
For this multi-tasking maven, the Web is not a toy. It's a tool, available 24/7 to take advantage of those unpredictable free moments. This savvy cyber-woman rewards those who make her daily balancing act a little easier.
Sites that customize information to her needs, recommend relevant products, offer expert advice or keep a running list of items she would like to receive or purchase will become her top destination. She'll return the favor by telling family, friends and colleagues about companies that help her achieve even more within the time constraints of a day.
Think about how you can serve her cyber needs with simplicity and style, and you'll gain a strong following with this highly wired demographic.
Boomer women have unique financial needs
As Boomer women start to realize that they will most likely outlive their husbands (on average by 6-9 years), live 19 years into retirement and possibly be managing a double inheritance (from parents and husband), they will likely want help with financial planning.(5)
Her priorities will be driven by what's personally important: children, grandchildren, health and philanthropy. Advisors who guide not just by logic and discipline but also by shaping solutions with her underlying emotional needs and priorities in mind will be most successful in helping her reach her financial goals.
Not all Boomer women are created equal
The Boomer generation is sizable, spanning a total of 18 years, in contrast to those who follow—GenX—which spans only 11 years.
The leading-edge Boomers (over 50) are closer to retirement (if not retired already), are exploring some untapped talents and interests and are more likely empty nesters. On the other hand, younger Boomer women are still in their 40s, maybe with children at home, and still focused on their careers. These two groups often have different needs and are receptive to different messaging.
Don't assume that a blanket marketing approach will resonate with this broad and dynamic customer demographic.
1. Consumer Electronics Association
2. Seizing the Opportunities, underwritten by Wells Fargo
3. Center for Women's Business Research, 2004
5. National Council of Women's Organizations, 2003