5 Predictions for the Senior and Boomer Market
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In their book No B.S. Guide to Marketing to Leading-Edge Boomers and Seniors, marketing experts Dan S. Kennedy and Chip Kessler offer small-business owners a guide to targeting the leading-edge boomer and senior market. In this edited excerpt, the authors describe five areas in which forward-looking businesses can profit from the boomer and senior markets.
The time-honored formula for getting rich through marketing was once stated as "Find a need and fill it," but that required a bit of updating, as greater percentages of our population had their basic needs met. The late marketing expert Zig Ziglar's admonition is more apt: “If you will help enough other people get what they want, you will certainly get whatever you want.”
As business leaders, we must attempt to plan and develop strategy, to at least stay apace with the most profitable buyers, if not a step or two ahead. With that in mind, here are a few predictions:
1. Leading-edge boomers will remain in family leadership for some time to come.
John Martin, CEO of The Boomer Project, says that boomers lead more households than any other generation, and now they're at the helm, often reluctantly, of more multigenerational households than ever before. This means, for some years to come, the boomer will be at the epicenter of household, financial, health-care and other decisions for his own family, his boomerang adult kids who've moved back in, and his senior parents, who've also moved in.
This suggests adaptations by many industries -- home remodeling leaps to mind -- to capitalize, and a whole new field of multifamily household services and family-leader support services. Family therapists, life coaches, a new wave of personal growth seminars, a spate of self-help books, a new kind of financial planner, new designs in refrigerators, garage storage. . . what else?
2. Dragged, kicking and screaming, or seeking ways to ease life’s burdens, or seeking new social and entertainment options, leading-edge boomers and seniors will get more and more wired.
We expect this to be pushed forward as physical-world services become less available and bear surcharges, compelling and even forcing acceptance of online services. Boomers will be guided into acceptance, grudging or not, of conducting their business, doing their banking, interacting with their doctors and much, much more online. There will also be opportunity in being "last men standing," delivering access to humans and personal service, for a while.
3. Health and wellness care will be everywhere.
The real questions have to do with access and with who will be delivering the care. Out the back end of it will likely come a fresh wave of fragmentation and new business format invention. Given growing doctor shortages and increasing pressure for cost control, more medical care will be pushed downstream to nurse practitioners, mini-practices inside retailers’ locations, and in mobile-van and in-home practices and via online, where diagnosis and issuance of prescriptions is an evolving business very near the tipping point of a boom.
4. Opportunities in the 'independent living industry' will grow explosively.
Fifty-seven percent of Americans older than 65 polled by LifeGoesStrong.com and the Associated Press, said they were "very" or "extremely" likely to stay in their current homes, living independently throughout their retirement. Know that staying at home and living independently is a huge motivational factor for the boomer and senior population.
It will also be a fortune-making force for a great many entrepreneurs. One of the fastest-growth, opportunity-rich, ill-defined industries ever is and will be the independent living industry, where products and services devoted to supporting seniors in living on their own their entire lives will converge and synergistically integrate in new ways, and entirely new businesses or modes of conducting business will rise up.
Technologies for "aging in place" is a $2 billion market now but is projected to exceed $20 billion by 2020, according to Laurie Orlov, head of a Washington think tank studying the field. Jon Pynoos, a professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California, predicts more technology built into houses and more portable technology. The portable products to date are mostly improvements on the classic Life Alert "I've Fallen And I Can't Get Up" button, but services to remind taking of medications at precise times, direct doctor-to-device monitoring (as with embedded pacemakers), permitting adult children to easily monitor parents’ activity in their homes at a distance, etc. are fast emerging and gaining traction in the marketplace. And franchisors are invading the home health-care field in increasing numbers. We also foresee a growing diversity of to-the-home and taking-seniors-on-outings businesses developing.
5. 'Made in America' may make a big comeback.
The global economy isn’t going to diminish in importance, but we're tracking -- more anecdotally than statistically at this point -- a growing aversion to imported goods in many categories, particularly when logic says there should be made-in-America available. Manufacturers and sellers of goods that are made in America should promote that fact more boldly and emphatically than seems common, and it gifts some price elasticity. We think the backlash from a long-standing if not permanent unemployment rate of 8 percent or higher will be a new isolationism, patriotism and disapproval of companies exporting jobs and importing goods. There may even be new tariffs, trade wars and taxes tied to this, unwinding the dramatic opening of trade pacts.
Related: Why a Local Economy's Strength Is Critical to Small-Business Success (Infographic)