The silver surfer. No not that well-known superhero, but instead a generation of retirees spreading their wings online, using the internet for shopping, communication and news.

In recent years, brands have started to take note about how they market themselves online to this often forgotten demographic, but how has the current Coronavirus pandemic affected how these baby boomers use the internet and how will this play a part in the development of marketing to this sector in the future?

What are baby boomers and why are they important?

Baby boomers are those aged roughly between 55 and 75 years old, born after World War II. In 2019 there were nearly 14.3 million of them in the UK accounting for 21.3% of the population. This generation are the wealthiest of any in the UK with 1 in 5 (20%) classified a millionaire. In fact, those aged 65 years and older own 36% of the UK’s household wealth.

With this in mind, ‘forgetting’ about this demographic is ‘forgetting’ about a huge amount of potential revenue for your brand.

But what they have in wealth they lack in their ability (or inclination) to navigate the complex world of technology – or so that’s what is commonly believed.

Breaking down stereotypes

Did you know that pre-Coronavirus, these silver surfers spent 27 hours a week online, only two hours less than teenagers?

Data from a 2018 report shows that 92% of baby boomers prefer to shop online. It also states that this sector spends an average of 1 hour 48 minutes on social media a day, particularly on platforms like Facebook. They are 19% more likely to share content than any other generation (this is before the days of the self-isolation meme!) and 58% more likely than millennials to click through to a brand’s website from a social media post.

In other words, the worlds of online marketing and social media influencers are no longer just for the young…

The changing role of the internet for baby boomers amidst COVID 19

As the world faces the unprecedented COVID 19 pandemic, baby boomers are in the spotlight. With those aged over 70 ordered to self-isolate, the internet has never been so important, helping keep us all, but this more vulnerable group in particular, connected to supplies and with each other.

So how has Coronavirus affected the way baby boomers use the internet? Not as much as you might think, with the pandemic instead highlighting how ignored this audience has been in the past and how much brands have underestimated them.

Although online shopping and social media have been used by this generation for a while now, there are some technology platforms, which have seen a significant boost by this group during lockdown. Video tech apps in particular, like FaceTime and House Party, have had a huge upturn in usage across all ages, as we seek to keep in touch with our loved ones and combat loneliness during this isolating time.

Despite having to spend a bit more time coaching this older generation to get the apps up and running (something I learnt first-hand whilst teaching my 75-year-old parents to join House Party for a family game of Pictionary!) the results are worth it, with people already feeling more connected and less daunted by what these services can provide for them. Just take a look at the news and you’ll see a multitude of feel good stories showing us how these video apps are bringing generations together, from family games of chess to grandparents calling in for story time.

How can brands capitalise?

So, as baby boomers spend this time becoming acquainted with new apps, social media platforms and websites, how can brands capitalise on this and convert them into long-time customers?

The most important take out from this is that baby boomers are much more active online than they are given credit for, so brands need to start using online platforms to speak to them – and they can use this time of lockdown to do it.

Another lesson from Coronavirus is that younger generations are a great way to introduce your brand to baby boomers. They are prepared to learn new skills and engage with new platforms and content if it has been recommended by a trusted friend or family member. Buy-in from a millennial grandchild for instance, can be all it takes to convert a grandparent to using something which was completely alien to them, e.g. Video conferencing.

There are lots of simple ways to make your online marketing strategies more inclusive of these silver surfers.