Many entrepreneurs get tempted to make products they want to buy themselves instead of paying careful attention to what helps their potential customers. That's why talented young tech entrepreneurs tend to build the products that talented young people want to buy even though research says one of technology's next biggest markets isn't just young buyers. In fact, it's composed of people at the other end of life--senior citizens. 

The idea that older people are technology averse is mostly a myth. As early as 2014, two-thirds of senior adults were going online regularly. That number increased, and as of 2017, 42 percent of the senior demographic own a smartphone and 32 percent own a tablet, according to the Pew Research Center. As more online users move past the 65-year-old age marker, these numbers may mean the number of tech savvy senior adults is only going to grow.

Not only can senior adults use technology, but they also need to use it. People with dementia, for instance, can rely on a smart assistant such as Alexa to help them manage everyday life. And senior-dominated fields, including healthcare, are growing increasingly technology dependent. Plus, senior adults often enjoy using technology to stay knowledgeable about the world and connected to their friends and families.

How can tech entrepreneurs market to this fast-growing-- but often overlooked --market?

1. Brush up on social media so you can reach the "silver surfers." 

Baby boomers use social media just like younger generations do. In fact, more than 80 percent of Boomers are actively posting and reading content on at least one platform. Facebook gets the most Boomer users by far although they love Pinterest, too, according to research published in Business Insider. Twitter and Instagram have yet to catch on with this group, though. The most active Boomers on social media are women, and they gravitate toward informational, slower-paced videos and easily shareable content.

2. Employ straightforward content and imagery.

In my experience, senior adults appreciate direct communication. As a whole, they respond best to simple, easy-to-digest written content and images that show the product you want to sell. Elevated language or overly artistic illustrations are more likely to confuse your prospective customer than hook them. 

Keep your messaging on point, simple, and actionable. Bear in mind that most senior adults despise being stereotyped. They tend to see themselves as 10-15 years younger than they really are, according to Senior Digital Marketing Manager Karina Tama-Rutigliano of Caring People Inc, so words such as "elderly" don't resonate with them. And by all means, don't say anything that could sound patronizing. Most older Americans guard their independence, and they are vigilant about anything that might diminish it

3. Micro-segment and hyper-localize your senior adult marketing strategy.

Seniors do not form a monolithic market segment. Each older adult represents other demographics besides age. Yuriy Boykiv, Co-founder and CEO of Gravity Media, says if you are talking to African-American seniors, for instance, you'll want to emphasize family, community, and religion, all of which they tend to prize. Asian-Americans say they value social harmony, saving, and education. And Hispanic-Americans give pride of place to family, traditions, and language. Seniors of all races say they will spend money on health and fitness products, tools that enhance independence, and family-oriented purchases.

Hyper-localization is also important when talking to senior adults. These consumers belong to a specific place on the map along with their age and racial demographics. You'll want to use the idioms, cultural expressions, and behaviors that resonate with a particular city, region, or country in which you are marketing your products. Seniors appreciate messaging that elevates their unique local spirit.

Selling new technology to senior adults is the next big thing in tech. Position yourself to market your products well, and you can get a jump on what promises to be a lucrative niche for years to come.

Published on: Aug 28, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.